By Myprotein Writer Nathan Bell
Creatine has become an extremely popular supplement in recent years as the use of legal supplements has become the ‘in thing’ in both professional and increasingly recreational gym goers and athletes.
As a scientist and keen trainer myself, I understand why people want to use technology to aid in their performance and development. With the sports industry being a billion dollar business and huge amounts of money resting on minuscule differences in performance, athletes and clubs need to utilise every avenue available to its full potential to have the best chance of winning.
However, there is a large difference between professional athletes taking supplements under the expert guidance of nutrition and physiology scientists and the average male or female using supplements with little knowledge about what the supplement is and whether it is worth the money they are investing.
What is Creatine?
Creatine (creatine phosphate) is a molecule found in the most rapidly producing energy system in the body – adenosine triphosphate (ATP/PC,) which underlies the performing enhancing and protective properties of creatine. Creatine actually exists naturally in the body’s muscle and is a major source of energy when exercising.
However, creatine stores in the body can become easily depleted and for that reason, we must consume creatine through dietary sources – such as animal products like meat and dairy.
Popular Creatine Supplements
Many different forms of creatine are available to buy, including creatine monohydrate, creapure and creatine ethyl ester, yet creatine monohydrate (CM) is the cheapest and could be labelled as the most effective.
How Much Creatine Should I take?
Generally, it is advised to consume 5-10g of creatine post workout to maximise muscle stores. However, when it comes to creatine many people adopt a process called creatine loading.
Within a loading protocol, 0.3g/kg bodyweight is taken for 5-7 days, followed by 0.5g daily dosages; this can be broken down into 2-3 smaller doses per day with one being just prior to/during exercise.
The Benefits of Creatine
The most significant amount of evidence supports these effects of creatine:
- Increased Power Output
- Increased weight
- Decreased Fatigue
- Decreased depression
Creatine: Increased power output
The compound creatine phosphate is broken down by ATP to provide energy in high intensity exercise of short duration, therefore it should seem fairly obvious that our muscles would be able to produce a greater force on a repetitive basis if we can maintain or increase creatine levels in the muscle.
However, in one Meta analysis, assessing the ability of creatine to increase strength from 12- 20 %, and power from 12- 26%, a high degree of variability was shown with creatine intake, whereby there was also little difference in strength found between individuals who trained and did not train.
Creatine Side Effects
I have heard many people give their opinion on creatine, often commenting: “it can be bad for your kidneys.” However, creatine is an extremely well researched supplement and no evidence as of far has been found to support this statement.
Too much creatine taken at one sitting may lead to diarrhoea and not drinking enough water. Whilst creatine may lead to stomach cramping, as said above, no long-term damage has been proven of being caused.
Does creatine increase weight?
A significant amount of research supports a strong correlation between creatine use and overall weight increase; this is as a result of water retention in individuals who respond to creatine supplementation. (Cancela et al., 2008) (Eckerson et al., 2008)
Creatine is generally taken by those looking to increase exercise performance and muscle mass, which when combined with the right nutrient requirements can lead to weight gain.
Does creatine decrease depression?
The idea of creatine reducing depression may be notable as it is suggested to be related to serotonin and augmenting SSRI therapy. It appears to have a gender difference which needs may provide more accuracy if investigated into.
Take home message
In conclusion, it appears creatine is probably one of few supplements that have a significant impact on aiding strength and power development due to its nature in the body.
If you compete in short duration high-intensity sports such as Power/Weight-lifting, sprinting etc, you may benefit from taking a creatine supplement. Although numerous variations can be found on the market, it may be best to stick to creatine monohydrate for effectiveness and an added bonus of a lower price tag!
CREATINE = Money well spent!