What is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid that is stored in our bodies, primarily in muscle. Creatine provides energy for short bursts (<30 seconds) of high intensity exercise. Our body can make some creatine, but about half of our creatine stores is obtained from the food we eat. Creatine is found primarily in red meat and seafood. As a result, vegetarians tend to have lower stores of creatine than meat eaters. Because creatine is stored in muscle, those with a larger muscle mass need more creatine to maintain optimal body creatine stores.
What are the potential benefits?
Taking a creatine supplement increases muscle stores of creatine, which has been shown to improve exercise performance in high intensity and repetitive exercise. As a result of this increased work capacity during exercise, there is also an increase in strength and muscle mass. Sport events that may benefit from taking a creatine supplement include:
- Sprinters (60-200 m)
- Field events: shot put, javelin, discus, hammer throw
- Bodybuilders, powerlifters, weightlifters
- Combat sports: MMA, wrestling, boxing
- Hockey, basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, rugby
Are there safety concerns?
Creatine is generally a safe supplement to take. The only consistently reported side effect is weight gain (600-1000 grams) due to increased water stores. This is one of the reasons that taking a creatine supplement can be detrimental to athletes in endurance events. Of course, as with all supplements, there is the risk that the supplement may be contaminated with banned substances. Ensure that your supplement is tested for banned substances by choosing one with NSF certification, such as Klean or Biosteel.
How do I take it?
There are two options:
- 5 grams of creatine monohydrate 4 times a day for 5-7 days to fully saturate stores, followed by 3-5 grams per day to maintain stores
- 3 grams of creatine monohydrate per day for 28 days to get to full saturation
The first option results in greater weight gain, so option 2 is usually the best for most athletes. After stopping creatine supplementation, it takes about 4-6 weeks for creatine stores to return to baseline. Creatine supplements should be taken daily, not just on training days. It’s best to take this supplement with carbohydrates (fruit, grain products, milk, yogurt), which results in greater creatine retention and shouldn’t be added to hot food or drinks.
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