There are many different types of creatine on the market today, with most pre-workouts having some form of creatine or another in their ingredients. With creatine being so popular it is a wonder that so many still don’t quite understand what it really is. This is the most evidenced, in my opinion, in people claiming that it is not “natural”. So before I even begin, let me start by explaining:
✓ What creatine is
✓ How it is naturally found in the body
✓ How we consume creatine in a normal diet
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is naturally found in muscle tissue as creatine phosphate, roughly 70% of what is found in the body with the rest being free creatine (3). It is an integral part of the body’s energy system and is considered a “fast” or “immediate” energy source. This is because the body can use it to very quickly and efficiently make ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate), which to save a much lengthier explanation, we will just say is energy in terms of the human body. It does so by re-phosphorylating ADP (adenosine di-phosphate) into ATP using the phosphate that is attached to the creatine. So the caveat here is this: creatine is always present in the body, naturally occurring, and therefore completely “Natty”, bro.
Even though creatine is found in meat sources, more in red meats than white, the amount ingested through such means makes it difficult to fully saturate our own cells with creatine. This is where the creatine supplementation comes into play. Only so much creatine can be absorbed at a time, therefore creatine supplementation is generally recommended in larger doses at the beginning which can then be tapered off once saturation has been achieved. The exact amount differs based on body weight and lean body mass, however, a reasonable approach would be to take 5g of creatine 5 times a day for a week and then taper down to 3g (3).
Is Creatine Good For You?
Creatine supplementation has many different benefits, the main focus normally being an increase in strength and performance: “As an oral supplement, the most widely used and researched form is creatine monohydrate (CM). When orally ingested, CM has shown to improve exercise performance and increase fat free mass” (3). However, creatine supplementation is not only linked to performance increases, it is also linked to increases in fat free mass, and muscle morphology (3).
Creatine should be considered a daily supplement is given that “consuming approximately 4–6 g of creatine immediately before and 4–6 g of creatine immediately after each RT session may be beneﬁcial if consumed for a longer period of time” (2). This is most likely due to the need for fuller saturation of the muscle cells to facilitate performance increases, hence the creatine loading phase. If you do feel a need to choose a certain time of day to take your creatine then “Creatine supplementation plus resistance exercise increases fat-free mass and strength. Based on the magnitude inferences it appears that consuming creatine immediately post-workout is superior to pre-workout vis a vis body composition and strength” (1).
Creatine should be considered for more than just the young or athletic. In fact, it has been shown to help preserve muscle mass in older adults. Sarcopenia is the term that refers to the age-related loss of muscle mass. “Sarcopenia refers to a condition that occurs when fat-free mass is more than two standard deviations below normal.3 Approximately 25% of those older than 70 years of age have sarcopenia, increasing to nearly half of those over 80 years” (4).
So concerning older adults and creatine supplementation: “Resistance training is beneficial in preventing or reversing the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with aging. Creatine supplementation alone or in addition to exercise may enhance these effects.” (4) This study also talks about non-responders, which are persons of whom seem to receive no benefit from creatine supplementation (4). However, the actual number of non-responders is debatable but by no means the majority of the population.
Take Home Message
There are many other health benefits associated with creatine supplementation as well, however, the list can become very long and lead to much more in-depth discussion. Creatine is not only tried and true, proven to produce many benefits, but is also one of the cheaper supplements on the market. If you’re looking for the newest flashiest supplement out there, creatine probably isn’t it. However, if you are looking for a supplement that will actually give you results, creatine monohydrate is more than likely the answer you have been looking for.
Check out our supplement guide here!