Can supplements help? Spotlight - Creatine
The basic function of the Creatine Phosphate Pathway is to create energy inside our muscles. More energy in our muscle cells help us train harder and aid in recovery. It is mostly found in meat and other animal products, so for someone who is including these protein sources in their diet will have a small amount of creatine already being produced v’s a vegetarian who would have a lower/low level. Having fully saturated creatine stores help produce more energy (ATP to be exact) and improve your workout intensity and duration, however, to be fully saturated, most often, we will need to supplement to reach these levels. Enter Creatine Monohydrate.
Creatine is probably one of the most recognised and researched supplements to help increase our training quality, intensity, strength (hello muscles) and recovery. It is a cheap, tasteless (ingredients = 100% creatine monohydrate), easy supplement to take with a low likelihood of contraindications. Where it may not be a huge gamechanger in your overall training regimen, if you were going to try something, this may be the one that could be the extra 1% to your training. On top of all these new muscle gains, Creatine has also been shown to benefit our cognitive function.
One study looked at the effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function in healthy individuals (the study being a systematic review of randomized controlled trials….so you know it’s a good one) and found that creatine may improve short-term memory and have potential benefits for aging and stressed individuals (geezus… sign me up) so it may not just be for someone looking to get jacked in the gym. Avgerinos et al (2019). Another study showed benefits in those who have sleep deprivation - that there was less decline in their performance Burke et al (2003), another that lower levels of brain creatine were related to memory problems so speculated that creatine may be beneficial for Alzheimer’s disease Laakso et al (2003), and, in the elderly population, Stout JR et al (2007) looked at the effects of creatine supplementation on muscle strength in men and women aged 64 – 68 years over a 14 day period and found there was an increase in upper body and grip strength, which for some may be a normal daily task, but for others in this age bracket, may be important for independent living. Seriously, is there anything it can’t do?
So how much do I take? and if I consume the whole container will I suddenly be a super intelligent?
Creatine comes in either a powder or capsule form. You can choose to load (or saturate) your creatine stores in 5-7 days followed by a maintenance phase, or load over a 30-day period depending on what you prefer. Creatine is also relative to body weight so what is recommended for someone at 60kg is not the same for someone at 100kg.
Fast Load - 0.3g/kg/day, split into multiple doses (recommended 4 doses) for 5-7 days.
Long Load - 0.05g/kg/day for 3-4 week
Maintenance Phase - 0.03g-0.05g/kg/day
ie If I was to do a fast load @60kg bodyweight x 0.3g = 18g creatine, split into 4 doses through the day.
FYI, having an ‘all in one’ dose (especially during the fast load) can lead to stomach issues / distress so you may want to avoid this if you’re trying to save time. Generally, if you were having stomach ‘distress’, you would alter your dosages so that you were consuming less more often. In regard to timing, and when to take creatine – is at a time that you will remember to take it every day. However, I will say this, it needs to be taken with a carbohydrate or protein meal to help drive it into our muscle cells. So, taking it on an empty stomach = “ba-bow”. There may be a slight benefit to having it post training as our body will absorb more nutrients at this time as we have just depleted our stores (think whey protein + creatine = winning) but if that doesn’t work for you, taking it after your dinner meal will do the trick. Another side note, and there is little evidence on this, but taking it with caffeine or caffeine tablets may reduce the effect so maybe stay away from that.
There are a couple of side effects that are noticed (or most discussed) when supplementing with creatine. One being water retention. Creatine increases the amount of water inside your cells – your intracellular water content – your muscles becoming more hydrated. So, for some who are wanting their biceps to bulge from the sleeves this may be of benefit. To others, for example if you are at the beginning of a powerlifting peaking cycle, a fast 5 day load on creatine may be of benefit to gain all the weight in one go to, and then you could maintain in your weight category for the remainder of the cycle. In general, some tend to gain some weight, and some do not. Water retention in men and women will be different as body composition will come into play due to the amount of muscle mass. However, remember the reason why we are supplementing to begin with - for all those benefits that are mentioned above. Lastly while we are on the subject about water, you will be pulling water into the muscles from elsewhere in the body so you may need to increase your water intake a little bit. Basically, keep your urine relatively clear is a good indicator for you to not end up with a headache.
Second most discussed side effect, Does creatine make you lose your hair? Creatine is associated with an increase in a hormone called DHT which is an active version of testosterone, so if you are susceptible to hair loss, it is one of the mechanisms by which you will lose your hair. It isn’t however going to make your hair start falling out all over the place so no need to buy a robo-vacuum along with the creatine tub.
If you decide to stop taking creatine altogether, it takes 30 days for creatine to leave your system. Your body will then begin to start making creatine again (when you are supplementing, your body’s way of making creatine goes down, although it doesn’t damage the body’s ability to make creatine, it is just that you are supplementing) Otherwise, continue to supplement and enjoy all the benefits of increased muscle size, strength and improved performance, recovery, and glycogen storage.
See you in class,