The benefits of supplementing creatine

By Zoe Garlington

Creatine. What is it and should I be taking it?

You often hear creatine discussed in a training environment but what actually is it and what can it do for you? There is a lot of rumours and misinformation around supplements, and if you don’t take any it can feel daunting to start looking in to them. So let’s talk about creatine. It is the most researched supplement on the market so it can be difficult to sift through information. Creatine is naturally occurring in the body and has a similar structure to an amino acid. Production occurs in the liver, kidneys and pancreas, and anges between 1-2g a day. Outside of a natural production, creatine occurs in certain foods such as red meats and seafood.

The benefits of taking creatine are vast, the main improvement being in performance which leads into physique based results. When ingested, creatine combines with the chemical compound phosphagen to create phosphocreatine, this is used internally as creatine is used by the body to make ATP for energy. Higher energy and muscle reliance is supplied by ATP which will increase the bodys performance and therefore “gains”.

From a muscle building perspective, creatine has been proven to increase the rate of muscle gain, sometime by double the amount against those who are not using the supplement. This is due to the higher training performance and recovery time. Recovery time is impacted as when resistance training your glycogen stores are used, creatine helps replenish these stores allowing you to take shorter recovery periods. As well as performance benefits, creatine studies have shown benefits to brain health and improves recall.

Creatine draws water into the muscle cell causing it to swell, this can mean having a fuller look to your normal physique when you first start using this supplement. The increased water retention is suggested to act as a trigger for building muscle (muscle protein synthesis). Due to the extra water being drawn into the muscle there can often be a side effect of weight gain when you first start using this supplement, however the weight is likely water retention. In summary, weight gain is not fat gain but water retention.

So if you start taking creatine, how much should you have and how should you consume it? Literature suggests that daily small doses between 3-5g are the most effective. However in the initial phase of taking creatine, a 5-7 day long loading phase can be popular, this includes having approximately 20 a day. Split into four servings of 5g, this increases creatine levels quickly in the initial phase before moving onto smaller daily doses.

Creatine can come in different forms and you can often find creatine mixed into different supplements such as pre-workout. In order to monitor your intake creatine can be consumed in its purest form, creatine monohydrate which is a fine white powder, this can be found fairly cheap online and can come flavoured or unflavoured. You are able to consume this in multiple ways, such as mixing into a drink or stirring it into your porridge.

About the author

Getting into fitness due to wanting to change my lifestyle habits I decided to start bettering my health, this spiralled into getting my personal training L2&L3 qualification. Since passing my qualification I have continued to learn and better myself as a trainer and increase my knowledge of which my clients get the benefits. My personal training methods involve a mix of strength training and physique development partnered with strengthening joint stability and overall mobility. My passion is making my clients push past mental barriers limiting strength and give them the tools and flexibility to be the strongest version of themselves.