If you’re heavily, or even moderately, into fitness, the chances are, you’ve likely heard the word ‘creatine’ floating around the gym, right? Yet, like many people, you probably steer clear of using it because you don’t quite know what on earth it does, who should use it, how to take it, or why it even exists?!
Don’t worry, you’re certainly not alone. But, what if I told you that adding creatine to your daily supplement regime could make a world of difference to your performance, endurance, strength, muscle mass and general health? Sounds too good to be true, but luckily for you, it’s not. As the world’s most widely researched and clinically studied supplement, creatine is among the most effective, and severely underrated, supplements for enhancing all areas of your performance, and contrary to popular belief, you don’t even have to be a strength or power athlete to reap the benefits of it. Curious to find out more? Let’s get started!
First things first, what is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid located predominantly in your muscles in the form of phosphocreatine (95%), as well as your brain, kidneys and liver (5%). Creatine’s core responsibility is to help increase your stores of phosphocreatine, which is a form of stored energy in your cells that subsequently helps you to increase the production of a high-energy molecule known as Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). In simpler terms – Creatine plays an important role in providing the body with the essential fuel it needs to function at full capacity.
What’s ATP and why do I need it? Simply put, ATP is stored energy. For your muscles and every other cell in your body, ATP is the primary energy carrier in all living organisms and is the source of energy that essentially keeps everything functioning. Without ATP, cells would not be able to transfer energy from one location to another, subsequently prohibiting the growth and reproduction of organisms.
How can Creatine assist my training?
Whether you choose to increase your creatine levels by consuming protein-rich foods, such as chicken, steak and fish, or opt for the easier and more convenient option of adding a creatine supplement to your daily regime, the outcome will still be the same – it will increase your muscles’ phosphocreatine stores. Phosphocreatine assists in the formation of new ATP, and let’s not forget, more ATP equals more energy.
During a workout, ATP breaks down to produce energy, which is used for muscular contraction. As a result of the ATP being broken down into ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate), the amount of energy available to your muscle cells is limited due to the rate at which your body can effectively re-synthesise or reproduce ATP.
To quickly recap – The higher the levels of creatine in the body, the higher the levels of phosphocreatine stores in the muscle cells. Therefore, the higher your phosphocreatine store levels are in the muscle, the more energy you have readily available for your muscle cells. When you have higher levels of energy available to the cells, you are more likely to experience better workouts, strong muscle contraction, and reduced fatigue while training. Who wouldn’t want these benefits while training?
To put this into the context of exercise, here’s how you can benefit from creatine in the gym:
- Promotes enhanced strength & performance – Creatine is suggested to help improve your overall strength and performance due to your body’s increased capacity to produce ATP. Generally, ATP is depleted after approximately 8-10 seconds of high-intensity exercise. However, by supplementing with creatine, your body can effectively produce more ATP, allowing you to train at peak performance for a few additional seconds.
- Supports muscle growth – As creatine plays an important role in helping you to train harder and for longer, the long-term result of this benefit is generally muscle growth as your body is primed to push harder.
- Helps increase Bone Mineral Density – Strength training has long been recommended for increasing bone mineral density and preventing osteoporosis. However, if you’re already lifting weights but haven’t added creatine to your daily routine, your bones are likely not reaching their full potential. An increase in bone mineral content is suggested to be related to an increase in muscle mass. As such, an increase in muscle puts a strain on your bones, which in turn provides the ideal stimulus for your bones to strengthen. While bone health may not be at the top of your list right now, you’ll thank yourself for it later!
- Enhances brain performance – Anyone who is into fitness knows that results are based 50% on your physical output and 50% on your mindset and cognitive performance. In the same way creatine affects your muscles, it also improves your brain performance. Your brain uses creatine phosphate as a source of energy, and if not replenished, these stores will decrease during intense activity. Just as your muscles begin to fatigue after a certain number of reps, so too does your brain fatigue during intense mental activity. As such, a creatine supplement will not only improve your workout capacity but also your brain capacity!
Who would benefit from supplementing creatine?
If exercise is an important part of your daily routine and you’re serious about your results, you’ll certainly benefit from creatine supplementation. Let’s break it down:
- Bodybuilders – Creatine plays an important role in improving the size and shape of your muscles, which ultimately impacts your entire physique. As such, if you’re a bodybuilder trying to increase muscle mass, creatine may be just what you need to up the ante on your results.
- Fitness enthusiasts – As creatine is suggested to enhance muscular energy and decrease fatigue, it will be highly beneficial for regular fitness enthusiasts who are wanting to train harder and get more from their workouts.
- Athletes – Much like fitness enthusiasts, athletes who are training for a competition can also greatly benefit from creatine supplementation as it may increase energy and decrease fatigue, allowing athletes to train harder and for longer before exhaustion sets in.
- Vegans and vegetarians – If you’re serious about your fitness and results but don’t want to compromise your dietary requirements or preferences, creatine might be a great addition to your supplement stack. Since it’s considerably hard to source creatine from a vegan/vegetarian diet, a creatine supplement will ensure your body has adequate levels of the amino acid required to increase muscle mass, without bulking you up.
So, what’s the point of taking creatine supplementation when I can source it from food?
The short answer: You will receive a higher dosage in a more convenient and efficient manner with supplementation.
Eating a large volume of food doesn’t necessarily mean you’re eating the right food in the right quantity to get the levels of creatine that a supplement would deliver. Without adequate creatine levels, you will not be able to effectively maximise the benefits. While you can certainly source your creatine from your food if you’re committed to eating large volumes of the right food, creatine supplementation simply offers a faster and more convenient route to achieving the same results.
The average creatine supplement would generally supply 5g of creatine per serve. Let’s compare this to a few high-creatine food sources:
- Steak – 5g of creatine per kg of uncooked beef
- Chicken – 3.4g of creatine per kg
- Rabbit – 3.4g of creatine per kg
Note: These figures generally differ between sources.
For vegetarians and vegans, it’s extremely difficult to source enough creatine from your diet alone. Cranberries are suggested to contain a generous source of creatine, however, you would be required to consume a large, and somewhat unrealistic, portion of cranberries to experience the same benefits you would from a creatine supplement.
So, how do I choose the right creatine supplement?
When it comes to choosing the right creatine supplement, it’s important to consider form, flavour and combination. The most recommended form of creatine is creatine monohydrate, which has been the focus of thousands of studies over time and is proven to be safe and effective. The next most important component is taste. Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike recommend opting for an unflavoured creatine product as it has no taste and can be easily added to your favourite drink – whether that be water, juice, your BCAAs or protein shake!
Our go-to creatine supplement is Evolve Creatine Monohydrate. As the name suggests, this
product contains 99.9% pure pharmaceutical-grade, micronised creatine monohydrate in an unflavoured powder form to promote fast absorption and utilisation, as well as the option to pair it with your favourite flavour. Not to mention, Evolve Creatine Monohydrate contains no artificial sweeteners, artificial flavours or colours!