There's a lot of hype around creatine in the fitness industry and we are here to "debunk" any myths you may believe and present the research-based facts for all you need to know.
Let's bust one myth or assumption real quick. Creatine is NOT a steroid. It's a naturally occurring compound that plays a crucial role in the production of energy during high-intensity, short-duration activities such as weightlifting and sprinting. Creatine is composed of three amino acids - arginine, glycine, and methionine. It is primarily stored in muscles and used for energy production. It's found in small amounts in certain foods, particularly red meat and fish. However, to achieve the levels used in supplementation, individuals often turn to creatine supplements.
So let's dive in...
If you do want to supplement with creatine, what would be the recommended or optimal dose?
One of the longest standing assumptions about creatine is that is causes water retention. Is this true?
But creatine will make you "bulky", right?
What if training or endurance isn't a primary goal, is creatine still worth supplementing?
Creatine Dosage and Correct Usage
Creatine is naturally found in small amounts in the foods that we eat, so there's already likely some consumption happening, if not daily, on a weekly basis. However, it's often not the most optimal "dose" needed to optimize training and endurance performance and recovery.
Research shows that supplementing with ~5 grams of creatine daily will benefit most men and women. There are various forms of creatine and creatine monohydrate is the most-researched form currently.
Does is Cause Water Retention and Make You Bulky?
One of the jobs of creatine is to pull water into the muscle tissue, not the body as a whole. This “intra-cellular” water is needed to fuel ATP, which is required for high intensity movements, power, and overall sustained performance.
Research indicates that this intracellular swelling (or pulling in of water) effectively acts as an anabolic signal and can stimulate protein synthesis and inhibit protein degradation, which in effect can cause muscle cell growth.
You may see a slight scale fluctuation from taking it, but believe me, it’s a GOOD fluctuation to see because your muscle tissues will have a much fuller and “tighter” appearance.
Other Benefits Associated with Creatine Supplementation
There is potential for creatine supplementation and it's been seen to possibly improve cognitive processing, especially in conditions characterized by brain creatine deficits. Certain situations and scenarios in which create is deficient include both acute stressors (exercise, sleep deprivation) or chronic conditions (mild brain injury, aging, Alzheimer's disease, depression). (Nutrients 2021, 13(2), 586; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020586)
So do you have to be training progressively to reap the benefits of creatine? According to the above research, not at all. There are additional benefits to creatine supplementation outside of the gym, particularly when acute stressors and even long-term conditions are present.
As coaches, we will never say that a supplement is required for progress, but we are advocates for supplementing to enhance progress if there could be substantial benefit. We will (almost always) advocate for clients who train progressively to implement creatine into their daily regimen because there are so many benefits it can provide to their training endurance, recovery and progression.