An Introduction to Creatine
When athletes come into the gym looking to get stronger and faster, nearly all of them ask about creatine.
Creatine is one of the most widely used supplements among lifters and athletes, yet so many people are still unsure about exactly what it is they’re putting in their bodies. We’d like to clarify exactly what creatine is and the role it plays in the human body, and in doing so, shed some light on how it’s become such a popular supplement in the fitness industry.
Creatine is an amino acid that is actually synthesized in the human body, made by the pancreas, liver, and kidneys. It can also be found in food sources like seafood and red meat. The body converts creatine to phosphocreatine and stores this substance in your skeletal muscle.
From there, it is then used as a source of energy for your body.
So, we know that creatine is a naturally synthesized amino acid that provides energy for skeletal muscle, but can people really benefit from supplementing something that the body already makes?
The answer is, overwhelmingly, yes. The NIH published a study in 2012 investigating the effects of creatine supplementation on exercise/sports performance. This study indicated that creatine supplementation has a myriad of benefits for athletes. Creatine improves the rate of hypertrophy and recovery following resistance training. It also improves aerobic endurance performance in trials that lasted longer than 150 seconds.
Beyond the athletic benefits, the same study published by the NIH suggests the creatine supplementation can produce positive effects on strength, neurological performance, and daily living performance in both young and old people.
Now that we know about the bevy of positive benefits creatine supplementation has, we need to know how to use it appropriately. A typical, safe protocol for creatine supplementation would consist of a loading phase where 20-25 grams of creatine monohydrate would be taken daily to saturate creatine stores in skeletal muscle. Three to five days of a loading phase would be followed by a routine of 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate a day. This seems to be the most effective way to keep skeletal muscle saturated and to benefit from creatine supplementation.
Whey protein powders and pre-workout powders also tend to include creatine monohydrate in their blends, making it significantly easier to maintain proper creatine saturation following loading.
While creatine supplementation can improve your physical performance in droves, it’s always important to remember that supplements are exactly what their name suggest… Supplements!
Nothing is as effective as a diet full of varying, nutrient dense foods, coupled with an effective and consistent workout routine. Happy lifting!