If you’re not currently taking creatine, the bottom line is you’re leaving half of your progress in the gym behind.
In this post, we’ll show you why creatine is the only essential bodybuilding supplement, as well as discussing it’s benefits, safety profile how to take it and how it works.
Do you need to take bodybuilding supplements?
If you follow any fitness youtuber or influencer, you’ve likely seen posts where they promote their supplement sponsors and give glowing praise for all these supplements.
As someone who’s new to the community, all of the options might seem confusing.
BCAAs? HMB? Casein? Beta-alanine?
Which one is the best for muscle growth? What do I use it for? Is it safe? How does it work? And do I actually need to buy this to build muscle?
Well, the truth is, for majority of supplements which these companies sell, the benefits you get aren’t that spectacular.
Creatine is probably the only exception to this however, as it is has been scientifically proven to increase muscle mass.
What are the benefits of taking Creatine?
Creatine has one primary mechanism through which it promotes muscle growth – it increases your strength and muscle endurance.
This means that you’ll be able to lift heavier in the gym and since you can lift more, your training volume will be higher, which leads to muscle growth.
As well as increasing your strength, creatine also works by increasing the levels of a growth factor known as IGF-1 which can increase muscle mass. Additionally creatine can actually lead to the formation of muscle fibres by changing cellular pathways that regulate muscle growth.
Finally, creatine causes your muscles to draw water in and retain it. While this water retention might make you appear slightly bloated at first, the higher water content in your muscles gives the appearance of larger muscle size. Not only that, but the bloat is temporary and usually resolves in a few weeks.
Does creatine have any other benefits?
Well, I’m glad you asked.
You’ll be surprised at how many other benefits creatine has, muscle building aside, so much so that I’d recommend taking creatine even if you aren’t looking to build muscle.
First of all creatine is great for brain function. In fact, it was proven to boost memory and recall in elderly individuals. While the effect isn’t very prominent in younger adults, creatine does help to protect against neurological diseases such as parkinson’s, alzheimer’s and depression as well as increasing dopamine levels.
Additionally, creatine is great at fighting off fatigue and tiredness, especially in those who are sleep deprived. So the next time you’re pulling an all-nighter, try reaching for the creatine instead of the red bull.
Studies have also shown creatine to have a blood sugar lowering effect, which is important if you are a diabetic, and if you’re not, the lower blood glucose may help to prevent becoming diabetic.
Is Creatine safe?
If you’ve heard enough people talk about creatine, you’ll most likely have heard one or two people claim the substance is a steroid, or causes kidney failure and you should stay well away from the stuff.
Well, this is actually pretty far from the truth.
For a start, creatine isn’t a steroid, it’s an amino acid which is found naturally in meats and fish, and in your body. Your body then converts it to phosphocreatine which is stored in your muscles and is then used for energy.
This is the mechanism by which creatine works and is completely different to how steroids work, which is by raising your testosterone to unnaturally high levels.
Next, if we look at the safety of creatine in relation to the kidneys, a lot of people believe that there is are links between creatine and kidney damage.
However, when we look at the literature on creatine safety as a whole, it’s fair to say that creatine is unlikely to be linked to kidney damage unless you’re taking it at higher doses than recommended, have a renal condition or are a potential risk of renal disease.
If you’re not sure whether you fit into these categories, make sure you consult a doctor before taking creatine.
Finally, while the bloating is a real side effect for the first few weeks, other side effects which you may have heard about, such as cramps and dehydration, are not backed up by literature, which shows that creatine has an excellent side-effect profile.
How should I take Creatine?
Unlike other supplements like protein or pre-workout, you should be taking creatine daily in order to keep concentrations in your muscles high.
Creatine should also be taken in two different phases: a loading phase and a maintenance phase.
The loading phase is needed in order to fully saturate your muscles with creatine before the high levels can be maintained. The ISSN recommends a loading dose of 20 grams a day for 5-7 days – the 20 gram dose can be split into four 5 gram doses for convenience.
After the loading phase, a daily dose of 3-5 g (depending on body weight) should be enough to maintain creatine levels.
As for when to take it, research has shown that it’s best to take the supplement just before or after a workout. During rest days, the timing of which you take it is a lot less important.
However, it is more effectively taken up when consumed along with carbs.
To conclude, if you’re not already taking creatine and you’re looking to increase your progress in the gym, then this is definitely something you should be looking at. It isn’t going to make your muscles bigger without training however, so make sure you’re progressively overloading.
Creatine also has an excellent safety profile, so unless you’re at risk of kidney disease, you shouldn’t be worried about the side effects.
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