Creatine is arguably one of the five most used nutrition supplements in the world of fitness. It’s been used for a few decades now. Its use as a training aid was discovered when a strength sport athlete noticed an increase in his ability to do more work when eating copious amounts of red meat. Creatine is found in red meat, so it was believed that parts of his improvements in performance were explained by the increase in creatine consumption by way of red meat!
What Is It?
Creatine is a compound formed from three amino acids (proteins): glycine, arginine and methionine. It is produced by the body in small amounts and is an essential compound in the muscle contractile process. To keep it simple, creatine is needed for a muscle fibre to contract and relax. Muscles are constantly contracting and relaxing to create and control force during exercise. Exercise therefore depletes creatine levels.
Creatine supplementation may be effective because the amount the body produces and the amounts available in food are relatively low compared to the amount that is expended through exercise.
What Does It Do?
Creatine has been shown to increase strength, sprint performance and work capacity. While there are studies showing benefits of creatine supplementation in endurance athletes, most of the significant results are for strength and power based sports such as weightlifting, and track and field. Its use has also been associated with improvements in body composition. However, I believe that may be a side effect of the ability to do more in training.
Is It Safe & Legal?
Yes and yes! Creatine supplementation does not cause muscle cramps, nor is it bad for your kidneys. While its use may improve performance, it is not a performance-enhancing drug or steroid. It does not make you “swell up” or “bulk up” either. It’s also equally safe and beneficial for men and women.
What’s the Difference In Types Of Creatine?
Not much. Pure creatine powder (creatine monohydrate) is the best for results and it’s the least expensive.
How Much Should You Take?
Research shows that a daily intake of as little as 3 grams and as much as 20 grams is beneficial and safe. For some reason it’s become common to have a loading phase of 20 grams a day followed by a maintenance phase of 3-5 grams, but that’s not necessary.
My advice is to take 5 grams a day POST workout, and to use it for 1-2 months at a time with a 2-4 week break in between. And I also suggest that you use a pure creatine monohydrate – something without a stash of other ingredients.
It’s safe, legal, improves performance and body composition, and doesn’t cost you the bank. So try it! If you’re still unsure about it, ask questions in the comments below.