The effects of creatine are nothing new. As one of the most researched supplements on the market, it should be a part of any serious lifters supplement stack.
Not only has it been unofficially proven to work by bros at your local gym, it is also a clinical superstar producing real, substantial results when it comes to muscle mass and strength gains.
Let’s look at not only the tried and true benefits of creatine, but also what new information has been found about this super strength building supplement.
What else does it have to offer your blood, sweat and tears in the gym and how can you benefit?
Creatine: A Brief Overview
Creatine is a supplement used by many athletes and bodybuilders to help increase performance of high intensity training. Made of 3 amino acids (methionine, arginine, and glycine), creatine helps replenish our ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) stores once they have been depleted. This, in turn, allows us to train harder and longer and recover quicker between bouts of exercise.
It increases strength levels, muscle mass and even aids in recovery between sets of exercises. As a natural substance found in our muscle cells it is also made by the liver and we also ingest it from our diet.
Some dietary sources include fish and red meat; however, supplementing is the easiest and most convenient way to achieve optimal levels since food contains very little. For example, a half-pound of meat can contain only 1 gram of creatine only. So, supplementing is needed to reap the full benefit.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to dosing. The traditionalists out there stress that a loading phase needs to precede a maintenance phase. This loading phase can contain up to 20 grams of creatine powder per day divided into four 5 gram doses. One advantage of this method is a sudden onset of muscle fullness and a rather quick weight gain.
The other school of thought is to simply start with a maintenance dose of 3 to 5 grams, twice daily – once prior to training and once again post training. Which is superior? Many studies have pointed that the loading phase is unnecessary in longitudinal trials. In other words, the same end results were recorded with both protocols.
Another factor to consider is the type of creatine to take. With so many forms flooding the market (citrate, ethyl ester, nitrate, malate and pyruvate just to name a few) which is the most effective?
The bottom line is that research, again, dictates that good ole-fashioned creatine monohydrate is still the most effective form. Not only is that good news to cut down on confusion, it’s also great news for your wallet since you can still get creatine monohydrate at a great price at most supplement outlets.
As science tries to make an even better version of creatine, just stick with the simple stuff for the best performance results.
New Findings On Creatine?
Along with many of the aforementioned benefits of creatine (most of which are muscle-building related) it has also recently been discovered that it can also act as an antioxidant, improve glucose tolerance, increases peripheral blood flow and resting energy expenditure, diminishes myostatin activity, and improve cognitive performance.
Antioxidant: Although not entirely conclusive, creatine has shown signs in some studies to scavenge free radicals1. Now, what impact this can have on ATP support is not yet known and more studies need to be conducted but the anecdotal research is promising.
Improves glucose tolerance: Some recent studies suggest that creatine may increase glucose tolerance along with aerobic exercise meaning glucose metabolism may be improved2. This did not indicate, however, that it increased insulin sensitivity so further studies may be warranted.
Increases peripheral blood flow and resting energy expenditure: Since creatine does increase glycogen supercompensation it will naturally increase blood flow and metabolic processes associated with muscle cells3.
Diminishes myostatin activity: Myostatin is a catabolic regulator of muscle tissue. Basically, it deters your body from gaining too much muscle – it blocks muscle growth. Recently creatine has been shown to decrease the levels of myostatin4. Some researchers reason that this is why you gain muscle mass and strength while on the supplement.
Improves cognitive performance: Creatine has shown promising results regarding memory recall and intelligence tests – both requiring speed of processing5. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why this is but some say the increased blood flow could be a contributing factor.