• Anatomy Of Fitness


Updated: Nov 14, 2020

Ever since the availability of Creatine Monohydrate as a strength and performance supplement, it has been seen as a holy grail for strength training and exercise performance. We have seen bodybuilders, powerlifters, football players, tennis players, sprinters and almost all athletes harnessing the power of creatine monohydrate to boost performance. But, what is Creatine? How does it help increase performance? What are its side-effects? What is the ideal dosage? Let’s put Creatine Monohydrate under the microscope of science.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a chemical and an amino acid that is naturally found in our body, the highest concentration being in the muscles. Organs such as pancreas, kidney and liver can manufacture creatine. Creatine is also found in food sources such as seafood and red meat. Creatine helps feed fuel for muscle cells. The body stores creatine as phosphocreatine. As a supplement, creatine is extensively studied and is considered to be safe if taken in the recommended doses. In most parts of the world, creatine is available as an over the counter product without requiring a prescription. Creatine usage is allowed by almost all the reputed governing bodies like National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), International Olympic Committee etc.

Is Creatine Monohydrate different from Creatine?

No, Creatine Monohydrate is a type of Creatine supplement. There are several different types of creatine supplements like Creatine Hydrochloride, Creatine Ethyl Ester, Buffered Creatine, Creatine Magnesium Chelate etc. Creatine Monohydrate is the most studied form of creatine. We fully understand how Creatine Monohydrate works, it’s effects and how it safely helps increase performance. Other forms of Creatine may work but require more research. Other than being extensively studied, Creatine Monohydrate is widely available and inexpensive.

The weight gain after taking creatine supplements is in the form of MUSCLE & water retention and not FAT.

How do Creatine Monohydrate supplements help increase performance?

Each cell in our body uses Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for energy. When our muscles contract for example while exercising, ATP is rapidly used for energy and converts to Adenosine diphosphate (ADP). ADP is an organic compound containing adenosine and two phosphate groups. Creatine Monohydrate helps with the addition of another phosphate group converting ADP back to ATP. Thus, more ATP becomes available for the body to use. More ATP translates to more energy, intensity and workload, increasing performance.

How do CREATINE supplements work?

Creatine Monohydrate supplements help in the following ways:

  • Improved strength

  • Better recovery

  • Increased muscle mass

  • Increased aerobic threshold

  • Better training tolerance

  • Increased work capacity

  • Enhanced glycogen synthesis

  • Improved cognitive performance

What are the side effects of Creatine Monohydrate?

Several studies indicate that Creatine Monohydrate supplements are safe to consume. There is ample evidence of Creatine supplements helping to increase performance in a variety of athletes without causing serious side-effects. Even long term usage of creatine supplements has not shown to affect health negatively. Supplements are best taken as recommended without exceeding the recommended dosage.

However, some studies have shown creatine supplements to cause muscle cramping, nausea, diarrhoea, heat intolerance, fever, dehydration, dizziness and gastrointestinal pain.

Creatine supplements TEMPORARILY increase creatinine levels. Increased creatinine levels are a marker of poor kidney function. However, the creatinine increase is because more creatinine is produced and NOT because of kidney damage. There is NO evidence which suggests that creatine supplements DAMAGE kidneys.

What is the ideal dosage of Creatine Monohydrate?

Creatine Monohydrate supplements are mostly available in a powdered form or a capsule form.

There are two optimum ways of consuming Creatine Monohydrate:

#1 Loading and maintenance phase: This is the recommended approach to creatine supplementation. In this method, a total of 20 to 25 gm of creatine monohydrate is consumed in a day (24 hours) taken in 5, 5 gm doses. The time interval between each dose should be about 3 hours. The loading phase should continue for 5 to 7 days. After 5 to 7 days of loading, the maintenance phase would start. In the maintenance phase, it is recommended to consume a single dose of 5 gm per day. Research has shown that overloading has no benefit. Hence, consuming more creatine than recommended or consuming creatine for an excess number of days should be avoided. In a loading phase, muscle stores are quickly saturated which noticeably results in increased performance.

#2 Maintenance phase: In this phase, the loading phase is completely skipped and we directly start with a maintenance phase of a single dose of 5 gm per day. This is a more conservative approach compared to the first method. Research suggests that post 28 days, the effects of both the phases are the same, meaning the effects of an only maintenance phase are slower. However, the positive aspects include gradual weight gain (water retention) and less gastrointestinal problems.

Whatever method we choose, there is no optimum time to ingest creatine supplements. They can be taken anytime. For convenience, many people have creatine supplement post-workout/ training.

Key takeaways:

  1. Creatine is a chemical and an amino acid that is naturally found in our body, the highest concentration being in the muscles.

  2. Creatine supplements are sold over the counter and are legal.

  3. Creatine Monohydrate is the most researched form of creatine supplementation and has been a holy grail for strength training and exercise performance.

  4. When consumed in the recommended doses, creatine supplements do not cause long term or serious side effects.

  5. Creatine Monohydrate helps in increasing performance.

  6. There are two recommended ways to take creatine:

  7. Loading & maintenance phase

  8. Maintenance phase

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