Creatine is all the rage these days. It’s a cheap supplement that may make you stronger and can even keep you sharp between the ears. Although you won’t see it advertised as a weight loss or fat burning supplement, it can indirectly help you achieve a more toned physique. Read below to learn how creatine works and why it’s useful for those who want to put on muscle and shed some extra body fat.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid complex that is naturally produced in the human body. It can also be consumed via foods like steak or taken in the form of a supplement. The name comes from the Greek word “kreas” which means “meat”. Unlike other white powdery substances, creatine is one of the safest and most researched compounds money can buy. 300g of creatine monohydrate will cost you a mere $27 and there are no known serious adverse side effects. People include creatine in their supplement regime because it is scientifically proven to improve exercise performance (also known as having an ergogenic effect) and increase lean muscle mass. The number of studies evidencing this is too high to count. Creatine has been shown to delay the onset of fatigue, increase your power output and help you push out a few extra reps during a workout. On top of this, creatine may even provide cognitive benefits too. For example this study concluded that creatine improves symptoms of depression and another one found that supplementation can help you score higher on memory tests. Basically, the majority of us would benefit in some way, shape or form from taking some on a daily basis. Not only can creatine help those who want to train harder, it is especially beneficial for the elderly, vegetarians and anyone looking to improve their physique.
How Does Creatine Work?
Creatine gets stored in your muscles and is used by the body to generate energy (also known as adenosine triphosphate or ATP). The reason we need to take rest periods during workouts is because we have run out of ATP and our body is working hard to produce more. Supplementing creatine will speed up the process of creating energy, enabling you to train harder for longer. Creatine is also a hydrophilic molecule meaning it likes water. Supplementing it will boost the amount of water in your muscle cells which reduces dehydration and muscle cramps. For this reason, some worry that taking creatine will make them bloated and watery but this is an outdated myth. In addition to giving you more energy and hydration, creatine speeds up recovery by activating satellite cells in your muscles. So not only will you be training like an athlete, taking creatine will help you recover like one too. The ability to train more efficiently is what leads to an increase in muscle mass and potentially, a decrease in body fat.
Will Creatine Make Me Look Better?
Although creatine is not a magic pill that guarantees you a lean physique, it can indirectly improve your body composition. As mentioned above, supplementation helps you train harder and recover faster. Study subjects who take creatine also put on muscle faster than placebo groups and the difference is substantial. This study found that women who took creatine put on 60% more muscle than the group who only did strength training. Obviously having more muscle is the key to a toned body. Creatine therefore helps you look better by speeding up the muscle building process and increasing your caloric expenditure. Those taking creatine will be in a better position to push themselves during workouts and train at a higher intensity. Also, the fact that creatine makes you hold water in your muscles means you will look more pumped up and healthy as opposed to flat and frail. So no, creatine is not meant to make you look like a fitness model however it can definitely assist if that is one of your goals.
How Much Creatine Do I Take?
As the saying goes, the dose makes the poison. Consuming the right amount of creatine every day is essential or else you won’t feel its beneficial effects. According to the research, the absolute bare minimum to take is 2g per day. The sweet spot would be 3-5g but definitely no less than two, especially if you’re on a plant based diet. Some people like to do a loading phase where they take five grams, four times a day to instantly feel the effects. This is not compulsory and it’s completely up to the individual if they follow this protocol for the first week or not. The most important thing is to be consistent. Take it daily to ensure it’s available for your body to use whenever the situation demands it. Don’t worry about investing in fancy products with added extras either. Creatine monohydrate is the cheapest and most effective form. It mixes well with water and you won’t even notice it blended into your daily shake. Add this into your supplement regime and the gains will be well and truly on their way.
It’s hard to believe such a cheap, boring product can have so many positive effects. Creatine is not a weight loss supplement per se but it can indirectly improve your physique by enabling you to train harder for longer. If you’ve never tried creatine before, give it a go for the next couple of months and see what changes. Not only will you be thinking and training better, you might finally achieve those body composition goals as well.
Written by Lauren Carruthers.