We all strive for excellence in our fitness pursuits. Whether you are a professional athlete or a fitness enthusiast, you continually seek ways to improve your performance and reach your goals more efficiently. One supplement that has received significant attention in this regard is creatine. But what exactly is it, and how can it contribute to your fitness journey? Our personal trainers at EW Motion Therapy can provide personal recommendations for supplements based on your fitness needs. If creatine might not suit you, they can provide other options. Even if you decide not to train with us, you can review this comprehensive guide to learn what creatine is, the different types available, how it works, and how it can elevate your fitness game.
What is creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound in small amounts in certain foods like meat and fish. It's also produced in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Creatine is crucial in making energy for your muscles, particularly during high-intensity, short-duration exercises like weightlifting and sprinting.
Why supplement with creatine?
While your body produces some amount of creatine naturally, supplementing with creatine can help you boost your levels significantly. This enhancement can improve muscle performance and increase your ability to perform high-intensity exercises. It's beneficial for athletes or anyone interested in improving their physical performance.
Types of creatine
There are several types of creatine supplements, each with different formulas to improve absorption, solubility, and effectiveness. The most common and well-researched type is creatine monohydrate, known for its efficacy and cost-efficiency. It consists of 88% creatine and 12% water and has been proven to enhance strength, power, and muscle growth. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts frequently favor this type.
Creatine ethyl ester (CEE) is designed for better absorption due to adding an ester molecule, though some research suggests it may be less effective than creatine monohydrate. Creatine hydrochloride (HCL) is formulated for enhanced solubility in water and may be gentler on the stomach, potentially requiring smaller doses. Buffered creatine (Kre-Alkalyn) is alkaline-buffered to resist conversion to creatinine, theoretically leading to better absorption, but research on its superiority is mixed. Micronized creatine is creatine monohydrate processed to reduce particle size, enhancing its solubility and absorption rate.
Some creatine forms are bound to other compounds for additional benefits. Creatine malate combines creatine with malic acid, aiming to provide more energy and improved endurance. Creatine nitrate binds creatine with nitrate groups, purportedly enhancing blood flow and solubility. Creatine magnesium chelate bonds creatine to magnesium, which is believed to aid muscle contraction and cellular hydration.
Other notable types include liquid creatine, which offers convenience but has concerns regarding the stability of creatine in liquid form. Creatine citrate and creatine pyruvate are known for higher solubility but contain less creatine per gram than creatine monohydrate. Conjugated creatine (Con-Cret), another form of creatine hydrochloride, also claims superior solubility and absorption.
Despite the array of options, many studies suggest that traditional creatine monohydrate is just as effective as its counterparts. Individuals considering creatin should check with a healthcare provider to ensure they are taking the right type for their goals and whether it is the best supplement.
How does creatine work?
Boosting ATP production
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the primary energy currency in your cells. During high-intensity, short-duration exercises, your muscles rely heavily on ATP for energy. Creatine helps regenerate ATP, allowing you to sustain higher performance levels for extended periods.
Increasing water content in muscles
Another role creatine plays is in increasing the water content in your muscle cells. This process, known as cellular volumization, can lead to an increase in muscle size. While this effect is cosmetic, it may also contribute to muscle protein synthesis.
Enhancing your fitness journey with creatine
Creatine supplementation is well-known for its numerous benefits in enhancing athletic performance and promoting overall health. One of the primary advantages is its ability to increase muscle strength and power, particularly during high-intensity, short-duration activities like weightlifting and sprinting. This is achieved by boosting the body's ability to produce energy (ATP) quickly. Creatine also aids in muscle recovery by reducing cell damage and inflammation after strenuous exercise.
In addition to its muscular benefits, creatine can also have a positive impact on cognitive function and may offer protective effects in neurodegenerative diseases. Vegetarians and vegans, who may have lower creatine levels due to the absence of meat in their diet, can also benefit from supplementation. Older adults may find creatine supplementation helpful in maintaining muscle mass and strength, potentially combating age-related muscle loss.
Furthermore, creatine can enhance the appearance of muscle volume by drawing water into muscle cells and may improve bone health when combined with resistance training. While generally considered safe, it's recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a creatine supplementation regimen.
How to use creatine safely
If you decide that creatine is right for you, it's essential to use it safely and effectively. The most commonly recommended method is to go through a "loading phase" initially, taking 20 grams per day for 5–7 days and then reducing to 3–5 grams per day for maintenance. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.
For most people, creatine is well-tolerated, but it's essential to be aware of potential side effects like stomach pain, nausea, or cramps. Also, since creatine pulls water into your muscle cells, it's crucial to stay hydrated.
Creatine supplements are available in several delivery forms to suit different preferences. The most common form is powder, typically mixed with water or juice. Micronized creatine is a specific type of powdered supplement known for its finer particles and improved solubility.
For convenience, creatine is also available in capsules or tablets, providing a pre-measured dose that is easy to take. Liquid creatine and gel capsules offer an alternative for those who prefer to avoid mixing powders, although there are concerns about the stability of creatine in liquid over time. Additionally, chewable tablets or gummies offer a flavorful and easy-to-consume option. Creatine is also incorporated into various pre- or post-workout supplements and functional foods like protein bars and energy drinks.
Creatine is a powerful supplement that can help enhance your performance in high-intensity activities. By understanding what it is, how it works, and the different types available, you can make an educated decision on whether it's a good fit for your fitness journey. Always consult with a healthcare provider to ensure it's suitable for you - our trainers at EW Motion Therapy are happy to provide their professional opinion if you are considering taking supplements for your fitness. If you’re curious about what personal training can do for you, click the button below to download our answers to 20 frequently asked questions.