For some, creatine is the ultimate way to achieve their muscle building goals, and that’s why they have saved a special spot for it in their supplement cabinet; for others, the very thought of taking creatine is intimidating and dangerous as they don’t know much about its effects on the human body. So, they avoid such supplements like the plague.
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Either way, this is probably not the first (or the last) time you hear about this common supplement ingredient. Keep in mind, though, that not everything you hear is actually true. So, despite common belief, steroids and creatine have nothing in common.
If you are ready to walk the walk (or in this case, lift the weights!), here is the need-to-know about creatine for any and every gym rat.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid created by the human body (the liver, kidneys, and pancreas, to be exact) and stored in the muscle cells. Methionine, Glycine, and Arginine are the three amino acids used to produce this energy-boosting element.
Now, let’s assume we don’t supplement on creatine. In that case, one study claims that the liver produces approximately one gram of the organic acid per day. From then on, it makes its way via blood circulation to various tissues such as skeletal muscle. In fact, according to research, 95% of the creatine produced is stored in skeletal muscle while the remaining 5% makes its way to our brain, kidneys, testes or remains in the liver.
Liver aside, we can also acquire generous amounts of creatine through a balanced diet. As this element is a constituent of muscle tissue, it is usually found in meat, fish and multiple animal products such as milk. Luckily for vegetarians and vegans alike, creatine is also present in some plants like nuts and sunflower seeds.
The Different Types of Creatine
Being the popular supplement that it is nowadays, creatine comes in seven different forms to match the needs and requirements of every aspiring bodybuilder click on the link for a list of safe creatine supplements. Here they are:
Monohydrate: The most natural and popular form of creatine.
Ethyl Ester: Increases creatine bioavailability.
Micronized: Consists of smaller creatine particles for increased absorption.
Tri-Creatine Malate: Produced after the fusion of three creatine molecules with one molecule of malic acid. This creatine hybrid reduces stomach discomfort as it is more water-soluble than the monohydrate version.
Conjugated: This form of creatine comes with enhanced absorption rate, no side effects and requires you to take “micro-doses” rather a full scoop to see results.
Liquid: Even though it had its moment in the sun, this type of creatine is no longer that popular due to the lack of stability.
Buffered: If we get past the advertising myths behind buffered creatine, research proves that this form doesn’t feature fewer side effects than monohydrate does. So, rumors aside, opting for the buffered version doesn’t deliver safer and more efficient muscle gains.
How Does Creatine Work?
Ready for some gym science? For muscles to contract, your body and, in particular, a molecule which is known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) needs to produce energy while leaving behind adenosine diphosphate (ADP). During short-term bursts of strength, it’s only logical you run out of immediate power. That is where creatine steps in and saves the day.
Unfortunately, your body can’t use the ADP produced by a muscle contraction directly for energy. Instead, ADP joins forces with the creatine molecules that wander in your body and forms ATP which is a great source of immediate energy. And as simple as that, your energy levels last for longer.
Creatine and Muscle
By fueling your muscles with immediate ATP energy, you can power through any intense workout and enhances your strength and physical endurance. However, apart from improving your muscle strength, creatine is also known to increase the size of your muscles by pulling water into them and making them look bigger and fuller.
And despite skepticism about this body reaction to creatine, dehydration, and cramps, you don’t need to worry. In fact, one study suggests that creatine not only reduces the rate at which sweat during an intense workout but it actually regulates plasma volume in case of dehydration. So, there is no need to victimize creatine just yet based on anecdotal theories.
Potential Side Effects and Myths
Time and time again, creatine has been “trash-talked” by people in the fitness industry due to a variety of possible side effects. The truth is, though, that most of them are nothing but myths. Let’s set the record straight and see what you should indeed pay attention to and what isn’t worth your attention.
The Renal Dysfunction Myth
Creatinine, a byproduct of creatine, is usually filtered out of the human body through kidneys. With that in mind, many rogue media stories tout the adverse effect of creatinine on kidneys (even liver) to the extent of a severe dysfunction.
Luckily, credible scientific sources come to creatine’s rescue by proving that this element has nothing to do with renal or liver dysfunction, for that matter. On the other hand, when this supplement is taken as directed (don’t exaggerate!) by healthy individuals, no harm is done.
The Gastrointestinal Issues
Unfortunately, there may be a small price to pay for those big biceps. Some (not all) users occasionally claim that taking creatine makes them feel not only bloated but often gassy, which can get slightly uncomfortable.
The Weight Gain Myth
There is this myth hovering above creatine’s reputation that claims such supplements are linked to weight gain. However, one study suggests that this weight gain is actually the result of water retention rather than body fat.
When is The Best Time to Take Creatine?
This supplement can work miracles on your physique, but timing is everything! According to one study published in the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, taking creatine before or after resistance training augments the results of the workout session.
What’s more, men who consumed creatine-based shakes after hitting the gym gained more lean mass and increased their rep max more than those who opted for the pre-workout supplement.
Only one phrase is accurate enough to describe the case with creatine. Brains before gains! What does this mean? Even though creatine may contribute significantly to your muscle building goals, there’s no reason to use it if you can work your way to big biceps without it. But, if you do decide to opt for this option, remember that getting carried away won’t do you any good.