Power Up: The Benefits of Creatine Supplementation
More than just a bodybuilding supplement..
Creatine is a naturally occurring, energy-producing substance in the human body and is synthesized from amino acids primarily in the liver, pancreas, and kidney(Kraemer & Volek, 1999). Small amounts can be found in certain foods, such as red meat and fish and supplementation has been used by athletes and bodybuilders for decades to improve muscle strength and endurance. In the phosphorylated form, Creatine serves as an energy substrate that contributes to the resynthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) during maximal exercise. More simply, our muscles use adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as fuel when we exercise, and Creatine increases the ATP levels in the muscles, allowing them to sustain higher loads for longer.
Benefits of Creatine
Creatine supplementation can offer therapeutic benefits by preventing ATP depletion, stimulating protein synthesis, reducing protein degradation, and stabilizing biological membranes. The primary performance benefits of Creatine supplementation include:
- Increased muscle strength and power: Creatine increases the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the muscles, which is our primary energy source during intense exercise.
- Improved muscle endurance: Creatine has been shown to delay the onset of fatigue during high-intensity exercise, allowing athletes to perform more reps and sets, leading to improved muscle endurance.
- Increased muscle mass: Creatine has been shown to promote muscle growth by increasing the rate of protein synthesis in the muscles.
- Improved recovery: Creatine has been shown to reduce muscle damage and inflammation caused by intense exercise, leading to reduced recovery times and muscle soreness.
In addition to its performance-enhancing effects, Creatine has been studied for its potential benefits in cognitive function and neurodegenerative diseases. For example, some studies have found that Creatine may help improve memory and thinking skills and slow down the progression of conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's'disease.
Creatine Monohydrate vs Creatine HCL
Creatine Monohydrate and Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL) are two forms of Creatine supplements that are believed to be effective in increasing muscle strength and endurance.
Creatine monohydrate is the most researched and scientifically understood form of Creatine, making it the gold standard of Creatine supplementation. It is made by combining Creatine with a water molecule, which helps stabilize the Creatine and increases its absorbability.
Creatine HCL is a newer form of Creatine that combines Creatine with hydrochloric acid. The idea behind this is that hydrochloric acid increases the solubility and bioavailability of Creatine, potentially making it better absorbed by the body; however, more research is needed to confirm this.
What is Creatine ‘Loading’?
Creatine is a generally safe supplement that is available in several forms, including powder, capsules, and bars.
The 'maintenance phase' is the recommended method for Creatine supplementation and requires individuals to consume 3-5g of Creatine a day.
The 'loading phase' is typically 5-7 days and requires individuals to consume high dosages (20-25g/day) of Creatine. The daily dosage (20-25g) should be divided and consumed in small amounts (less than 10g), as large dosages may lead to gastrointestinal distress (i.e., diarrhea). Determination of which creatine supplementation strategy is preferred may depend on the individual's goal. For example, adopting the creatine' loading' strategy may be advised if you hope to maximize the ergogenic potential of creatine supplementation in a short time (< 30 days). However, if you plan to use Creatine over an extended time (> 30 days) and want to avoid potential weight gain or side effects, the creatine 'maintenance' strategy would be a viable option(Antonio et al., 2021).
Creatine is one of the most widely researched and safe supplements; however, using this supplement can cause mild side effects such as:
- Weight gain (1-3kg) in the initial weeks due to the increase in total body water
These symptoms can generally be avoided by drinking plenty of water and adjusting the dosage. Notably, the benefits of Creatine may vary depending on the individual, and it is most effective when combined with regular resistance training.
In conclusion, Creatine is a safe and effective supplement that has been shown to increase muscle strength and power, improve exercise performance, enhance muscle growth, and improve recovery. Additionally, creatine has been found to improve cognitive function and potentially have positive neuroprotective effects.
- Brisbane: Health & Sports Supplement Store. Supplements Central. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2023, from https://supplementscentral.com.au/
- Antonio, J., Candow, D. G., Forbes, S. C., Gualano, B., Jagim, A. R., Kreider, R. B., Rawson, E. S., Smith-Ryan, A. E., VanDusseldorp, T. A., Willoughby, D. S., & Ziegenfuss, T. N. (2021). Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: What does the scientific evidence really show? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 18(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
- Kraemer, W.J. and Volek, J.S. (1999) “Creatine supplementation,” Clinics in Sports Medicine, 18(3), pp. 651–666. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/s0278-5919(05)70174-5.
Teigen Faux, Exercise Physiologist (Honours)
Arianna Fthinoyiannis, Nutrition Science
Stephen Brumwell, Nutritionist (ANTA #40048) for Scientific Accuracy