What is creatine? And Should I Take It?

IIf you’re a gym freak like me, your closet is probably already packed with tons of different sized tubs. Pre-workout and protein powder with official took over the pantry in my tiny apartment. Recently a certain supplement going on on GymTok has me considering visiting my local sports supplement store, even though the amount of space left on my shelf is limited. .

I had heard of creatine supplements before joining TikTok, but after joining the app, I found myself surrounded by influencers touting its muscle-building benefits. There’s even a viral audio clip on TikTok joking about how taking creatine can help you build the booty of your dreams.

What is creatine? And why do weightlifters love it so much?

What is creatine?

Creatine (Cr) is a nitrogenous amino acid found naturally in the human body, mainly in the muscles and brain. Creatine, when combined with phosphate, provides a constant flow of energy to the muscles, enhances muscle endurance and prevents muscle fatigue. Most people get about half of their creatine stores from eating eggs, red meat, poultry, and fish, while the other half is made in the kidneys and liver. On average a day, an adult who eats meat gets about 1-2 grams of creatine from their diet without supplementation.

There are several different types of creatine supplements on the market, with the most commonly used (and recommended) being creatine monohydrate. Sold in powder and pill form, it is the most widely researched and evaluated supplement in the creatine family. Chances are, this is the supplement your favorite GymTok influencer is taking when they say they’re taking creatine.

Potential Benefits of Taking Creatine

Creatine delivers explosive energy to your muscles, allowing you to train harder and longer — and recover faster. It is most effective for improving performance in high-intensity, short-duration sports such as weightlifting.

Registered dietitian and founder of The Nutrition Lady Russender Powell says that creatine is loved by athletes for its energy-boosting effects.

Simply put, creatine is an energy booster. “Your muscles increase their ability to work harder to build the foundation for muscle mass. This higher-intensity exercise capacity can stimulate muscles to grow bigger and stronger.”

In 2020, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) compiled all the literature and peer-reviewed research surrounding the use of creatine and deemed creatine an “effective nutritional supplement.” most commonly available to athletes for the purpose of increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during exercise. “

“It helps your body recycle energy better,” says Powell. “These athletes, or those who just exercise a lot, can generate more energy with it. If they lift 500 pounds, it won’t burn them out if there’s creatine in the background. “

Is creatine safe to consume?

Creatine monohydrate may just be the most researched sports supplement on the market; In fact, so much so that both the International Olympic Committee and the National Association of Collegiate Athletes allow participants to take creatine supplements. The International Society of Sports Nutrition says there is no scientific evidence that short- or long-term use of creatine causes any harm in healthy adults (up to 30 grams per day). , for 5 years).

While much of the research surrounding creatine use supports that creatine is perfectly safe for healthy adults to consume, those who are struggling with liver and kidney function or have diabetes should stay away from it.

“It’s relatively safe, but if you have some underlying kidney or liver problems, it can be harmful because nitrogen-containing ingredients can increase the need for both,” says Powell. People with cirrhosis, or chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or fatty liver, their liver has been challenged. You want to really watch those supplements because they might be a little too demanding for our system. “

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that like all other nutritional supplements on the market, creatine supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. When you consume dietary supplements, there is always a chance that the quality, quantity and ingredients in the product are not stated on the label. Without federal regulation, you run the risk of ingesting a product that contains extra ingredients that could adversely affect you.

Powell says that if you’re going to try any sports supplements, make sure you’re buying from a brand that’s certified by a third-party company like ConsumerLab or the American Pharmaceutical Association. These companies run independent tests to verify the purity and effectiveness of supplements.

“They are almost like external auditors,” says Powell. “They will check for terrible toxic substances in the product. Also the conditions in which it was manufactured; Is it made in a clean environment? Is this product effective? Basically, everything the FDA should do with supplements, these parties will do and they will issue you a certificate to prove that this product has been tested for purity and quality standards. quantity. “

Here are two creatine supplements that have been tested by third-party companies and certified by the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) for sports nutrition.

What you need to know before taking Creatine

1. You don’t need it to build muscle

While creatine can help some people reach their performance goals, it’s actually not essential to building muscle, says Powell. The extra exercise time is what makes creatine such an effective supplement: as your muscles recover faster and have more energy, you can train more.

So if you’re looking to gain muscle, start by adding resistance training to your workout and aim to get at least 1 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. body every day.

“Anything will help build muscle, so endurance training, weightlifting, using your own body weight can help,” says Powell. “The best way to build muscle is with resistance training to help fatigue your muscles to create the foundation for building muscle mass. Hard work equates to muscle mass. If you regularly use a muscle group, you will increase it, especially if you do it on a regular basis. “

2. There is a list of potential side effects of doing laundry, including liver and kidney damage

Bloating, dehydration, diarrhea, high blood pressure, weight gain, kidney damage, and liver damage are just some of the possible side effects of taking creatine. While these vary from person to person and depend on the amount consumed, the potential risk may not be worth the reward.

As with any supplement, always Consult your doctor before trying it.

3. Creatine is not a shortcut, and it is not a miracle pill

As with any other supplement, you won’t magically become more fit adding it to your daily replenishment stack. You’ll need 7 to 28 days to see a change in energy, and Powell warns that using supplements as a shortcut will only lead to frustration.

“If you take creatine and don’t do anything, it’s not going to help you,” says Powell. “It’s a performance tool for someone to perform; If you sit on the couch and think you’re going to be bulky, it’s not going to happen. No short cuts!”

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