Updated: Jun 29, 2020
Creatine is amongst the most popular and heavily researched supplements available on the market. Studies not only support that it works mechanistically to increase intramuscular creatine stores, but there are also strongly observed benefits in strength and power output following supplementation. Additionally, some evidence even suggests it may positively influence cognitive function in certain individuals but more research is required on this matter.
What is it?
Creatine is molecule that is made up of 3 amino acids: glycine, arginine and methionine. In terms of dietary sources, it is predominantly found in red meat and fish. We store approximately 95% of it in our skeletal muscle, and the majority of that is stored as high energy phosphate groups known as phosphocreatine. During exercise, we use and transport energy via adenosine triphosphate, otherwise known as ATP. As this ATP is used, it loses a phosphate group and is degraded to adenosine diphosphate (ADP), which can no longer be used for energy production. Following numerous chemical reactions, creatine donates a phosphate group to ADP in order to convert it back to ATP, subsequently increasing the energy available, particularly in short-term high intensity activities such as sprinting or weightlifting.
Benefits of Creatine
Given its role in energy production, creatine has been shown to improve strength, power output, and when in conjunction with resistance exercise, lean body mass. Although acting as ergogenic aid it has predominately been shown to be effective during exercise of short duration, it could be argued by supporting muscular adaptations this could additionally be translated into performance benefits in sports of moderation duration.
There is a growing body of evidence supporting the potential improvements in health, including cognitive function, but more research would be required before coming to conclusions.
With creatine monohydrate being the very heavily researched, cheap, and potentially most effective with its high absorption rate, it would seem a sensible when selecting a particular form of creatine.
The quickest way to saturate your creatine stores is to follow a loading phase protocol. This requires you to consume 0.3g per kg of bodyweight per day for between 5-7 days, splitting up this dose across 4 different serving times. Following the loading period, reduce intake to at least 0.03g per kg per day until you wish to stop supplementing.
To provide an example, an 80kg individual would consume 24g per day for 5-7 days, before reducing intake to at least 2.4g per day to maintain saturation levels.
Alternatively, consuming a minimum of 0.03g per day for 28 days should also see creatine stores fully saturated, albeit taking a little longer. There may however be an argument to be made on bigger individuals needing larger doses, with some research suggesting an intake of 5-10g may be required.