Let's delve into the topic of creatine. Not because it holds superior importance or anything, but simply because I've received numerous questions about creatine lately. So, let's dive right in, shall we?
First and foremost, should you consider taking creatine? Well, if you're a healthy adult, it's unlikely to have any detrimental effects. However, let's be clear that it cannot compensate for poor nutrition, lifestyle choices, or inadequate training. Nonetheless, it can complement your nutrition and training regimen. Some may even argue that it can serve as a beneficial supplement to support your nutrition and training efforts.
Let's begin by discussing the performance benefits of creatine. It aids in minimizing muscle damage caused by intense exercise, or in simpler terms, it improves exercise recovery. Creatine operates through a couple of mechanisms to achieve this. Firstly, it reduces the release of creatine kinase into the bloodstream after high-intensity exercise. This is advantageous because excessive levels of creatine kinase are believed to cause oxidative stress and impede muscle repair following intense exercise. Secondly, creatine is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties in muscles, apart from its creatine kinase-reducing effect. However, the exact mechanism behind this remains somewhat unclear, and further research is necessary to fully comprehend it.
Another way in which creatine enhances exercise performance is by providing an additional supply of ATP. ATP is the cellular energy currency responsible for various bodily functions. Everything you consume ultimately contributes to the production of ATP for your cells' utilization. Creatine facilitates ATP production through the phosphocreatine energy pathway. In simple terms, it enhances your work capacity during workouts. Consequently, over time, creatine can contribute to increased strength, muscle hypertrophy, and overall performance.
Now, what about the benefits of creatine beyond exercise performance? I'm glad you asked! Interestingly, creatine has been found to offer cognitive advantages as well. It appears that creatine may help mitigate cognitive deficits in situations where there is increased ATP turnover in the brain. This includes scenarios such as sleep deprivation, low oxygen levels, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), or during complex problem-solving tasks. Through creatine supplementation, we observe improvements in working memory, reaction times, calculation speed, and motor function. Essentially, it seems to enhance your ability to engage in deep work for extended periods, even when faced with challenging cognitive circumstances.
“But is it safe? I've heard concerns about kidney damage!” Rest assured, creatine is safe for healthy adults to consume. It is one of the most extensively studied supplements available, and the data consistently supports its safety. This is largely due to the fact that our bodies already produce creatine. The notion that it strains the kidneys stems from the fact that it elevates creatinine levels, as creatinine is a byproduct of creatine metabolism. However, current medical practice no longer relies on creatinine levels to assess kidney function. Instead, another laboratory marker called Cystatin C is used, as it provides a more accurate evaluation of kidney function and remains unaffected by creatine supplementation.
How much creatine should you take? The recommended daily dosage is 3-5 grams. There is no discernible benefit in exceeding the 5-gram threshold. Loading creatine is not obligatory, although it can expedite saturation. Loading involves consuming 20 grams per day for seven days, followed by a maintenance dosage of 3-5 grams thereafter. However, loading does not enhance your performance; it simply accelerates the achievement of the therapeutic level. Cycling off creatine is unnecessary, and you can take it continuously. Some evidence suggests that it may be advantageous to consume creatine post-workout along with carbohydrates and protein. Nevertheless, the most crucial aspect is to take it consistently. Personally, I prefer taking mine in the
morning before my workout to ensure I don't forget it.
And there you have it, creatine summarized in a nutshell. What are your questions? What other supplements do you want me to cover? Comment below or send me a message on Instagram @coach_mike_nc