Creatine is an amino acid that is found in your muscles and brain. Your body is able to make it thanks to your liver, pancreas, and kidneys, but most people get it through eating seafood and red meat.
Your body converts creatine to phosphocreatine and stores it in your muscles to be used for energy. This is why creatine supplements are popular among active individuals in order to improve athletic performance and increase muscle mass.
The purpose of taking creatine
Creatine has been widely studied and here are the top benefits supplementation can bring.
It’s believed that creatine enhances energy stores which is necessary for fueling exercise. If you’re able to lift more weight in the gym, you’re going to create more muscle fiber tears that then rebuild and result in muscle gain.
The combination of creatine and exercise can directly add to muscle mass. A 2010 study found that after 8 weeks of resistance training and creatine supplementation, strength on the bench press improved along with a reduction of myostatin (a protein that inhibits muscle cell growth).
Another 2017 study found similar results, with creatine supplementation being effective in increasing lean tissue mass and upper and lower body strength during resistance training.
Creatine supplementation has the ability to recover from intense training and reduce muscle damage.
A 2017 article published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition states that ingesting 5 grams of creatine along with 47 to 97 grams of carbohydrates and 50 grams of protein helps with creatine retention.
This combination helps with glycogen restoration, which is important to promote recovery after intense training periods.
The same article also discusses creatine supplementation benefitting inflammatory markers and muscle soreness in marathon runners and individuals participating in intermittent anaerobic spring exercises.
Since creatine is found in your brain, it’s no question that with supplementation your brain will utilize it.
Although more research needs to be done on this topic, a 2018 review did a comprehensive overview of the current knowledge on creatine supplementation and brain function.
It’s believed that creatine is influential in situations where cognition is stressed.
This includes times when you haven’t gotten enough sleep or during more cognitively demanding tasks.
Not only that, but creatine supplementation can be effective in reducing the severity of mild traumatic brain injuries such as concussions.
Other studies have shown that creatine supplementation assisted working memory.
One in particular gave participants a backward digit span test, where the individual had to repeat in reverse order progressively longer verbal random number sequences.
The creatine supplement group were capable of remembering longer numbers, with an improved number length of 8.5 digits compared to 7 digits in the non-creatine group.
Should I take creatine every day or just on workout days?
Research has shown that taking creatine on both exercise and rest days can bring benefits.
The purpose behind supplementing on rest days allows the creatine content of your muscles to elevate. An older 2007 study recommends a “loading phase” when starting creatine at intake of about 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for at least 3 days.
After that, maintain elevated creatine muscle stores by continuing to take 3 to 5 grams per day.
Participants were divided and placed in a group that took 5 grams of creatine either directly before exercise or a group that took the same amount after exercise for 4 weeks.
The results found that consuming creatine immediately after exercise impacted body composition and strength more than before exercise.
Is it safe to take creatine every day?
Mayo Clinic states that the use of creatine, when taken in appropriate doses, is likely safe to take up to five years.
As long as you don’t take too much creatine, it is a safe supplement with few reported side effects.
Regardless, it’s best to consult with your doctor before taking creatine or any other supplement.
What's the best way to take creatine?
Creatine supplementation can be easily implemented into your daily routine.
First things first, find a good quality supplement such as Naked Creatine which contains 100% creatine monohydrate and nothing else. Since this product is flavor-free and dissolves quickly, you’re able to add it to a variety of foods or drinks.
A smoothie that contains a handful of fresh or frozen fruit, yogurt, milk or other beverage, plus creatine will create a simple but filling breakfast that will benefit your active lifestyle.