Hype or Healthy: Creatine Supplementation

If you’ve looked at supplements to enhance athletic performance or to support brain health, creatine has almost certainly come up on the list. This highly popular supplement is considered very safe and effective and is used by people worldwide. It is important to understand the benefits of the supplements you are considering, as well as any potential drawbacks or cautions. Learn more about what creatine can do for you and any considerations you should take into account when supplementing with creatine.


What is creatine? 

Creatine is an amino acid that the body converts into creatine phosphate. This, in turn, makes adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides the energy your body needs for muscle contractions. It is found in your body’s muscles and also in your brain.

Some of the creatine that your body uses is created inside your cells. You can also get creatine through your diet or supplements. Foods that are rich in creatine include fish and red meat. For instance, a pound of salmon can provide your body with one to two grams of creatine.


Creatine for muscle size and strength

One of the reasons that people take creatine is to increase the size and strength of their muscles. In one research study, 25 subjects engaged in a 42-day strength training program. Seven participants were in a control group, eight took creatine each day and 10 were given a placebo. At the end of the study, people in the control and placebo group did not see any changes in their lean muscle mass. However, people in the creatine group increased their muscle size by an average of 4.4 pounds.

There is evidence that creatine can alter cellular pathways to help with new muscle growth. This occurs through the growth of new proteins that help your body make new muscle fibers.

There is also evidence that creatine supplements can help muscles recover more quickly during exercise. This boost can help athletes repeat bouts of high-intensity movements more quickly, getting better results during springs or weight lifting.


Creatine for improved performance

Muscles use ATP to perform intense, high-speed bursts of energy. This is essential for activities that include sprinting, heavy lifting, and ballistic movements. Because creatine increases available ATP, it can assist in these efforts.

Because of the way that ATP works, the performance-enhancing benefits of creating are not as dramatic for athletes who engage in endurance sports like long-distance running. However, researchers have observed that creatine helps pull more water into muscle cells. When paired with resistance training over time, this may result in your muscles having a greater ability to store glycogen and make protein. This could help with greater endurance over time.


Creatine and the brain

Our brains rely on ATP the same way that our muscles do. Because of this, it is likely that creatine supplements support brain health.

In a recent study on creatine and brain function, scientists looked into the benefits for older individuals. Researchers learned that older people who supplemented with creatine had better mental recall than those who did not.


Taking creatine safely

With any supplement, it is good to research the right amount to take. You also need to know what interactions are possible to avoid potential issues. For most people who are taking recommended amounts, creatine is safe.

People who take creatine in excess or who combine it with stimulants like caffeine or ephedra are at a higher risk for side effects. These can include a headache, nausea, or weight gain.

People who have kidney disease, liver disease, or diabetes shouldn’t take creatine. It also isn’t recommended for people who are pregnant or people who are under 18.

Because creatine draws water into cells, it is important to stay hydrated when you take it. Be sure to drink extra water to prevent dehydration.


Summing Up

While we can get creatine from our diets and our bodies also make it, supplementing with creatine can be beneficial for people with certain goals. This can include people looking to boost brain function and people looking for athletic performance boosts and increased muscle mass.

As with any supplement, make sure you are using it the way you are directed and avoiding mixing it with the wrong things. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and help this beneficial supplement do its job.


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