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Creatine - what is it and why do people supplement with it?

What is it?

Creatine as a naturally occuring amino acid compound found mainly in your muscle cells but also your brain, liver and kidneys. You can get small amounts from food sources like fish, meat, eggs and dairy. But it is easier to get it via supplementation in the form creatine monohydrate, rather than via food.


Once in the body, creatine converts into creatine phospate which plays a role in making adenosine triphospate (ATP) which is what provides the energy for your muscles to contract. When you exercise, you use up your ATP. The phosphate molecule of ATP is 'lost' in the process, which means ATP becomes ADP, which cannot be used for energy - it needs that phosphate molecule. This is where supplementing with creatine comes in. It means you have a much larger supply of readily available creatine phospate in the body, which allows you to turn more of that ADP back to ATP, and therefore work harder for longer. This allows you to perform better, with particular relevance to resistance training and high intensity exercise. In short, this means creatine helps you to work "better" and therefore get more out of your training - building fitness, strength and increasing & maintaining muscles mass.


We also know that female hormones can alter creatine bioavialibity and systhisis in the body, which makes it important to suppolement at life stages of hormonal change - menstruation, pregancy, post-partum and peri to post menopause.


There are a wide range of benefits to creatine supplementation - it's not just about energy production and working harder for longer, these wider benefits include:

  • increases in muscle size

  • improved recovery from training

  • boosted anabolic hormones (those that help build muscles)

  • increased muscle cell hydration (which helps them function better)

  • improved cognitive function and memory

  • improves a range of nuerological conditions such as dementia and depression

  • aids eye, brain and skin health

  • helps preserve muscle mass as we age and / or are in periods of calorie deficit or fasting

  • supports menopausal-related decreases in muscle, bone and strength plus sleep and cognition


How much should I take?

Dosage is 3-5g of creatine monohydrate daily. The timing doesn't matter, just take when it suits you best. The easiest (and cheapest) form is in powder which just dissolves in water.


Is it safe?

Yes. It's one of the most researched and evidence based dietary supplements out there.


Any side affects?

Some people experience some excess gas, and some experience water retention or weight gain (on the scales). However, this is saturated cells in your muscles and is NOT fat. I think I weighed about a kilo more from the increase of water, but I've been taking it for so long now I can't remember. It did not bloat me or make me puffy! Some people struggle with this concept of 'water weight', but flip this one on it's head - if creatine helps you to work harder and build strength and power, you will hold on to more muscle which in turn helps you with your body composition and fat loss.


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