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Overview of Creatine: Uses, Side Effects & More

Team AckoJan 27, 2023

Found naturally in the cells of animals and humans, Creatine is one of the most widely studied and used supplements in the world. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, this supplement is effective in increasing both muscle strength and size. Studies show that regular Creatine usage can lead to an increase of up to 15% in maximal strength. Read ahead to know about the benefits, dosage, side effects, and types of Creatine.

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Contents

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What is Creatine?

Creatine is an organic acid that is produced naturally in the body, primarily in the liver and kidneys, that is essential to the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in muscle cells. It plays a vital role in the metabolism of energy, allowing muscles to process energy more efficiently and improving overall physical performance. It is a well-known dietary supplement, which comes in the form of a powder. It can be dissolved in water or juice and is taken before or after workouts.

What does Creatine do?

Creatine functions as an energy reserve, helping to fuel intense exercise. When taken as a supplement, Creatine is converted to a compound called Creatine phosphate, which the body then uses to generate energy more quickly than normal. This makes it a very effective supplement for athletes looking to improve performance and gain muscle. Also, Creatine helps your body absorb water, which increases muscle hydration levels. That means you can push yourself a little harder and get a better workout with its supplementation.

Benefits of Creatine

Here is the rundown of some ultimate benefits you can get by counting on Creatine.

  • Increased strength: It helps build muscle by improving the ability of muscle contractions. This, in turn, leads to an increase in strength and power.

  • Improved endurance: It aids in increasing the availability of energy in muscle cells, resulting in improved stamina and increased endurance. This can be beneficial for athletes who require a lot of energy during their sports activities.

  • Muscle growth: It promotes muscle growth by boosting the synthesis of proteins in muscle cells. It also helps reduce the breakdown of proteins, which results in muscle gains.

  • Reduced fatigue: It reduces fatigue by increasing the ATP levels in the body. ATP is essential for muscle contraction, so increasing these levels can boost performance. Studies have shown that Creatine may help lessen the risk of injury in athletes due to its ability to reduce fatigue.

  • Muscle recovery: Creatine helps reduce muscle soreness and may improve muscle recovery time following a workout. This improves energy and performance levels during your next workout or activity.

  • Improved health: Studies have suggested that Creatine may improve health by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. It may also help reduce symptoms of some neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

Types of Creatine

Listed below are the different types of Creatine supplements you must know.

1. Monohydrate

Monohydrate is the original form of Creatine, and often the first type people start taking. It is the most studied form of Creatine, which has proven safe and effective. It is the most popular and inexpensive type of Creatine.

2. Ethyl ester

It is a form of Creatine, which is modified with an ethyl ester. Unlike other forms of Creatine, ethyl ester Creatine is believed to be more easily absorbed by the body, and thus boosts performance with fewer side effects. It is often taken with a protein shake or meal for maximum effect.

3. Creatine hydrochloride (HCL)

This is a newer form of Creatine made by attaching Creatine to hydrochloric acid molecules. It is speculated to be more soluble in water and more easily absorbed.

4. Creatine magnesium chelate

It is formed by combining Creatine with magnesium chelate, which is believed to help enhance absorption. It is often taken as an ergogenic aid, meaning it may improve physical performance and help athletes' energy levels. CMC is believed to have a number of benefits, including improved endurance, strength, and muscle size.

5. Creatine citrate

It is a form of Creatine that is highly soluble in water, making it an easy addition to any beverage. It is absorbed easily, allowing it to be quickly transported to the muscles to give them energy.

6. Creatine nitrate

It is a combination of two substances: Creatine and Nitrate, both of which are known for their performance-enhancing effects. It is considered to be more effective than other forms of Creatine due to its ability to dissolve more quickly in water and be more readily absorbed into the bloodstream.

How to take Creatine?

It is a safe and easy supplement that can be added to a regular exercise routine. Here is the basic outline of how to take Creatine.

  • Start with a lower dose: Take 3 to 5 grams of Creatine monohydrate per day for the first week.

  • Increase the dose: This will depend on the kind of Creatine supplement you are taking, but you can increase the dose to 5 to 10 grams per day.

  • Cycle your Creatine: Take it consistently for 3 to 5 weeks, followed by a break of at least 1 week. This helps avoid any potential side effects while still allowing your body to benefit from the supplement.

  • Consume enough fluids: Make sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to keep your body hydrated.

  • Speak to your doctor: Talk to your doctor or a fitness professional if you are unsure about the best way to take Creatine, or if you have any questions or concerns.

When to take Creatine?

Depending on your routine, you may take it before or/and after your workout (as recommended by your doctor/professional trainer). It’s important to take Creatine with a meal or snack that contains carbohydrates, as this helps the body absorb the supplement. Make sure to wait for at least 45 minutes after taking Creatine before starting your workout as it will give the supplement time to get absorbed. Avoid consuming it later in the day because it can interfere with your sleep cycle if taken too close to bedtime. 

Take your Creatine supplement with plenty of water to replace the water lost through perspiration. Make sure to drink at least 2 cups of water with every dose. Taking more than the recommended dosage of Creatine will not improve your results. So it’s vital to follow the directions on the supplement. 

Side effects of creatine

It is typically considered safe and effective when taken in recommended doses. However, long-term use of Creatine may result in several side effects, such as dehydration, muscle cramps, diarrhoea, nausea, and gastrointestinal discomfort. In some cases, using too much Creatine may lead to kidney damage. Taking Creatine with other dietary supplements may also increase the risk of side effects.

It is crucial to talk to your doctor about the potential risks of taking Creatine before beginning supplementation.

In addition to the potential side effects mentioned above, some other possible side effects of Creatine supplementation include.

  • Kidney problems

  • High blood pressure

  • Liver damage

  • Stress on the heart and vascular system

  • Increased risk of injury

  • Headaches

  • Allergic reactions

  • Weight gain due to water retention

It is generally recommended to begin taking Creatine with smaller doses, then gradually increase the dosage to avoid unwanted side effects.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Here are the answers to some common questions regarding Creatine.

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Should I take Creatine?

Whether or not you should take Creatine is ultimately a personal decision. It is a supplement used by athletes and bodybuilders to increase their strength and muscle mass. However, it has some potential side effects, such as weight gain, water retention, muscle cramping, nausea and headaches. So, consult with a medical professional before you begin taking this supplement.

Can beginners take Creatine?

Yes, beginners can take Creatine, but they should start with a lower dosage, usually around 5 grams a day, and slowly increase the dosage until the desired effects are achieved. Before starting a Creatine supplement, it is imperative to speak to a doctor, as the supplement may not be suitable for all individuals.

What's better: Creatine or protein powder?

Both Creatine and protein powder can be beneficial tools for achieving different outcomes. Creatine increases muscle strength, muscle mass, and improves physical performance. Protein powder is primarily intended to provide essential amino acids to your body to help build and repair muscle. Lastly, the best choice for you depends on your individual goals.

How much water should I drink with Creatine?

It is recommended to drink 8 to 10 cups of water every day when taking Creatine. In general, it's important to stay hydrated every day, regardless of whether or not you're taking Creatine.

References

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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