The most important variables for achieving your fitness goals are your training and nutrition. Supplementation has an overall small effect on your progress.
But that doesn’t mean there are no useful supplements. Creatine monohydrate is one of the few scientifically validated supplements that actually work. In this article, you are going to read all about creatine monohydrate.
What Is Creatine?
In human energy production, we use the nutrient “creatine” to resynthesize ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP is the energy source for muscle contraction. The body only stores a limited amount of ATP at each time, about 100g to be specific. This is enough for just a few seconds of high-intensity exercise (like strength training).
To resynthesize ATP during high-intensity training, your body first uses the creatine phosphate stored within your muscle cells. So the more creatine you have stored in your muscles cells, the longer you can sustain high-intensity training and the better you perform.
Now, unless you eat a large amount of red meat, your muscle creatine stores likely aren’t maximized. By supplementing with creatine, you can saturate your muscle cells with creatine and, therefore, delay muscular fatigue.
This is in a nutshell what creatine is and how it works. Next up we’re going to discuss the specific benefits of creatine monohydrate supplementation.
The Benefits of Creatine Monohydrate
Muscle & Strength Adaptations
Since creatine monohydrate helps delay muscular fatigue and improve your strength performance, research shows that it helps with slightly boosting muscle and strength gains. This makes sense, consistently performing better will eventually result in better training adaptations.
Another benefit of creatine supplementation in regards to strength performance is its effects on performance recovery. For strength performance, stored muscle and liver glycogen are essential energy sources. Creatine monohydrate supplementation may enhance muscle glycogen resynthesis after training. Because of this, your strength performance after training essentially recovers more quickly.
Overall Brain Health
The benefits of creatine monohydrate are not limited to improving muscle and strength gains. There is good research showing creatine supplementation also enhances brain function. Several studies have reported improved memory, focus, and attention as a result of creatine supplementation.
A classic example of this is a 2003 study. This research found that when 45 young adults took 5g/day of creatine for 6 weeks they significantly improved working memory and intelligence test performance. Other research indicates creatine monohydrate may also have neuroprotective effects. Although more research still needs to be done, creatine monohydrate seems to be a good agent against neurodegenerative processes and even headaches.
The way creatine has positive effects on the brain is similar to how it has positive effects on muscle performance. Taking creatine increases the availability of creatine in the brain, which can be readily used in brain energy metabolism.
Is Creatine Monohydrate Safe?
As you just saw, the benefits of creatine monohydrate are well-established in current research. But many have concerns regarding the health effects of creatine. Many short– and long-term studies have investigated the effects of creatine supplementation on kidney function, liver function, and general health in healthy individuals. No negative health effects were found.
Recently, the International Society of Sports Nutrition also released a position stand in which they reviewed the available scientific literature on creatine. The researchers conclude that supplementation within recommended doses (~3-5 grams daily) is safe. Numerous other research reviews support this.
All in all, creatine is one of the most extensively studied and scientifically validated nutritional supplements available. There is no evidence suggesting it causes negative health effects in healthy individuals that use it correctly and get their creatine from a reliable source.
How About Abdominal Bloating?
Another common concern some people have is the potential bloating creatine causes. Although creatine supplementation does result in weight gain through water retention, this water should be stored in muscle cells (intracellularly), not under your skin. So if you experience bloating after taking creatine, it’s likely a combination of multiple factors, rather than just the creatine.
And Hair Loss, Is That A Legitimate Concern?
You may have heard of recent rumors suggesting creatine negatively affects hair growth. This idea is primarily based on a 3-week study that found creatine supplementation may increase the levels of an androgenic hormone known as “DHT”. DHT can block the delivery of nutrients to hair follicles in men with “Male Pattern Baldness”, this is believed to be a contributing factor to hair loss.
Now, these findings are controversial because there are no other studies showing such a great increase in DHT through creatine supplementation. Also, not everyone will respond the same way to an increase in DHT, genetic factors will influence the response.
Considering this and the fact that athletes who supplemented with creatine for up to 4 years did not report an unusual increase in hair loss, it seems unlikely that creatine supplementation will make you lose more hair.
How To Take Creatine
To saturate your muscle cells with creatine and keep them saturated, all you need to do is take a dose of around 3-5g of creatine monohydrate per day. Cycling or timing your creatine intake will not make a practical difference.
Even loading creatine once you start using it for the first time is not necessary, with research showing no added benefit of a creatine-load in terms of muscle creatine levels after 4 weeks of supplementation.
All in all, there’s no need to complicate creatine supplementation. Taking 3-5g/day of creatine monohydrate is all you need to achieve the benefits. There are also other forms of creatine, but none of these creatine forms have been studied more than creatine monohydrate. So I suggest you stick to what is proven to work if you decide to use creatine.
Key Takeaways + Mailing List
- Creatine monohydrate is one of the few supplements that is scientifically proven to enhance muscle and strength gains. There is also promising research showing benefits in terms of brain health.
- Creatine monohydrate is widely regarded as safe for healthy individuals. It also does not cause bloating and it’s unlikely to accelerate hair loss.
- To achieve the benefits of creatine, take 3-5g/day of creatine monohydrate from a reliable brand. No cycling or loading is necessary.
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