Creatine is a widely known supplement in the fitness industry. Most people know that it aids in muscle growth but do you know why or how it can benefit you?
What is Creatine?
It’s a combination of amino acids produced by the liver, kidney, and pancreas. Creatine is not a steroid—it’s naturally found in muscle and in red meat and fish, though at far lower levels than in the powder form sold on bodybuilding websites and at your local supplement store
How does it work? Creatine reduces fatigue by transporting extra energy into your cells,
If you have more creatine phosphate—which you do if you take a creatine supplement—you can work out longer and do sets of, say, eight reps instead of six. Over weeks and months, that added workload allows you to add lean muscle mass, lift heavier weights, and become stronger.
But should you worry about side effects? Does creatine cause you to lose weight when you stop it, or does it hurt your kidneys, like you may have heard? Here are the key myths and facts you need to know.
Creatine causes weight gain. Fact. (But that’s kind of the point.) It pulls H2O into your muscles, which causes water-weight gain and makes muscles look bigger initially. (You don’t actually gain muscle fibers until you work out.) No two people will have the same results. Weight gain of about 0.8 to 2.9 percent of body weight in the first few days of creatine supplementation occurs in about two-thirds of users. What can you expect after the water weight gain? In a study of 20-year-olds taking creatine and doing weight training they found some gained two pounds of muscle but one even gained 17 pounds of it—with the same amount of supplement and the same training.
Creatine doesn’t work well for everyone. True. “One major factor with creatine is that some people have high levels in muscle naturally,” says Tarnopolsky. Meat and fish eaters are less likely to respond than vegans, who have low levels in their diet. Your muscle makeup matters, too. Most people have about 50 percent fast-twitch fibers (responsible for sprinting and jumping) and 50 percent slow-twitch fibers (responsible for endurance exercise), says Peter Adhihetty, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of applied physiology and kinesiology at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Those guys should respond well. But people with 70 percent fast-twitch and 30 percent slow-twitch muscle will see even more results, he says.
Creatine makes you look softer. True. There’s a reason bodybuilders stop using creatine a month or so before a competition. As the creatine hydrates itself, it causes water to flow into the muscle. That extra water may increase the volume of the muscles, but it also makes them look mushy rather than defined.
Creatine users will lose muscle when they stop taking the supplement. Myth. Your muscles may look smaller because creatine adds water volume. “The real question is, ‘Will you maintain your strength and muscle mass, dry muscle mass, when you discontinue the use of creatine?' The answer to that is absolutely yes. Once you have built the muscle, as long as you continue to lift, you will maintain it.
So, you want to take creatine? Here’s how.
The first week you go on creatine, some experts recommend a “loading phase” of 20 grams a day for five to seven days. Afterward, go to 5 grams per day.
See your doctor first if you have high blood pressure or diabetes, if you regularly take any prescription meds or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (which can tax the kidneys), if you’re over age 40 (since kidney function slowly declines after age 30), or if you have a history of kidney or liver disease.
credit: Mens Health Magazine