Ultimate Guide to Creatine
Creatine is a natural amino acid. The human body is able to produce creatine on its own. So in that sense, it is not an essential amino acid. Creatine is produced in the kidneys, liver and pancreas. Natural sources of creatine are fish (herring is a rich source) and meat (pork, salmon and pork). In fruits, cranberries are a rich source of creatine.
As creatine is produced, it travels to the muscles with blood. Here, it is converted into creatine phosphate and stored in the skeletal muscles (95 percent of creatine is found in skeletal muscles). A small amount of creatine (about 1.5 % to 2 %) is also excreted by the kidneys everyday as creatinine.
Who does creatine work?
Creatine increases the body's capacity to produce energy. So it is very popular with bodybuilders and athletes. When you have more energy, you can do more reps. When you can do more reps, your muscles become bigger.
That is why creatine supplements are used by people who engage in high intensity training. This includes sports where you have to exert large amounts of energy in a little time, like football and sprinting. On the opposite end, creatine may not benefit those who engage in endurance sports.
Other than increasing energy, creatine indirectly helps in protein synthesis and building muscle volume. Creatine is also a lactic acid buffer and delays muscle fatigue. That is why you can work out for longer periods.
Does creatine intake cause weight gain?
Yes, drinking creatine supplements can cause weight gain. Don't confuse this with fat gain. In the first week, you gain mostly water because creatine is an osmotically active substance. It causes the muscles to pull and store more water. This increases protein synthesis, causing the muscles to grow bigger.
Note that creatine helps you increase muscle mass only when you exercise. Otherwise, the weight gain will be mostly water.
Can creatine damage my kidneys?
Kidneys excrete creatine in the form of creatinine. There is no data or research to supplement the assumption that taking more creatine can cause kidney damage.
There are reports of people on creatine, suffering from muscle cramps but that might be incidental and not because of the creatine. There are also anecdotal reports that creatine can cause heart problems, dehydration, kidney damage, diarrhea. But as said, the evidence is anecdotal.
Some of these problems might have their genesis in eating too many vitamins. For example, did you know that eating too much Vitamin C can cause diarrhea. Likewise, too much iron in the diet can cause stomach cramps. At the same time, we don't recommend people who have kidney problems to take creatine.
Are there any downsides to taking creatine?
If you are able to develop muscles without taking creatine, there is no reason to take it. It is true that creatine can help you increase muscle mass but that is only when you exercise. And we are not taking about normal exercise.
Creatine increases your energy which allows you to push beyond your normal routine. So you will benefit only if you push harder. If you are following a normal exercise routine, you don't need creatine. You will develop muscles anyway. At the same time, we don't recommend anyone under 18 take creatine supplements. Why?
This is because creatine increases your energy levels, so you may want to exercise more. However, if you are under 18, your muscles will not have fully developed yet. If you push harder at this stage, there is a chance your muscles might get damaged. This damage might be permanent.
Will creatine supplements help me increase muscle mass?
Creatine supplements have different effects on different people. Some people are genetically resistant to increase in creatine. Diet also plays a very important role here. If your diet is heavily loaded with meat, you are not going to benefit much from creatine supplements.
That is because meat, especially fish has high levels of creatine. So meat eaters already have high creatine levels. But if you are a vegetarian or eat meat intermittently, creatine supplements can benefit you immensely.
Don't forget that a good diet is important, If your diet is poor, creatine won't help you. It will only increase water retention in your body.
In this case it would be better to improve the lean proteins and good carbohydrate aspect of your diet before you take creatine supplements. Don't forget that creatine will help you only when you exercise and not otherwise.
What kind of creatine is best for me?
Creatine is available in many forms. Obviously, the best kind of creatine is that which you get from food like meat and fish. But you have to eat a lot of food to increase creatine intake. That might not be feasible. And what will vegetarians do? So the next best option to improve your creatine intake is to take a supplement.
The best form of creatine supplement is creatine powder. Why creatine powder? This is because creatine ethyl ester or liquid creatine have a tendency to break down in the blood so will not be as effective.
Even in creatine powder, go for 100 percent creatine powder. Some creatine supplement companies add nutrients and electrolytes to their product but there is little evidence these improve performance. The best way to take creatine powder is to mix it with fruit juice. Why fruit juice?
Fruit juice is loaded with sugar which increases your insulin levels. And when insulin levels increase, the muscles are able to take in more creatine.
What kind of creatine powder should I buy?
Purchase the best kind of creatine powder within your budget. To test the quality of the creatine powder, see if the powder leaves any residue in the glass after mixing the creatine. If there is some residue left, look for a better brand. You can also check out the reviews of different creatine brands on our website.
Will creatine affect my moods?
When you have to perform a short sprint or short bursts of exercises, your body turns to creatine phosphate for instant energy. During these phases, creatine phosphate is converted into adenosine triphosphate or ATP, the real energy currency.
Supplements like powdered creatine only top off your initial creatine stores. Moreover, creatine is not a drug or a steroid. So it doesn't lead to 'roid rage'. There is no research to say that creatine can cause mood shifts or other emotional problems. So creatine is a relatively safe supplement.
Do not take more creatine than recommended. All you need is 5 gm of creatine a day and you are set. More than this will be a waste. So exercise restraint. Taking more creatine won't build muscles faster. It can actually overload your liver and kidney and cause problems. Also, if you are taking creatine, don't drink caffeine or ephedra. Ephedra is now banned in the US. Caffeine will counter the effects of creatine and the combination will lead to adverse effects. Don't take creatine if you are taking non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) either. These include naproxen and ibuprofen and can increase your risk of kidney damage.
In summary, a creatine supplement is powder or capsule form will have a positive impact on anyone looking to take their sports performance to a higher level. It will, build strength and lean muscle mass when taken alongside a good diet and training regime.