What Is Creatine? The #1 Sports Supplement You Should Be Using

Hello Fitness Locals!

Today you're going to discover what creatine is, what it does to your body, any creatine side effects and why it should be a part of your supplement regime! 

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What Is Creatine? 

Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in our bodies, if that sounds like gibberish, don't worry. The key point here is that we produce it naturally! It's not a substance your body isn't familiar with. 

What creatine does is help us produce adenosine tri-phosphate faster. If you think back to high school science class, you might remember something called ATP, well that's shorthand for adenosine tri-phosphate! ATP is what powers every cell in our bodies, including our muscles!

When we use ATP in our body, we 'spend' a phosphate, reducing ATP to ADP (you guessed it, adenosine di-phosphate). What creatine does is give a phosphate back to the ADP and just like that, we can produce energy faster again! This means you have a bigger fuel tank that refills faster meaning better performance in the gym!

Alright, science lesson over!

Does It Work?

Creatine definitely works. You won't notice a miraculous effect, but as far as nutritional supplements go, you can't get any better. Creatine gives you the power to lift more weight, get more reps, sprint faster and just get more out of your workout. 

How Much Creatine Should I Take?

Recommendations on creatine dosage are widely varied, but through years of using it myself and having many clients who have used it, I have a pretty good idea of what works best for most people. A good dose for most people is 3-5g taken 

Should I Load Creatine?

There's a process known as creatine loading, in which you take 20-25g of creatine for 5-7 days when you start taking creatine. This is the most effective way to raise your creatine levels quickly and some research show that this method gives better results than letting your creatine stores build up slowly. With the loading approach, you will reach a point of saturation after 1-2 weeks, after which point you move to the maintenance dose of 3-5g. 

Loading creatine is a great way to increase muscle stores of creatine quickly but I'd advise you to space out the creatine over 3-4 servings and work up to the loading dose over a few days. Larger dosages of creatine may have you running for the toilet if you take too much in one go!

Should I Cycle Creatine? 

There's no evidence to suggest that cycling creatine is more or less effective than continuous use. I'd suggest continuous use for the simple reason that it's harder to build a habit than it is to maintain it!

Is Creatine Safe?

Taking creatine is safe and effective, this has been established by mountains of studies. Creatine is certainly one of the most researched supplements, if not the most researched, so you can be pretty confident that you're safe in taking it. 

Creatine Side Effects

The side effects of creatine are minimal in healthy people, as long as you don't take too much then you should tolerate it very well. Creatine may cause mild dehydration in those who don't drink enough but the effects are small. 

If you have an existing kidney or liver condition, you should speak to your doctor before starting creatine. Metabolism of extra creatine can put a strain on the liver and kidneys of those with existing problems. These effects do not appear to be of any concern to those with healthy liver and kidney function. 

Will It Make Me Gain Weight? 

It might. Creatine often causes weight gain in those who use it but it is important to note that this is not fat. Initial weight gain with creatine is often water retention within the muscles and some muscle mass. Long-term weight gain is muscle mass. There is no mechanism by which creatine can make you fat. 

Is Creatine Legal?

Creatine is legal to buy, sell and take in the UK (as well as in most, if not all, other countries), and it is not a banned substance in any competitive sport. Creatine is a nutritional supplement and bears no resemblance to steroids or other illegal or banned performance enhancing drugs. 

I wouldn't suggest trying to transport it across countries however, customs can get a bit funny about white powders!

How Should I Take Creatine? 

Creatine can be taken in either pill form or as a powder mixed with water, both are equally effective, but there are a few things you can do to maximise the effects of creatine. 

Take Creatine With Your Post-Workout Shake

To create the optimal conditions for driving creatine into muscles, a high insulin environment works best. Insulin is increased when you consume carbohydrates or protein, and the effect is best when you combine them both.

Consuming creatine after your workout has another beneficial effect. When you train hard in the gym, you're priming your muscles for growth and better uptake of nutrients. When you combine this with protein and carbohydrates, creatine has the best opportunity to get to work making you stronger and faster. 

If you're sold on the benefits of creatine, head over to the Fitness Local Shop, and pick some up today!