Want To Learn Everything You Need To Know About Creatine, How It Works And Possible Side Effects? Read On...
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last twenty years, you have heard of creatine. Next to whey protein it's one of the most commonly used supplements out there. Unfortunately, due to its popularity there are also a lot of misconception about creatine. In this article, I will not only explain in detail how exactly it works, but also debunk the most common creatine myths that you might hear in the gym or on the internet.
Does Creatine Work?
The short answer is yes. Creatine is the single most widely researched supplement and countless studies have proven its efficacy. In fact, creatine is one of the few supplements that actually delivers on its promise to help you see more gains. Sounds amazing, right?
Let's find out what kind of substance it is and how it works:
What Exactly Is Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring organic acid, which is produced in the kidneys and liver and stored in the muscle. The human body contains roughly 4 grams of creatine per kilogram of muscle, though it can store up to 5 grams per kilogram of muscle through supplementation.
On the cellular level, creatine helps supply the muscle with energy during high-intensity, short-duration exercise. This includes weight training, sprinting or any other activity that relies on short energy bursts that last around 5 to 10 seconds. However, endurance athletes such as marathon runners will see little to no improvement from creatine supplementation as these activities rely on stamina rather than energy bursts.
How Does Creatine Work?
When creatine reaches the muscle cells it is converted into creatine phosphate, which helps restore ATP (Adenosine Tri-phosphate) more quickly. ATP is the primary molecule used to store energy. During muscular contraction, your body turns ATP into energy and simply put, the faster the muscle can replenish ATP the stronger you will be.
By increasing the creatine stored in your muscle through supplementation, your body will be able to restore ATP at a faster than normal rate. Now, you might ask yourself if your body couldn't use extra glucose (= carbs) as an energy source like it normally does. The problem is that converting glucose into ATP takes your body at least 2o seconds, which is not fast enough to be available during an average lifting set.
How Does Creatine Help Build More Muscle?
Creatine itself doesn't build muscle, but it will increase your strength level. If you have read my Ultimate Beginner's Guide To Building Muscle, you know that the only way to ensure long-term muscle growth is by applying progressive overload. You have to continually increase the tension placed on your muscle to force it to adapt (=and grow).
Since creatine will make you stronger, it indirectly leads to more muscle growth. Obviously, you will only see its benefits when following a well-designed workout routine and diet plan.
Is Creatine Safe / Are There Any Side Effects?
Creatine is very safe for healthy adults, study after study has proven this. Also, the myth that it can cause kidney or liver damage has so far not been proven by any scientific research. The only time supplementation was linked to health problems was when test subjects had already existing kidney conditions.
As with any other supplement, there are a few things you should keep in mind when taking creatine. Because it will draw water into the muscle cell, you should drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration or muscle cramps. Also, impure forms of creatine might lead to bloating, which is why I recommend using 100% pure creatine monohydrate.
Okay, You Convinced Me! How Exactly Should I Take Creatine?
The easiest way is to take 3 - 5 grams of creatine per day. No need for a loading phase and you don't have to cycle it. If you want more detailed instructions, here is an extensive guide on how to use creatine properly.
How Does Creatine Work - Summary:
- Creatine is a naturally occurring organic acid, stored in the muscle.
- Its supplementation leads to greater availability of quick acting energy (ATP) in the muscle cells.
- By making you stronger, it indirectly leads to more muscle growth.
- As long as you buy quality creatine and drink enough water, there are no health risks to worry about.