Creatine is one of the most popular dietary supplements among athletes from all corners of the world. But how does this supplement work? Who can benefit from it? And what are its effects? These are questions beginners often ask.
If you’re looking for a completely legal performance-enhancing compound, creatine is arguably the only one on the market, and in this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about it.
Creatine is a natural amino acid found in food (mostly red meat). If necessary, our body can synthesize creatine itself from other amino acids, this is called endogenous synthesis.
Stored in the muscles, creatine is used to produce energy. To explain simply, creatine is involved in the process of muscle contraction. It is a precursor to adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Basically, it helps to regenerate ATP, a substance that is used as a source of energy by our muscles during activities that require short, intense efforts. The stored creatine will provide energy during the initial few seconds of a muscle movement. Our bodies will use an alternative energy source to maintain the activity/movement if it continues.
Taking creatine in the form of dietary supplements, such as creatine monohydrate powder, will increase the amount of stored creatine in the muscles until the cells are fully saturated. With more energy available to the muscles, you will be able to train harder. Creatine supplementation is, therefore, useful for activities that require short duration and maximum intensity, such as weight lifting.
In addition to giving you more energy reserves, creatine allows you to gradually increase the strength and volume of your muscles. In the short term, creatine helps by enabling a cell volumization effect, a kind of water retention in the muscles that make them appear bigger, and in the long term, creatine helps by enabling more intense workouts. Indeed, you’ll be able to train harder when taking creatine, and this stimulates muscle growth and results in muscle gains over weeks and months. This is vital for bodybuilders who are in it for the long haul.
Energy, strength, muscle gains, and that’s not all. Many studies have shown that creatine improves performance in many sports. Studies have shown that athletes taking creatine perform better, and all sports that require repetitive, brief, and intense efforts benefit one way or another from creatine.
Note that creatine is not just a supplement for athletes. Numerous studies have shown beneficial outcomes and effects for the general population as well, and these include, lower cholesterol, improved bone mass in older men, increased cerebral energy, etc.
When should you take creatine to maximize its absorption by the body? This question is often asked by athletes, and the answer is quite simple.
- Post Workout
When taking creatine, generally, the goal is to retain as much creatine as possible in your muscle cells if you want to take advantage of the compound’s many benefits.
In a 4-week study, scientists compared the intake of creatine before and after exercise in bodybuilding practitioners. The result? There was an increase in muscle mass and strength in athletes that took creatine post-exercise, and the scientists found that the performance on exercises was better overall. Those who took creatine after training had better results in terms of body composition and strength. Basically, they gained more muscle and performed better on exercises.
In summary, creatine retention is better when the supplement is taken after exercise. If you want to put this into practice you can do what many athletes, especially bodybuilders, do: mix creatine into snacks you eat after exercise. The simplest solution is adding a few grams of creatine to a protein shake.
- Pre Workout
It is generally not advisable to take creatine before training sessions and sports activities. Indeed, it has a slight hypoglycemic effect and can disturb the digestive system. This might slightly impact your performance during activities.
- Rest days
Many beginners ask whether they should take creatine during their rest days or not. The purpose of taking creatine as a supplement is to increase its saturation in your muscle cells, which will take time. Once this is done, and this may take several weeks, you must maintain the level of creatine in the cells. What this means in practice is that a certain dose of creatine should be taken every day, both on training days and rest days.
Creatine can be purchased in various forms and packaging. The most common is creatine powder, which is practical and inexpensive, but it is sometimes difficult to take the correct dosage consistently. The capsule version solves this problem, but its price is inevitably a little higher. You can also find it in some whey protein, pre-workout mixes, etc. But we recommend you buy creatine monohydrates powder separately as to have control over the dosage, the source, the quality, and the timing of intake.