Creatine Benefits: The Ultimate 2020 Guide

December 11th, 2019 by Transform HQ

Creatine has been studied for decades and is considered one of the safest supplements out there, showing little to no adverse effects in healthy individuals. It’s widely used by bodybuilders and weight lifters, but creatine’s benefits can help anyone looking to take their fitness level up a notch. 

We could talk forever about how much we love creatine, but instead, we will jump into the top creatine questions we’ve found on the internet. Buckle up!

What is Creatine?

creatine in powder and pill form
Creatine is a substance naturally found in muscle cells and some food sources (more on that later). If we want to get super specific, then you will want to know that creatine turns into creatine phosphate in the body. 

Creatine phosphate helps make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is an energy-carrying molecule. ATP is what provides your body with energy to perform cellular metabolic activities, like high-intensity exercise or heavy lifting.

The Gist:

Creatine supports the energy process inside your body, which can mean more energy in your muscles for higher performance when exercising or competing in athletic competitions. 

What are some of the big creatine benefits?

One common myth is that creatine is just for bodybuilders and for people who want to bulk up and put on a lot of mass. 

Creatine is great for athletic performance and provides a lot of different health benefits! 

Here are the benefits of creatine:

  • Can improve strength, power, and exercise performance.
  • Is great for both short-term and long-term muscle growth.
  • Supports memory and brain function in older adults.
  • Can lower blood sugar levels. 

The Gist:

Creatine isn’t just for bodybuilders and elite athletes, everyone can benefit from creatine (from memory improvement to exercise performance)!

What are some creatine benefits for athletes?

As mentioned above, creatine’s main role is to enhance energy production in cells, and about 95% of the body’s creatine is stored in your muscles.

Years of research prove creatine to be one of the best supplements available on the market to maximize specific types of exercise including high-intensity, endurance, strength, and power. 

One such study looked at over 500 cases to evaluate the effects of creatine supplementation on muscle function and exercise capacity.

Here are some of the results of the study. Creatine supplementation improved:

  • Maximal power/strength (5-15%)
  • Single-effort sprint performance (1-5%)
  • Quality of work performed during repetitive sprint performance (5-15%)
  • Quality of work performed during sets of maximal effort muscle contractions (5-15%)

Approximately 300 studies out of the 500 found that 70% of them showed statistically significant results!

Simply put, creatine supplementation can help you increase your training and performance in the gym, so you can accelerate your results.

The Gist:

Creatine has been studied for over 200 years and has been proven to improve power and strength, sprinting, and more.

Are there different kinds of creatine? (If so, which type of creatine is best?)

Yes! There are several types of creatine, so it can get a little confusing when you’re looking for a quality creatine product. 

Here are some types of creatine you might run across:

  • Creatine Monohydrate: This is by far the most common form of creatine. Most research and benefits (including what’s listed in this blog) refer to this type of creatine.
  • Creatine Ethyl Ester: Alleged to increase creatine bio-availability. Upon further research, it was found to be less effective at increasing serum and muscle creatine levels when compared to creatine monohydrate. 
  • Creatine Ethyl Ester Malate: Same as creatine ethyl ester but with the addition of malate for more rapid absorption.
  • Creatine Gluconate: Creatine+gluconic acid (found in fruits). Great solubility, but is known to spike insulin levels due to glucose.
  • Creatine HCL: Speculated to be 40x more soluble in fluid than creatine monohydrate (mixes instantly) but has yet to be tested.
  • Creatine Magnesium Chelate: Magnesium that is attached to the creatine molecule. Said to be as effective as the monohydrate form but with limited information.
  • Tri Creatine Malate: Combination of creatine and malic acid. It allows the body to absorb more creatine while eliminating some of the bloating that’s common with creatine. 
  • Creatine Orotate: Creatine with orotic acid said to increase ATP in 3 ways, though more research is needed to back this up. It is speculated to provide more energy, but the studies have not been proven. Known to be very expensive. 
  • Buffered Creatine: An attempt to improve the stability of creatine by adding an alkaline powder. No difference has been found. 

The Gist:

The options listed above are just the tip of the iceberg, as different forms of creatine pop up all the time. Most will tout incredible benefits but have little research to back it up. The most well-known, most-studied, and supported form of creatine is monohydrate.

What is creatine monohydrate?

This might seem like a repeat since we’ve gone over what creatine is and the additional types of creatine, but this is probably the most commonly asked question, so we’re going to answer it! 

Creatine monohydrate is made up of a creatinine molecule and a water molecule (aka hydrate). 

Create monohydrate increases water content in muscle cells, and this can help improve strength and exercise performance while also boosting energy levels (remember ATP?). The majority of studies and benefits talked about are from creatine monohydrate. 

The Gist:

Creatine monohydrate is one of the most common (and researched) supplements in the world and is known to improve exercise performance.  

When should I take creatine? 

We are going to break down this broad question into 3 more specific questions:

Should I take creatine before or after my workout?

One study found that consuming creatine IMMEDIATELY post-workout was superior to pre-workout when comparing body composition and strength. Another study found that creatine supplementation post-exercise improves muscle strength as well as lean tissue mass. 

So, according to these two studies, taking creatine after your workout is the way to go.

BUT, if you dive deeper into these studies, you might find that more proof is needed. Within the health and fitness industry, it’s still very popular to take creatine either before or after your workout.

When is the best time to take creatine?

So, when’s the best time to take creatine? Either before or after your workout. There might not be a definitive answer here, whether to take it before or after your workout, but one thing that is for certain is that it’s better to take it close to your workout, which leads us to the next question.

Should I take creatine on my rest days?

If your goal is to keep the creatine content of your muscles high, then supplementing on rest days makes sense, but it is not as important as taking it on exercise days!

The Gist:

No matter when you take creatine, your body will benefit. If you want the most bang for your buck, then take it close to when you exercise (either before or after). 

Where can I find natural sources of creatine? 

Creatine is produced naturally by the body in the kidneys, liver, and pancreas. In order to maintain normal levels of creatine AND to support lifting performance and goals (to help increase energy, build lean muscle, and support power output), it’s needed in other forms, including your daily diet, and it can be supplemented with as well.

What foods contain an abundance of creatine?

  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Red meat

What foods contain some creatine?

  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Shellfish

Creatine is found mostly in animal products, meat, and fish, so it makes sense that vegetarians are found to have lower levels of creatine. For this reason, if vegetarians and vegans want more creatine, they will need to get it from supplements.

The Gist:

Creatine is naturally made in the body’s kidneys, liver, and pancreas, but it can also be found in dietary foods like pork, fish, meat, and dairy products. 

Do I need to take creatine with meals?

Now we are getting into ways to maximize your creatine supplementation. Some creatine products will have added ingredients (protein, carbs, amino acids, etc.) to increase their effectiveness. If your creatine supplement includes carbs, then you’ll want to keep an eye on the calorie count.

Another way to maximize your creatine supplementation would be to eat it with your normal carb meal. If you’re following a meal plan or tracking macros, be careful not to add additional carbs with your creatine as you could mistakenly sabotage your fitness goals.

So, do you need to take creatine with meals? No! Since most studies (as stated above) recommend taking creatine before or after workouts, if you WANT to take creatine with a meal, then taking it on your rest day might be a good idea.

The Gist:

The top recommended way to take creatine is before or after your workout. But, if you want to try taking it with your normal carb-filled meals, then another option is to take it on your rest day.

Should women take creatine?

Do you want to train harder? Do you want to reach your fitness goals faster? Could you use some help in the memory department? Do you want to support your energy while lifting and exercising? If you said yes to any of those questions, then you should take creatine!

Creatine is not a “men only” supplement. There are too many misconceptions out there that lead women to think that creatine is only for bodybuilders, mainly the fact that they think it will make them bulky. 

But as we talked about earlier, creatine causes water weight retention, not body fat. if you combine proper training with creatine, it can lead to an increase in lean muscle building from better training sessions and quicker recoveries.

Still feeling iffy about trying creatine? Skip the loading phase of 20g for 5-7 days and start with a smaller dosage than the daily recommendation.

The Gist:

Creatine is definitely for women who are wanting to increase their strength, lifting performance, and lean muscle goals! When creatine is combined with effective training, it can lead to lean muscle building, better training, and quicker recoveries!

Does creatine make you gain weight?

In short, yes! But believe us when we say it’s for a purpose. If you’re worried about bulking or think creatine is just for bodybuilders, then you need to read on for the breakdown.

  • Non-muscle weight gain: We’re referring to body fat here. Creatine will not make you “fat.” You have to consume more calories than you are working off to gain fat. Most creatine contains little to no calories, so in order to gain non-muscle weight (fat), you’d need to consume an excessive amount of calories (eating more calories than you burn) to gain body fat.
  • Water weight: Creatine does increase water intake in your muscles, which can make them appear bigger (increased muscle cell hydration). Some people will gain between 2-4.5 lbs due to water retention in the first week.
  • Muscle mass: Creatine helps your muscles produce energy, and over time, it can affect muscle strength and size. Increased muscle mass might mean “weight gain,” but as your muscles grow, the water weight will be less noticeable. 

That’s why we are fans of NSVs or non-scale victories! Forget the scale for a second and focus on the fact that you are stronger, healthier, and probably feel better when you’re eating right, exercising, and supplementing with creatine. 🙂 

If you are trying to bulk, then you will need to do WAY more than just take creatine, as it only causes water weight. You need to continuously lift heavy and eat like there’s no tomorrow. 

The Gist:

You will likely see some small weight change, but that comes with the enhanced strength, cell hydration, energy support, lean body mass, and improved exercise performance that comes with creatine.

Do I have to do a loading phase with creatine?

As you can probably see, with most things “creatine,” there are multiple ways for you to benefit. You don’t HAVE to do a loading phase, but let’s explain the reasons for doing so. 

Here’s what a creatine cycle might look like:

  • Take around 20g daily of creatine for 5-7 days (Loading Phase)

then

  • Take 5g daily (Regular Maintenance) 

Creatine loading helps you get creatine to the muscles faster, which can come with potential small increases of strength and water retention. Taking your regular maintenance can provide the same benefits, but it will just take longer to get there. So, the real question might be, “How quickly do I want to see the benefits of my creatine?”

The Gist:

Creatine loading (20g for 5-7 days) helps you load the muscles faster, which can potentially come with smaller increases in strength and water retention. You can still reach that point with the regular maintenance (5g daily), except that it will take longer to get there! 

What does creatine taste like?

In this case, we will focus purely on the taste of creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is most commonly tasteless (no flavor or smell). This is nice because it can be easily mixed in with your water, sports drinks, or shakes. You might also be able to find some creatine products with added flavor. 

The Gist:

Creatine monohydrate is tasteless and can be easily mixed into your drink of choice.

Wrapping It Up!

Whew! We went full throttle into creatine. The fact that creatine has been studied, used, and loved for over two centuries gives us a lot to go on. 

Let’s quickly review some main points:

  • Creatine helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or exercising.
  • Most creatine studies are based on the most well-known form of creatine: monohydrate. Over the years, many people have attempted to create different forms of creatine to provide additional benefits, but most don’t have the research to back it up.
  • Creatine has been shown to be extremely beneficial for performance athletes, bodybuilders, and men and women alike wanting to maximize their exercise efforts. 
  • Starting creatine might come with some water weight gain, but it’s all for your muscles, and over time, it will even out.
  • Though creatine is naturally made in the body, the more creatine we get, the more energy for our muscles, which means getting it from your diet and supplementing can be very beneficial.  

Don’t let the misconceptions of creatine prevent you from taking your transformation to the next level!

There are a lot of creatine benefits, but it is widely used to help maximize exercise efforts. Looking for more work out ideas? Check out some of our favorite at-home workouts!

 

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

{"cart_token":"","hash":"","cart_data":""}