Creatine: The Good, the Bad and Other Vital Guide for Bodybuilding & Fitness Enthusiasts
Creatine supplements are very popular among bodybuilders and athletes as they claim it increases strength and performance and builds lean muscle mass.
And so, if you are a fitness enthusiast, you may have likely checked out fitness supplements on the internet, and chances are, you will come across it on every site you click on.
It is a natural substance that when it gets into the body, converts into creatine phosphate.This helps make a substance, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides the energy for muscle contractions.
The body is capable of producing some of the creatine it uses. It can also be gotten from protein-rich like meat or fish.
Its supplements are easily accessed. You can find it in powder forms, energy bars, tablets, and drink mixes and they are available without the prescription of a doctor at drug stores, supermarkets, nutrition stores, and are sold over the Internet.
If you are looking to start taking this supplement to up your performance and get better results, you need to read this article first. It contains information about the benefits and the downsides to taking it.
It has been extensively studied for its benefits and its safety. Bodybuilders and athletes use it because of its fitness and wellness benefits which include;
- Increase in muscle size
It boosts muscle growth. Supplementation makes the water content of the muscle to increase thereby making them larger.
This is not caused by an increase in the size of the muscle fibers. It can however increase real lean muscle mass over time, because its strength and power-boosting properties will give room for higher quality training and this results to better gains.
- Increased energy and athletic performance
One of its best importance/benefit is its ability to raise energy levels and release energy to muscle tissue.
During your workout, it allows you to push harder and further for a longer period by boosting your energy levels and preventing fatigue or tiredness.
It also helps your muscles retain water and remain hydrated. Thereby helping to reduce fatigue and soreness and helps you recover faster.
Research reports that oral supplementation can push an athlete making him faster and stronger when performing a high intensity activity.
- Increased muscle protein synthesis
It does not cause increase in protein synthesis directly, it gives you more energy so you can lift more weight. This causes muscle protein synthesis to increase. All it does is increase the available energy supply (ATP) for muscle contraction.
Asides bodybuilding and fitness, it offers health benefits which include;
- Improves Brain Function
The phosphocreatine and ATP aren’t only for muscle and energy, they play their own role in improving brain functions. Asides these two compounds, this supplement also increases dopamine levels and mitochondria functions.
These compounds help in improving your brain function. You will notice an improvement in your memory, intelligence level, and you will be perform better.
- Lowers blood sugar levels and combats diabetes
It is very helpful for increasing the function of GLUT4, which is a transporter molecule that ensures the proper amount of sugar is absorbed into your muscles.
GLUT4 may not function properly at times and this can result in many health conditions. So when its function increases, your blood sugar level will lower and be stabilized.
It also helps your body to clear sugar faster, thereby preventing diabetes.
- Boosts brain function
Researchers from two Australian universities, university of Sydney and Macquarie university found evidence that it can boost memory and intelligence.
In 2007, another group of researchers published the results of another study concerning this. They studied the effect of creatine on cognitive functions in adults. The results came out positive although the group was small.
Surprisingly for many who took creatine, it actually alleviates depression. Researchers from three different Korean universities studied this.
In this study, they found out that women with depression who took 5grams with their antidepressant got better twice more than those who took only antidepressant.
- Side Effects and risks
You know when you want to take a supplement or drug, you may ask if it side effect free.
Although creatine might seem beneficial to your health and fitness, this doesn’t mean it does not come with its own risks, so you might want to read this before considering using it for its benefits.
Dehydration is a concern for you if you are taking creatine. It tends to draw water into the muscle cells. Make sure you drink plenty of water if you are taking this muscle and fitness supplement.
Drink a minimum of one gallon of water daily while in this supplement.
- Irregular heartbeat
There is concern that it might lead to irregular heartbeat in some users. Although more information is still needed concerning this.
- Gastrointestinal upsets
Although this is a rare issue, some people who use it have reported stomach aches, diarrhea or both at the same time.
Most of those who reported this problem chose to use it on a fast loading phase, so to avoid this, maintain the normal dose.
- Hair loss
Taking it may cause hair loss. In spite of all the reported positive effects, this wonderful supplement may cause hair loss for you.
A study shows that it increases the level of dihydrotestosterone in the body. Dihydrotestosterone is an androgen synthesized in the hair follicles that can become a barrier between your hair and its follicles, it receives the nutrient which are necessary to promote and sustain hair growth and this leads to hair loss.
This is the abnormal enlargement of male breasts. This condition has been reported by some men who use it.
Other side effects that have been reported includes acne, increased aggressiveness, anxiety, reduction in penis size and body hair growth in women.
- Risk of injury
You may gain muscle and strength with this supplement, this doesn’t mean you should take its use for granted.
When you use it, more water and energy is stored in your muscle and it allows you to push harder and lift heavier. This is great, but overdoing it will cause serious injury to your muscles.
Because this supplement is usually in powder form, it can cause nausea when it is not properly dissolved.
Make sure what you are taking is the proper dosage and is completely dissolved if you want to avoid nausea.
Like other food supplements. It is not regulated by the FDA. You should always read the label of the products you are buying.
Before taking any supplement, you should talk to your physician if you have any health problem or you are taking other drugs, supplement and herbs.
Allergy to creatine has been reported even though is a common dietary supplement.
Pregnant and breast feeding women are advised to stay away from it has there is no enough information about the safety of taking them by this group of people.
For children, this supplement is possibly safe when taken orally in an appropriate amount. 2-5 grams has been taken daily for 2 to 6 months.
Cases of manic episodes have been reported in people with bipolar disorder who took creatine for 4 weeks.
This means it might make mania worse in people who have bipolar disorder.
Avoid the use of creatine if you have kidney disease. There are concerns that taking this supplement may worsen your condition.
The amount you take and the time length of time you take it for can be a major factor on its being risky to your health.
Taking high doses can cause serious side effects and can affect your body’s ability to produce creatine naturally. It can also damage your liver and kidney and even interfere with your blood sugar and insulin levels.
High doses may also cause muscle cramps, tears and strains.
Creatine is naturally produced in 2-3 grams daily in the body by the liver and can be gotten from red meat.
Supplementing on it however can increase its concentrations in the muscles.
3-5 dose a day is okay generally and this is recommended for 6 weeks combined with a good weight training regime and a good diet.
Some people take it in high doses which may lead to serious side effects. Taking it in high doses is usually referred to as creatine loading.
Bodybuilders and athletes who do this take in in doses as high as 20grams for 5 days so as to fully saturate the content of phosphocreatine in the muscles.
After this loading phase, they follow it by a maintenance phase, where the dose is reduced to 5g daily.
When to take it
Should you take it before or after your workout? Ideally it is best to take it 30 minutes to 1 hour before your workout and immediately after your workout alongside your protein shake.
Don’t forget that it can serve as your pre-workout supplement and your post-workout supplement. It gives you strength to workout and perform better and it also helps you recover and maximize the response from your workout.
This supplement is no doubt a must for athletes and body builders because of its fitness benefits. It is better to take it in the right dosage.
However, if you choose to load, take 5grams four times daily and then follow it by maintaining with 3-5 grams per day after your physician tells you your kidneys are healthy.