If you’re someone who has been in the fitness industry for quite some time, you’ve probably heard the word “creatine” a few times. If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking it’s a supplement for men — taken to get you big. Over the past ten years or so, creatine has been more widely used amongst females than ever before. With more females interested in working out and building muscle, creatine is becoming the go to supplement. Creatine is one of the most widely studied supplements and is considered safe for healthy individuals to take.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a compound that supplies energy to your muscles. It is produced in the pancreas, liver and kidneys and transported to muscle through the bloodstream, where it is turned into creatine phosphate. It is also found in foods like fresh meats and berries. Creatine is responsible for restoring your ATP levels (which transfers energy throughout the muscles and throughout the body). During high intensity workouts your ATP levels drop –this is where the creatine supplements pick up the tab, allowing you to get in a few more reps.
What Are Creatine Supplements?
Creatine supplements come in powder, liquid or pill form. Most supplements out there come in a flavored powder form, which are the most popular. The average person could experience a 10 pound increase in muscle because creatine boosts overall strength by 10%-15%. Of all the supplements out there, creatine will give you the most bang for your buck. It is extremely cost-effective.
Generally, creatine supplements are sold in the following forms:
- Creatine liquid: A more easily digested form of creatine.
- Creatine powder: The most popular and common form, sold alone or in a flavored mix.
- Creatine capsules: Sold as either 100% creatine, or mixed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc.
- Creatine blend: These blends combine various forms of creatine with other supplements like caffeine, carbohydrates or herbs to amplify potency, increase performance and help with digestion.
The Benefits of Taking Creatine
- Extra Energy: Allowing you to not only work harder, but longer.
- Muscle Volume: Muscles with increased volume tend to be stronger and will carry more lean muscle mass.
- Protein Synthesis: Stimulates muscle specific protein synthesis.
- Improved Cognitive Function: Muscle fatigue isn’t the only thing creatine combats. Creatine also empowers proper brain functioning. According to a recent study, creatine can improve short term memory and problem solving.
Creatine is used widely among body builders, athletes, sports teams and even vegetarians. The human body produces about 120 grams of creatine by itself, 95% of it is in the skeletal system. Supplementing with creatine will allow muscle to hold an extra 20-30 grams.
Certain foods like herring (3 1/2 – 4 gr. per pound), pork (2 1/4 gr. per pound), beef, salmon (both have 2 gr. per pound) and tuna (1.8 gr. per pound) all contain creatine, but the amount you’d have to eat is tremendous. This the main reason it’s such a popular supplement among vegetarians.
The recommended dosage is 5 grams (or 1 tablespoon). As a women, I would NOT recommend creatine loading because of two side affects: bloating and water retention. Creatine loading is when you consume 5 grams four times a day for seven to ten days. The down side to this are the side affects I mentioned above, on top of cramping, stomach aches and/or dehydration.
The best way to take creatine is with water, non-acidic juice or with dextrose. I would however recommend creatine cycling, which is taking in 5 grams a day before your workouts for two to three weeks at a time, then off for two to three weeks. This way your body doesn’t get used to it and can help curb any potential negative side affects.