If you expand the supplements you take beyond basic protein powder, it’s important to do your research about how your products work. This will help you figure out the best timing for all of your supplements and which ones are actually going to work for your goals.
Creatine is one supplement that a lot of athletes take, but many may not fully understand. It has a ton of benefits like increased energy production, enhanced muscle building, and better focus and productivity. But how does it work in the body to make these things happen?
Although creatine is known to be a safe and effective supplement, many don’t look past it’s commonly known benefits of muscle and strength building.
However, creatine may play a role in other areas, thanks to its impact on anabolic hormones like testosterone.
Let’s deep dive into how it all works.
How does creatine work within the body?
Your body actually makes creatine even if you’re not taking a supplement. You have creatine stores in the muscle, but they usually hang out at around 80% capacity. So the main benefit of taking extra creatine is to push those stores to 100%, giving your body more creatine to work with during your workouts.
While it’s waiting in the muscle to be used, creatine bonds with a group called phosphate. This new pair, creatine phosphate, is a pretty important duo in your body’s process of creating energy. The end result of this cycle is adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the main source of fuel for most processes in your body.
Whenever ATP is used for energy, it loses a phosphate group and becomes adenosine diphosphate (ADP). ADP can’t really do much for you unless it picks up another phosphate to replace the one it lost. That’s where creatine phosphate comes in. It gives up it’s phosphate to ADP, creating ATP to make more fuel.
So basically, taking a supplement like our creatine monohydrate powder can lead to up to 20 percent more energy production than if you relied on your body’s natural creatine stores alone.
Does creatine have an impact on hormones?
Creatine’s role in the body is a little more complex than the simple explanation about energy production. It affects your hormones as well.
Creatine targets anabolic hormones, which is its main pathway for its influence on muscle growth and exercise performance.
The two anabolic hormones it impacts most are insulin-like growth hormone 1 (IGF-1) and testosterone.
Creatine and IGF-1
Studies suggest that taking creatine is linked to more IGF-1 production in the body. IGF-1 is an anabolic hormone, meaning that it encourages muscle growth.
So when you supplement creatine, you could facilitate quicker and more efficient muscle growth.
Creatine and testosterone
Taking creatine may increase testosterone levels in the body.
This is important because of testosterone’s role in muscle mass, strength, endurance, and energy.
One study, in particular, found that taking creatine combined with a 10-week strength training program not only experienced improved strength but also increased levels of testosterone when compared to the placebo group.
The exact method for how this works needs more research, but the way creatine increases testosterone is believed to be indirect. Exercise (specifically lifting weights) stimulates some temporary testosterone production. Creatine increases energy and the ability to lift heavier weights during a longer workout.
Another study used a creatine loading phase in one group of participants. There was no mention of combining creatine with weight lifting, and there was no significant increase in testosterone levels. This means that exercise is indeed likely a key component to creatine’s effect on testosterone production.
Role of testosterone in the body
As men age, they produce less testosterone. In fact, levels start to decrease as early as thirty years old. After some time, men may notice effects such as:
- Decreased endurance
- Decreased strength
- Mental fog
- Decreased energy
- Low libido
Is creatine safe to take?
One common question about creatine has to do with its safety. There is a lot of misinformation out there claiming that creatine is a stimulant and may not be safe for everyone. There are brands that add creatine to products such as pre-workout that do include stimulants, but creatine on its own is not a stimulant.
Creatine is actually a naturally-occurring substance in the body, made from amino acids. Several studies have proven that taking creatine is safe. In fact, the International Society for Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has stated its stance on the safety of this supplement, recommending that taking up to 30 grams per day for up to 5 years is safe and well-tolerated.
There are some side effects of taking creatine that is worth nothing. They include weight gain, water retention, and digestive discomfort. However, these side effects are pretty uncommon and they’re more often seen in creatine products with other additives like artificial sweeteners. Like any other supplement, choosing a high-quality brand with no additives definitely pays off.
Creatine does affect testosterone, although these effects are likely indirect. Supplement creatine helps to maximize your body’s muscle stores and increase energy production during a workout. Having more power and more endurance leads to more testosterone production, which may help increase strength and endurance, and benefit sexual health.