What Is Creatine? Everything You Need To Know
Creatine is one of the most effective performance enhancement supplements used in sports medicine. There are two different forms of creatine used as supplements: creatine monohydrate and creatine nitrate.
There are many different reasons people choose to incorporate creatine supplements into their diets. Many individuals seek to improve their high-intensity exercise capacity and/or increase their lean body mass. Athletes take creatine supplements to increase strength, improve muscle growth, and help with their overall performance in the gym.
At Haven Athletic, we strive to keep you up-to-date and informed when it comes to health and fitness, so you can make the best choices for your own well-being. Below we will discuss what creatine is and how it may help to improve your overall health and wellness.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is formed from three different amino acids: methionine, glycine, and arginine. About 95% of creatine is found in your skeletal muscle system, and the remaining 5% is found in your brain. About 2% of the body’s creatine stores are converted for use each day through the liver, kidneys, and pancreas.
The creatine is transported through the bloodstream and used by the parts of the body that have a high energy demand, like the skeletal muscle system and the brain.
Research by the International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand (ISSN) found that your body needs one to three grams of creatine every day. The majority of this comes from foods that are creatine-rich, such as red meats and seafood. The rest of your creatine needs are created by your body.
If you maintain a vegan or vegetarian diet, it is crucial to find other sources of creatine, such as supplements.
The ISSN also found that athletes who train more intensely need to consume between five to 10 grams of creatine in their diets to maintain their creatine stores. This is because of the large amounts of energy athletes use during high-intensity workouts.
It was also found that people who cannot properly synthesize creatine due to health conditions may need to supplement anywhere from 10 to 30 grams of creatine a day to avoid any health issues.
Why Use Creatine Supplements?
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements used in the United States, especially amongst athletes. However, creatine supplements are beneficial for more than just working out. For example, they can be very beneficial for older adults or those suffering from medical conditions.
Below we will discuss the different uses for creatine.
1. To Improve Athletic Performance
Creatine supplies energy to the parts of the body where it is needed. Athletes often use creatine supplements to increase energy production and improve athletic performance.
Athletes such as bodybuilders and other competitive athletes, like CrossFitters, use creatine supplements to help increase their lean muscle mass. Athletes who often do high-intensity interval exercises benefit from creatine because it gives them the extra added energy boost to help increase their physical performance.
To break it down a little more, creatine is converted into creatine phosphate or phosphocreatine and is stored in the muscles. During high-intensity workouts such as weightlifting or sprinting, phosphocreatine is used as a source of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an energy molecule found within the human body.
A study in 2012 showed that creatine helped with the following:
- Boosting the effects of resistance training on strength and body mass.
- Increasing the quality and benefits of high-intensity speed training.
- Improving endurance performance in aerobic exercises that lasted more than 150 seconds.
- Improving strength, power, and neurological function.
2. May Help With Heart Failure Symptoms
Creatine has been found to help people who have suffered from heart failure. For those who don’t know, fatigue is a major symptom of heart failure.
In one study, individuals who took creatine, in addition to their standard medical care, were better able to increase their exercise routine without becoming quickly fatigued compared to those who only took a placebo.
The study also showed that people with heart failure who took short-term creatine as a dietary supplement, in addition to their standard medications, had an increase in body weight and improved muscle strength.
3. May Help With Muscular Dystrophy
Individuals who suffer from muscular dystrophy may have less creatine in their muscle cells, which can contribute to muscle weakness. Creatine supplementation showed a number of beneficial effects for muscular dystrophy, such as improved muscle mass, strength, and endurance, as well as lowered calcium levels and reduced apoptosis.
4. May Help Those With Parkinson’s Disease
When it comes to Parkinson’s disease, there was not enough research completed on the effectiveness of creatine when treating this disease. However, a meta-analysis found that giving creatine to individuals with Parkinson's disease helped improve their exercise ability and fitness endurance. The creatine supplements also improved individuals’ moods and reduced their medication needs.
5. May Help Relieve Some Symptoms of Creatine Deficiency
Creatine deficiency is linked to a wide range of other medical conditions we have not mentioned, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (CPOD), depression, Huntington's disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis.
Taking oral creatine supplements could help relieve some of these conditions, but you should always seek medical advice prior to using creatine when associated with these medical conditions.
Other Benefits of Creatine
As we discussed above, creatine is beneficial to many different types of individuals other than just athletes. The use of creatine can benefit individuals who often experience muscle cramps, muscle tightness, muscle strains/pulls, and heat illnesses/dehydration.
The effects of creatine supplementation on vegetarians have also been shown to be beneficial. Vegetarians often have lower intramuscular creatine storage and usually see greater benefits from taking creatine supplements as they provide the nutrients many vegans and vegetarians may lack from not eating meat.
Potential Side Effects of Taking Creatine
Even though creatine is a relatively safe supplement, there is still the possibility of a few side effects:
- Taking creatine supplements could cause water retention in your muscles. Therefore you may notice weight gain.
- If you suffer from kidney disease or have kidney damage, you should consult with a doctor before taking creatine supplements as it could worsen your kidney function.
That being said, the ISSN found that there are no harmful effects of short-term or long-term use of creatine monohydrate for healthy individuals.
However, if you are someone who suffers from any illnesses or medical conditions, you should consult with a medical professional before using creatine supplements.
As stated above, creatine is one of the most sought after supplements. It is typically safe, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) allowing the use of creatine by competing athletes. The benefits of creatine supplements for athletes are astronomical and can help improve their overall exercise performances.
If you feel you may benefit from creatine supplementation, be sure to do your research and consult with a medical professional prior to use. Even though creatine is considered a safe supplement, it is essential to know if it is something you may benefit from or if you may feel adverse effects from it.
At Haven Athletic, we take fitness and health seriously. We know that information is as essential a tool in the gym as a gym duffel or a pair of solid lifting shoes. To learn more about how to reach your fitness goals, be sure to check out our Haven Athletic blog.