What is creatine?
Creatine is one of the most widely researched natural supplements. It is a compound that can be made in our bodies or taken in supplement form. Creatine is made in the liver, pancreas and kidneys from a combination of amino acids. It is then transported to our muscles, brain and other tissues. 95% of the creatine found in our bodies is stored in skeletal muscles and the remaining 5% is stored in the brain, heart and other tissues. Creatine is a critical component of energy metabolism.
How does creatine work?
- Your body uses creatine in the converted form, creatine phosphate, which is then used is a series of metabolic reactions to provide energy for muscles during quick bursts of activity. The performance enhancing properties of creatine are most apparent during anaerobic or intermittent exercises lasting fewer than 30 seconds.
- Increases the size of muscles by pulling fluid into cells and increasing the volume of muscles.
- Enhances protein synthesis which can help build muscle mass (the rest of your diet needs to be adequate too).
What is the difference between creatine monohydrate and creatine HCL?
There are different types of creatine supplements that are available commercially (but they basically all work the same way). Creatine can be bought as a standalone product and is also found in combination with other products, such as protein powders. Regardless of the type of creatine supplementation an athlete uses, an abundance of research has shown that it can help increase strength and muscle mass more than resistance training alone. Here are some pros and cons of the two most popular forms of creatine.
- Creatine monohydrate
- Not very soluble in water
- May cause stomach upset, bloating or abdominal discomfort
- Needs to be taken with sugar to be absorbed into cells for maximum effectivenes
- Creatine HCL
- May be slightly more water soluble than creatine monohydrate
- Does not typically lead to stomach upset, bloating or abdominal discomfort
- Does not need to be taken with sugar to be absorbed into cells
- More expensive than other forms of creatine
Should I take a creatine supplement? Is it worth it?
Yes, but only if your diet is good. Creatine is safe and effective when used by healthy individuals. However, there is no point in spending money on supplements if your diet is crappy. A healthy diet is essential when it comes to making gains in the gym. If you are considering taking creatine, I encourage you to evaluate your nutrition first. If your nutrition habits are sub-par it would be more beneficial to focus on your diet before reaching for a supplement.
*Before you take any supplements you should consult with your doctor
- Cooper, R., Naclerio, F., Allgrove, J., & Jimenez, A. (201). Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: An update. J Int Soc Sports Nutr Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 33-33
- Toler, Creatine is an ergogenic for anaerobic exercise. Nutr Rev. 1997; 55:854-857
- Vandenberghe, et al., Caffeine counteracts the ergogenic action of muscle creatine loading. J Appl Physiol. 1996: 80:452-457
- Feldman, Creatine: a dietary supplement and ergogenic aid. Nutr Rev. 1999; 57:45-50
- PDR For Nutritional Supplements; Medical Economics-Thomson Healthcare; 186-9, 2001