Should You Take Creatine?
Protein powders, supplements, pre-workouts, and the like are becoming very mainstream.
I have teenage boys coming into my office trying to reach their goals and optimize their performance in the gym by using these products. On the other end of the spectrum, I see men and women in the older generation experiencing muscle atrophy and considering supplementation for it.
Many of these seem to be relevant cases for prescribing creatine. However, I always want to make sure I’m providing the best and safest recommendations to my clients. So, I’ve been digging into the research on creatine and trying to determine when, who, what, and how much is appropriate.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid your body naturally produces. Your kidneys and liver produce creatine daily. You can also get it through dietary intakes like seafood and red meat.
Creatine as a supplement gives you an IV level of creatine. People take creatine supplements to benefit their exercise and athletic performance. There’s also research to show it has a cognitive benefit. The main use case, however, is to make muscles fuller and give you greater recovery potential.
Effects of Creatine
In terms of elite athletes, there have been various research pieces that show anaerobic work capacity improvements. When creatine enters the system, it is stored in the muscle as phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine is the catalyst for ATP production and ATP is the energy source that fuels anaerobic energy. Those are short bursts or high-intensity workouts like sprinting, jumping, or resistance training. Therefore, creatine provides a noted benefit to strength and hypertrophy, which is the growth of muscle cells.
Is Creatine Safe for Pregnant Women and Children?
There is a lot of research out there on the benefits of creatine during pregnancy because of the metabolic demand that happens from the placenta and needing to feed another human. Supplementing with creatine can help build up those phosphocreatine stores. Always check with your doctor but the research I’ve seen is valid and sound.
As far as if it’s safe for youth and adolescents, consider that it gives you a false sense of recovery. Because of this, I always require that my youth athletes who want to start creatine have gone fully through the puberty process. Their body must be fully developed and, for females, they must have started their cycle.
Additionally, I want them to have been strength training in a structured environment for at least 12 weeks so that they know their body strength capacity and have already adapted at some level. This prevents them from pushing their bodies past their natural limits.
Mental Health Benefits
As I previously mentioned, creatine may have some benefits on your mental health. You may consider temporarily supplementing with it when you’re in high-stress situations. If the demand on your mind is high, you’re in a high-stress job situation, you’re trying to do a lot of multitasking, or you just have a lot of mental stress, it might be a good time to supplement with some creatine.
For those who are brand new to creatine, you can start with five grams per day. You can build this up to 20 grams a day (taking five grams, four times a day). Most people will see great benefit from just doing the five-gram dosage per day, though, if they’re resistance training.
If you want to learn more about creatine, check out Episode 019: Creatine: Is it Safe for Women, Teens, and Older Adults?