Creatine: What is it?

So I’m sure by now you’ve heard of creatine….or maybe not (living under a rock is not a good idea). If you haven’t, that’s okay, we will talk about it today. Mcurling-1413218-639x852ost information on creatine is usually related to bodybuilding or high performance endurance sports, not golf or curling (Geez….how did housekeeping  become a sport?). Creatine is one of the most researched supplements out there. It is found naturally in the human body and from foods such as fish and meat.

What is creatine ? Creatine is a naturally occurring chemical produced mainly by the liver and kidneys. It is created from the amino acids: L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine.  The majority of creatine synthesized, is stored in skeletal muscle cells.

How does it work? The body converts creatine to ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) which is used for energy, during high intensity short duration, physical activities. These activities include weight lifting and sprinting, for example.

Why Supplement? Supplements provide a supply of ready made creatine, for that extra energy boost, when naturally occurring stores have been depleted. In weight training, this means extra energy to lift, either a few pounds more, or perform a few more reps, which leads to increased muscle gains. Creatine also draws water into muscles making them appear to be bigger. So initially you will see a 2-4 lbs increase in weight when supplementing with creatine due to water retention. Nothing to be alarmed over.

Types available There are various forms of creatine supplements out there with various benefits. Some of these include:

  • Monohydrate: This form is the most popular and used in most studies to demonstrate the benefits of creatine supplementation.
  • Ethyl Ester: It is suggested that it is more easily absorbed by the body, but there is no supporting evidence for this. In fact one study shows that this form is not better than the monohydrate and about the same as the placebo.
  • Citrate: It is attached to citric acid. Has benefits, in that it is more water soluble than other forms of creatine and just as potent as the monohydrate form.
  • Malate: This form is attached to malic acid. As far as my research reveals, there are no studies that have shown that this form is superior to the monohydrate form.
  • HCL: Creatine Hydrochloride provides the same benefits in terms of performance as monohydrate. However, there is no bloat or GI discomfort associated with it. It is much more soluble in water than monohydrate and less is actually required to provide the same benefits.

Health Risks Creatine is one of the most researched supplements out there.  There is no known research that suggests creatine is unsafe in healthy individuals. There has been some link with already unhealthy kidneys, and further damage when using creatine. If you’re not sure, check with a doctor to be certain your kidneys are healthy and is functioning normally. As stated earlier, creatine does draw water into the muscles. So to avoid dehydration, make sure you drink plenty of water. There have been some reports of gastrointestinal distress when taking the monohydrate form of creatine. But, for most people this does not seem to be an issue. In this case, try taking it with food or supplement with one of the other forms or creatine.

Dosage Some users like to do a loading phase of 5 days with a dosage of about 20 g/day and then taper of to about 2-5 g IMG_0188afterwards for maintenance. Research shows that this is unnecessary since the same effects can be accomplished over a 28 day period using 3 g/day. So, essentially for a more immediate effect, you can load, however in  the long term you can do 3 g and then taper of to 2 g.

So, if you’re a weight lifter or an athlete, there are significant benefits for supplementing with creatine. There seems to be a more dramatic effect with people who consume less meat. But overall you can expect to see some benefit. Creatine so far has also proven to be safe with people who have healthy kidney and liver function. Again if you’re unsure, check with your doctor. Personally, I have tried the monohydrate form and have seen huge increases in strength and endurance. The only issue was some dehydration, which was easily solved by drinking a few more glasses of water. I would definitely try the monohydrate form before buying more expensive creatine blends. I’ve also used the HCL form. With this one, here was no bloat or dehydration, but it is more expensive. Tell us  about your experiences with creatine. Don’t forget to like us on facebook.

P.S. The Healthy Goat was last seen lurking around a fire hydrant somewhere in SoHo. After unscrewing the “tamper proof” cap, he set about guzzling as much water as possible, due to severe dehydration. The Dehydrated Goat suggests using no more than the recommended creatine dosage and frequently hydrating.

Update: The now Hydrated Goat was spotted running in the direction of NoHo, as angry firefighters chased after him…firetrucks, sirens and all.

Deadlift photo of Yuriy Volotovskiy licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

8 thoughts on “Creatine: What is it?

  1. Hey Dave,
    Creatine is the only supplement I have used that has shown real results. I used it when I was a sophomore in college and I found it extremly effective in building muscle quickly. I am not sure which type I had, but it worked well.
    What do you think is the best supplement for fat loss?

    1. Hello Alex,

      Well, the creatine actually provides the energy which allows you to lift more weight and perform more reps. Indirectly this leads to more muscle gain. Glad to hear it worked so well for you.

      As far as fat loss supplements go, I don’t recommend them. I think the best way to lose fat, is to cut back on sugars and simple carbs. It has to be a lifestyle change, Intermittent fasting can help along with fasted workouts. But at the end of the day, there are no shortcuts.

      Fat loss requires a lifestyle change.

  2. I like to use creatine after my lifting sessions. It surely makes a difference in the way my muscles look and feel. I’m not afraid to see some extra weight on the scale so I don’t mind taking it. In fact, in winter time I expect to see weight gain from bulking. I feel like creatine also makes my body heal quicker.

    1. There are some studies out there that suggest that creatine aids in muscle recovery after workouts. It’ll definitely help with your lifting sessions.

  3. I’ve heard of creatine and the purpose for which people use it. However, I didn’t know it occurred naturally in the human body. With the human body’s natural production of creatine, is it possible that taking the creatine supplement would reduce the strength of the biological creation process of creatine? If this is fed to the body, would the internal “creatine factories” naturally reduce their workload as they detect a healthy level of creatine already in existence? Or perhaps, as you mention, when the natural creatine is depleted, the intake of creatine fills the void. Whatever the case, this is an interesting thought. Is this supplement primarily used for strength training? Could creatine supplements enhance a runner’s endurance?
    Thanks for the valuable information. This is really good information to have.

    1. Hey bioelectrobot,

      Unfortunately, the research shows that creatine does not enhance runners endurance. This is because it is not used as a source of fuel for endurance events. Also, creatine production in your body may slow down with supplementation, however once you stop, the production level goes back up. So it’s not like you will have a dependency on it for life.

  4. A very informative article on creatine. I know a buddy or two that use it and they said it does help them when lifting. They do say you have drink a lot of water like you mentioned in the post. Nice job on the breakdown of what it is, how it works,and what types are available out there.

    1. Hi nperni,

      Thanks! Yes it definitely can help, when lifting and playing sports. My experience with creatine has been positive. Like you said, drink lots of water and you should b fine.


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