This post is sponsored by my friends at NOW Foods and they have so many great products, including my favorite creatine, on their website. Use FITNESSISTA for 20% discount. It is also a friendly reminder that this post is not medical information and is not intended to prevent, treat, cure or diagnose any disease. Always talk to your doctor before adding new supplements to your rotation.
Hi friends! How has the day treated you so far? I hope you have a wonderful morning. For today’s post, I’m talking about a huge reader request topic and one of my favorite supplements: creatine!
Creatine is often taken by athletes and bodybuilders to improve their performance, but it is also consumed by older adults and vegetarians for health purposes. Not everyone knows the right way to take creatine, how it works, or what to consider before adding it to a supplement routine.
In today’s post, I’m sharing a guide that can provide some education and help make informed choices when it comes to taking creatine, depending on what it’s intended to be used for. Friendly reminder that your doctor will help you decide if adding creatine is a good choice.
An overview of taking creatine
Creatine is a supplement that can be taken as a powder or liquid, before or after a workout. I prefer to take it as a post workout, but the thing with creatine is that you have to take it consistently to see and feel a difference.
What is creatine
Creatine is an amino acid that is mainly stored in muscle cells, with a small percentage in our brain, kidneys and liver. You can get creatine in your diet from animal-based products, such as seafood and meat. This is why vegetarians and vegans are likely to have lower creatine stores than omnivores and can often benefit from supplementation. Since creatine can be used for energy production for heavy lifting workouts and high-intensity training, it is often used for performance enhancement.* Your body naturally produces 1-2g of creatine per day in the liver and pancreas.
Creatine is widely studied, easy to find and inexpensive. My favorite creatine can be found here!
Creatine monohydrate is the most studied and is inexpensive. The other common types of creatine (including creatine ethyl ester, phosphate, liquid, and creatine magnesium chelate) don’t have as much research behind them.
What does creatine do for women
There are many benefits to taking creatine, but here are the top two that I think are important for women:
Build Lean Muscle*
Creatine can be especially beneficial for women as we age, as estrogen levels drop and muscle mass becomes more difficult to build and maintain. I am a big believer that ALL women should strength train, and it becomes even more critical as time goes on. Having muscle on your frame encourages a strong metabolism and also protects your bones. Being able to move functionally in all ranges of motion can also help maintain balance and strength over time for everyday activities and prevent falls. I think creatine can be an amazing addition to a solid strength training routine.
Supports cognitive function and mood*
I’m all for anything that helps me feel a little less foggy mentally and will also help balance out moods throughout the day. Our brain also uses ATP, and the increase in stored creatine can help support a positive mood.
Creatine Pros and Cons
Benefits of creatine
- It is one of the longest studied supplements for safety. Creatine has been studied for over 200 years and has a long track record (see what I did there) of being safe and effective.
- Fitness feat! In a nutshell, creatine helps your cells produce ATP, which is the energy used for quick bursts of exertion. We usually run out of creatine stores, which can cause us to fail or tire early in a sprint or power set. Creatine gives that little extra boost!*
- It can increase muscle growth in the short term, and long term.*
- Potential positive impact on mood and mental health.
- Mental performance and memory. In this study, creatine supplementation had a significant positive effect on both working memory (backward digit span) and intelligence (Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices), both tasks that require speed of processing.*
- It is tasteless. It really tastes like nothing. If it didn’t make the water look a little cloudy, you wouldn’t know it was there. You can also dissolve it in hot drinks, such as tea, or add it to a smoothie.
Disadvantages of creatine
- This can cause you to gain scale weight. Creatine can encourage the cells to retain water (giving you that extra muscle look), which can cause weight gain. I’m a fan of ignoring the scale; especially if you feel good and perform well and recover
- May affect sleep.* The jury is still out on whether this is a negative effect or a positive effect. When researchers added creatine monohydrate to rats’ food, the duration and structure of their sleep changed. Despite getting less sleep and less deep sleep, creatine can still provide benefits that are the opposite of what you would see with reduced sleep, especially when it comes to mental capacity and physical performance. If you find it affects your sleep, I would try taking it in the morning
- More beneficial for quick bursts of effort (such as sprints and weightlifting), not prolonged steady state*
- May have some side effects such as muscle cramps, stomach discomfort, bloating. I recommend starting slowly and seeing how your body reacts before trying a full dose at once.
When is the best time to take creatine
I like to take creatine after my workouts, but any time of day works. For creatine dosage, I would consult with your doctor, but general recommendations are 3-5g. I consume 3g and noticed a difference; it’s all about finding the minimum effective dose.
If you have significant muscle building and performance goals, you can also do a creatine loading phase at the beginning of the cycle, which involves increasing amounts of creatine in blocks throughout the day for one week to 10 days. (I only recommend this method in unique situations while working with your trainer and doctor or practitioner.)
I also cycle my creatine use. I will take it for a few months and then take a break for a few weeks before adding it back into my routine.
Creatine Before And After
I noticed physical changes after I started taking creatine, but noticed a more significant difference in cognition and mental function.* I felt more clear and focused.* I’m not going to post before and after pictures here, but after taking creatine added to me. routine, I felt like the lights were on while doing strength training. I was able to lift heavier and recover well, and I also noticed some improvements in my muscle tone.*
It’s also worth mentioning here that creatine by itself does NOT make you bulky. Only a strategic strength training plan designed to create mass, a caloric surplus and excess supplementation will do this, so don’t worry about turning into the Hulk with regular creatine supplementation.
So tell me, friends: have you taken creatine? Are you going to try it?
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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.