Monday, December 9, 2013

Creatine: How to incorporate this supplement in your diet

You find creatine in meats, but it’s also formed in your body from amino acids. Creatine is used by muscles for energy during high-intensity, short-duration exercises.  
This supplement is well-researched and it is known to enhance strength, performance and hypertrophy. It also seems to produce positive effects on neurological function and favorable adaptations to aerobic exercise.

Creatine is one of the most used supplements for athletes and recreational weight lifters. Read these 3 steps to learn if you need to start taking this supplement: 

Picture source

Step 1: Determine your need and creatine’s safety
When you combine creatine supplements with resistance training, your performance, strength, and muscle hypertrophy increase.
Moreover, it is accepted that endurance exercises should combine high carbohydrate (CHO) diets with creatine supplements to achieve more muscle glycogen stores.
            Most research supports creatine supplements in younger adults (<60 years old). Younger athletes (<18 years old) should only consider this supplement in post-puberty, if they are involved in serious competitive training, they’re eating well-balanced diets, their parents approve it, and supplement protocols are supervised. Creatine is allowed by the International Olympic Committee, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). However, the NCAA no longer allows universities to supply creatine to their students with school funds. 
Creatine is likely safe for most people. People with kidney or liver dysfunction/disease or taking medications that may alter those organs functions should avoid the use of creatine.

Step 2: Which type should I buy?
Supplements are commonly sold as powders, although liquids, tablets, capsules, energy bars, fruit-flavored chews, drink mixes, and other preparations are also available.
The most widely used and researched form is creatine monohydrate (CM). But there are several different available forms of creatine: creatine anhydrous, in salt forms (including creatine pyruvate, or creatine malate), and in ester or effervescent forms.

Step 3: What is the dosage?
Picture source
People who have lower total creatine levels who start taking creatine supplements seem to benefit more than people who start with a higher level of creatine. Skeletal muscle will only hold a certain amount of creatine and its saturation point is usually reached within the first few days of taking a loading dose.

A protocol where 20g of CM is taken in 1g doses (at 30-min intervals) for 5 days results in reduced urinary creatine and more weight gain. The loading phase must be followed by a maintenance period of 3-5g CM/d or 0.03g CM/kg/d. This could be a better approach to get a maximal saturation of the intramuscular creatine store than the typical creatine supplementation protocol.  Creatine causes muscles to draw water, so be sure to drink plenty of water per day to make up for this. In addition, your body may absorb creatine better when you take it with CHO foods. 

            Cooper et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012, 9:33
WebMD. Creatine. Accessed November 25, 2013.
MayoClinic. Creatine. Accessed November 25, 2013.
University of Maryland Medical Center. Creatine. Accessed November 25, 2013.

Livia Ly
I'm a health enthusiast and a wellness activist. I'm a dietitian trained in Brazil and also a nutrition grad student in Chicago. ΡΌ