Creatine has been used as a strength training and athletic supplement since 1992, but there’s still some confusion about it. Many people have heard of it, and wonder how to use it. You might be wondering also.
How Creatine Works (Warning: Some Science Ahead)
You take creatine, either eating or drinking it with your food. Once in your system, it goes into your muscle cells to saturate them with creatine.
Your body naturally makes some creatine in your liver. The creatine supplements you eat merely augment this natural creatine, and allow you to get more benefits.
Now, it gets a little “sciencey”. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the fuel used by your muscles cells. Once it’s used, it breaks down into adenosine diphosphate (ADP), losing a phosphate group.
The extra creatine in your cells holds reserve phosphate groups, so that ADP can be quickly converted back into ATP and used as fuel. The more creatine, the longer you can keep recycling that ADP into ATP this way.
This ATP-ADP sequence (and the recharging courtesy of creatine) is used when you’re exerting a lot of strength all at one time. Examples of this would be lifting weights, sprinting, and jumping.
So, high levels of creatine in your muscles make you stronger for these kinds of intense actions. And it really works.
Creatine Actually Works
There are tons of supplements out there that allegedly increase your strength. Most are simply useless, some work but are banned by most sports authorities, and others can actually hurt you.
But creatine works, and is permitted by the International Olympic Committee and a variety of other sports organizations. Score!
Stronger and Bigger!
Creating supplements not only make you stronger, they also make your muscles bigger. That’s one of the main reasons it’s not only used by athletes, but also by bodybuilders.
The increased creatine in your muscles store extra water there also. Thus, after you start taking a creative supplement regularly, you will notice your muscles getting bigger, faster.
For most guys looking for big and buff muscles, this is a huge plus! But, if you do something that requires a high level of flexibility (like gymnastics, diving, or tae kwon do) you might not want to take creatine, since bigger, bulkier muscles may hinder your performance.
How Will Creatine Help You?
Creatine supplements make you stronger, but over a long period of time. The creatine in your muscles allows you to workout more intensely when you start taking it, so you can lift a little more the next time you go to the gym, and then workout harder the next time (to build more muscle), and so on and so on.
It will NOT magically make you able to bench press 10, 20, or 30 pounds more as soon as you start taking it. Ironically, creatine supplements are like strength training itself since you have to do them both regularly for their full benefits to be realized.
It also costs something. Not much, since you can get a large jar of creatine powder for around twenty dollars, but it is one more thing to buy, and to remember to take everyday. So, fit that into your calculations.
Is Creatine Safe?
- Short Answer: Yes.
- Long Answer: Almost assuredly yes.
Creatine has not been shown to hurt people taking it, or create any health problems. You may have a slightly irritated stomach when you first start taking it, but that’s to be expected. And taking it for up to several years has shown no downside.
However, I am not aware of any long-term studies (5 years or longer) done on athletes taking creatine. It’s only been in common use for the last 2 decades. But for the moment, the outlook is very promising.
Should You Take Creatine?
If you’re just lifting weights for health or fun, you probably don’t need creatine. You can develop very high levels of strength and muscle without it.
But, if you want to build as much strength as fast as possible, try taking creatine supplements. They’re pretty cheap, they will help accelerate your progress and the possible risks are minimal to nonexistent.