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What Is Creatine & What Is It For?

12/02/2021 | 5 min. read

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Creatine is a naturally occurring compound that can be taken as a supplement for added benefits, and many athletes, bodybuilders, or high-intensity workout lovers take this supplement regularly.

While you are probably familiar with common types of supplements, you may not have heard of creatine.

Creatine is most known for its effect on muscle strength, and although it is popular among those seeking a better physique, it may offer benefits even to the average person who doesn’t enjoy the gym.

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is a compound that naturally occurs in the body and specific food products.

Half of the creatine in our bodies is provided by diet, while the liver and kidneys produce the other half. From there, it is transported to our muscles for storage and use.

On the chemical level, creatine is an amino acid derivative resulting from a modified amino acid form. Amino acids are molecules that make up proteins.

Unlike unmodified amino acids, however, creatine does not form proteins. It instead works to stabilize energy and production levels in muscles. In other words, it acts as a battery by keeping energy coming in and making sure proper function is maintained.

Small amounts of creatine can be found in the heart and brain, as well as other tissues. While the body creates some creatine, regular intake is essential to keep levels healthy. Excess stores of the compound are released in the urine regularly and need to be replenished.

The Benefits of Creatine

Alongside its main role in the body, creatine also has plenty of other benefits and impacts on the body. Learning more about the potential health benefits of this supplement can help you determine whether it may be something you want to incorporate into your lifestyle.

Improved Brain and Nerve Function

Creatine works directly with adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the body to help it use energy more efficiently. ATP is an energy-carrying molecule that is essential for brain function.

While large amounts of creatine are not present in the brain, it is used by ATP to help deliver fuel. Studies have linked creatine intake with increased cognitive function, including improved memory and focus. It can also promote the production and use of dopamine.

Like many brain-boostingsupplements, it can help stabilize energy levels and regulate the synthesis of essential chemicals. It has also been associated with decreased risk of illnesses afflicting the nervous system. Getting ample amounts of creatine alongside appropriate levels of carbohydrates and protein can ensure that your energy levels remain stabilized.

Reduced Fatigue

Because of its involvement with energy use in the body, creatine can help fight fatigue and excessive tiredness. It can be beneficial for workout endurance, completing sprints, or energy for a long day at work.

General Muscle Health

Besides helping muscles use energy more effectively, creatine monohydrate can contribute to increased muscle mass long term. This is because it promotes the formation of new proteins that are used to build muscle tissue, and the use of creatine can lead to weight gain in the form of lean body mass.

It can also help improve exercise performance as well as contribute to the repair of damaged muscle tissue.

Precautions

Although creatine is considered to be safe for intake, make sure to be aware of the side effects and avoid overusing it.

The recommended daily dosage of creatine is 20 grams for adults. While this recommended dosage may vary based on individual body weight and physical activity, it is always best to start with a low dose of any supplement to gauge its effects.

Symptoms of creatine overuse include:

  • Increased weight
  • Muscle cramps and strains
  • Dehydration
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Dizziness and nausea
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Diarrhea

While most of the side effects potentially caused by creatine overuse are mild, overuse can worsen certain illnesses or health problems. Individuals with certain pre-existing conditions should avoid using creatine.

They include:

  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems or disease
  • Illnesses affecting the muscles
  • Illnesses affecting the nerves

Creatine may also have adverse interactions with other medications or supplements. Speak to your doctor before trying creatine if you regularly use any of the following:

  • Caffeine
  • Diuretics
  • Drugs that affect the kidneys

All supplements can potentially cause side effects if not carefully used. It is best to consult with a doctor before beginning any supplement regimen and keep track of any unusual symptoms.

How To Use Creatine

Creatine is present in many different foods and sold as a supplement in different variations.

Before you consider taking a creatine supplement, try adding more of the following food products to your meals:

  • Red meat
  • Seafood
  • Milk and dairy products

Individuals who do not eat enough meat or dairy may not be able to consume a sufficient amount of creatine. This is especially true for vegans or vegetarians that predominantly eat plant-based foods.

Whether your diet does not include meat or you are simply looking to increase your creatine intake, supplements can help you reach your goals.

Creatine supplements come in many different forms, and with several forms of creatine available, it is beneficial to make sure you understand what you are putting into your body.

Phosphocreatine, creatine phosphate, and creatine ethyl ester are just some of the options, and they may have slightly different effects. However, creatine monohydrate is the most commonly used form of creatine.

  • Creatine powder, like protein powder, can be added to smoothies, milkshakes, and baked goods. Powders allow users to consume the supplement in different ways and control the desired dosage.
  • Creatine capsules or gel tablets are quick and easy ways to up your daily intake.
  • Creatine liquid, although not as commonly used, can be mixed in with various foods. Although similar in versatility to powder, liquid forms may be more difficult to measure out.
  • Creatine products such as protein bars and drinks have creatine readily added to them. Although convenient for on-the-go consumption, it can be hard to gauge how much creatine you are consuming. Furthermore, such products can have unhealthy additives such as sugar or preservatives.

As with any form of medicine, when purchasing creatine products and supplements, make sure to read thoroughly through ingredients and directions for use.

In Conclusion

Because the FDA does not regulate many supplements, it is up to consumers to do the research necessary to find quality products. Creatine plays an essential role in the body and can have many benefits with regular consumption.

To most effectively use creatine, be sure to focus on maintaining an overall healthy and balanced lifestyle with a nutrient-dense diet and regular physical activity.

Sources:

Creatine & Creatine Supplements: What is Creatine, Are Supplements Safe | Cleveland Clinic

Creatine | The Royal Society

Creatine Information | Mount Sinai

Healthy Directions Staff Editor