Whether you're brand new to fitness ... or you're a tenured gym veteran ... there's a good chance you've had creatine recommended to you.
This is because it's been one of the most popular supplements on the market for the last 20+ years and counting.
Creatine has been the most studied and researched supplement in that time frame as well.
What's funny about that is even with all the research ... creatine will still get the most hate of any supplement you'll come across.
Does it deserve all the hate?
Is it a performance-enhancing drug that leads to kidney failure?
Should you be taking creatine ... or should you be avoiding it?
Do you know what creatine actually is?
We will answer all the above.
What is creatine?
This may surprise you ... but you're always taking and using creatine. That's because creatine is a naturally occurring molecule in the human body.
It's produced using 3 different amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine.
When you talk about natural supplementation ... it doesn't get more natural than creatine.
It's also found in some animal-based foods, such as red meat and fish.
What does creatine do?
This can get a little complex, so we'll try to keep it as simple as possible.
Creatine is a crucial part of the ATP energy system within the body.
This is the energy system your body will use primarily for high-intensity activities such as weight lifting, sprinting, jumping ... and any other type of explosive movements.
It can be said that any movement you're doing that has an increased demand for energy ... creatine will help provide that energy.
ATP is released by the body and then broken down during these times to create energy. Once broken down ... it leaves a byproduct known as ADP.
When you have sufficient amounts of creatine in your system, it will be used to then take ADP and re-create ATP ... which can then be used again as an energy source.
Simply think of creatine as helping your body recycle energy much faster. This translates to delayed fatigue and improved performance.
There's your science lesson for the day!
Should you supplement with creatine?
The short answer ... Yes.
Especially if you want to see improvements in your your workouts, your body composition ... and even your mental focus.
We talked earlier about how your body naturally produces creatine. Think of supplementing with it as "topping off your gas tank". It provides your body with just a little bit extra ... and this helps unlock more benefits.
There's numerous studies showing those who supplement with creatine consistently noticed positive changes in body composition, improved strength, faster sprint times ... and better athletic performance overall. (2,3,4)
If you're someone who doesn't particularly feel like you need more explosive strength or energy ... creatine can still benefit you.
There's now increasing amounts of studies showing that creatine can improve cognitive function. Just like when you have an increased demand for physical energy ... creatine can help when there's an increased demand for mental energy as well.
This includes studying, tedious work tasks ... and any times where you may need increased focus.
Creatine supplementation may even help slow memory loss in older adults. (9)
The benefits don't stop at exercise performance.
It's important to note here that if you're vegan, vegetarian or don't eat a ton of meat in general ... you may benefit even more so from creatine supplementation. This is due to the fact that you're most likely not getting any at all through your diet. (1,2)
How much creatine do I need and which form should I be using?
Almost all research suggests 5 grams of creatine per day. It can be taken everyday, at anytime per day, and you don't ever need to cycle it. Meaning you can use it long-term without any breaks. Remember ... you're always producing it so it's impossible to ever be without it.
It usually takes roughly 4-6 weeks of consistent use to start unlocking more of the benefits.
When it comes to which form you should use ... stick with monohydrate. 95% of all creatine research is done using monohydrate. Not only is it the most proven form ... it's also the most affordable. (5)
There's brands that will claim that they've somehow cracked the code ... or have the research stating that "their creatine" is the best form.
If it's not monohydrate ... you can be 100% certain those claims are false. Research shows that there's no form of creatine that provide more ... or better benefits than monohydrate. (5)
Creatine Myth Busting
It's these myths and misconceptions that have lead to creatine getting a lot of the hate that it gets.
Creatine is a performance-enhancing drug - Well ... it does enhance athletic performance, but it's not a drug. It's a naturally occurring molecule made from amino acids ... and it's also found in animal products. It's always present in your body.
Creatine causes kidney failure - This myth stems from the byproduct of creatine, which is creatinine. Creatinine is sometimes elevated in those who have kidney issues ... but it's also elevated in those who use creatine. The two are not related ... and hundreds of studies have proven this to be the case. Many of which were very longterm studies. Time and time again, creatine has been shown to be safe and not cause any kidney issues. (6,7)
Creatine causes muscle cramps - Studies show this is actually the opposite. Long-term studies on high-level athletes have shown that consistent creatine use actually reduces muscle cramps ... and can even prevent injury. (8)
Creatine makes you gain weight - Creatine is 100% calorie free ... therefore it can't possibly contribute to weight gain. Remember that the only way to gain weight is consistently eating in a calorie surplus. What creatine can do is help pull water to your muscles, which is a good thing. This can create a more "full" look and possibly add a pound or two to the scale. Just know that's not body fat ... it's simply a more hydrated muscle.
Creatine makes you bloat - Creatine leads to fluid retention within your muscles ... which is a good thing! Think of it as helping hydrate your muscle cells. That actually contributes to many of the benefits creatine provides. This is a positive aspect of creatine ... and it's not bloat.
Creatine is just for men - Creatine doesn't discriminate. Men and women alike can benefit from creatine supplementation. If you're a women and looking to improve your exercise, or cognitive performance ... creatine can help you do so.
The bottom line
Creatine is one of the most popular, most researched ... and most misunderstood supplements on the planet.
It's naturally occurring within the human body, but supplementing with it can lead to many additional benefits.
These benefits include improvements in endurance/strength, body composition ... and can even help cognitive abilities.
You can be certain that all the negatives you hear about creatine supplementation are false. This is a fact that you can see very clearly with the research that's out there.
If you have goals of improving workout performance, how you look, and even how you think ... you should 100% be supplementing creatine.
Currently, the supplement industry is experiencing a creatine shortage, but ... as always, we got your back.
Simply stop into your nearest S2 location ... we're stocked up on creatine and we'll be sure to help you with anything you're struggling with.
*This post was written by Andrew Lynn, who has a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. He is also a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.
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