Supplement Recommendation: Creatine

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MidwestFit Team: Jul 7, 2015

Supplements

Let's be honest, most supplements sold today will not provide you with tangible results inside or outside the gym and some can be downright dangerous. They are either not backed by science, provided in too low of doses, or (as seen in a few cases lately) not even the product you purchased (see article at Forbes.com) aka a complete scam. That being said, there are a few supplements out there that can help your performance in the gym and have been properly studied to prove it. We will be exploring some of these supplements under our Supplements category as well as providing our favorite and most trusted products (note: we receive absolutely nothing from any company we recommend, we simply think it is the best product and a trusted brand). Today, we start with one of the most studied (if not the most) supplement out there: Creatine.

Creatine is the most popular sports supplement in the world for gaining muscle next to whey protein. Literally hundreds of studies have been done on creatine that prove its effectiveness in assisting with muscle growth in athletes and active individuals that lift regularly and particularly those on a muscle mass program. First, I want to address exactly what creatine is and how it works. Having a basic physiological understanding of creatine is essential for anyone who plans on utilizing the supplement form of it.  There are a lot of rumors/falsities about creatine out there that simply are not true and we would like to address those as well.

WHAT IS CREATINE?

Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in vertebrates and helps to supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle. This is achieved by increasing the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (Source: Wikipedia). ATP is used by muscles for the rapid energy it needs for contraction, such as during weight-lifting. Supplementing with creatine is reported to increase the content of creatine phosphate (PCr) in muscles by approximately 20%. Having more creatine in the muscle means more ATP can be rapidly produced during physical activity which can lead to gains in strength, speed, growth, and recovery.

CREATINE AND MUSCLE STRENGTH

As stated previously, numerous studies have been done that prove the effectiveness of creatine. For example, a study was done by Belgian researchers and reported in a 1997 issue of Journal of Applied Physiology. This study examined untrained subjects on a 10 week weight training program. One group taking creatine while another control group was taking a placebo. The group taking the creatine experienced a 25% increase in their squat one-rep max compared to the group on the placebo following the same program. Similarly, a review printed in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reported that out of 16 different studies which all looked at the effects of creatine on individual one-rep max strength, the average increase for individuals taking creatine was always about 10% more than those taking a placebo. Bottom line, if you want to increase weight on all your major lifts, creatine supplementation will help you accomplish that. Period.

CREATINE AND MUSCLE GROWTH

One of the best studies showing that creatine can assist in muscle growth was done by University of Queensland researchers. The study was done on powerlifters who were taking creatine and found that on averages they gained about 6 pounds of lean body weight with some subjects even gaining up to 11 pounds of lean body weight...In just 4 weeks. Those taking the placebo in this study did not see a change in their lean body weight.

SQUASHING THE RUMORS

Hydration: There are rumors that use of creatine can cause issues with hydration and muscle cramping. But, A 2009 systematic review discredited concerns that creatine supplementation could affect hydration status and heat tolerance and lead to muscle cramping. 

Kidney/Liver Damage: Although individuals with kidney/liver disease should avoid creatine use, the idea that creatine causes kidney problems in healthy individuals is simply not true when taken at the effective dosage. Studies have shown little or no adverse impact on kidney or liver function from oral creatine supplementation (Source: "Adverse effects of creatine supplementation: fact or fiction?" Sept. 2000) . 

Cycling Creatine: Some people believe you must cycle creatine and that long term use is harmful. Again, this simply is not true nor is it backed by science. In 2004 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a record which stated that oral long-term intake of 3g pure creatine per day is risk-free. A 2003 study on athletes who took creatine for 21 months, found no significant changes in markers of renal function; a 2008 study on athletes who took creatine for 3 months, found no evidence of kidney damage during that time (Source: Wikipedia)

OUR RECOMMENDATION

The bottom line is creatine has been the subject of over 200 scientific studies and has proven to have no harmful side effects in both short and long term use in healthy individuals. On the flip side, it has proven to show it can help increase strength, muscle mass, and endurance in the proper dosages. That being said, we recommend taking creatine after your workout in the clinically proven dosage of 3 to 5g per day. When it comes to which product to buy, here are the creatine supplements we like the most...

1. Creatine Monohydrate (straight up)

This is the cheapest form of creatine and monohydrate is the most effective. So if you want to save some dollars and still reap the benefits, this is the obviously solution. Just add it to your post workout protein shake or BCAA's. For this, we like Optimum Nutrition since we feel they are a trusted brand.

(Buy on Amazon)

2. Legion Athletics Recharge

This product is pricier and has less servings but we feel is a very high quality product. It has the 5g of creatine monohydrate plus some supporting ingredients to assist with absorption and recovery. You can view more details on the link below.

(Buy at Legion Athletics)

Again, really want to stress that we have no affiliation with either of these products or companies. Honestly, I wish we did. Maybe that way we could get some for free! But sadly, we do not. But we have used them both and think they are legit products and companies. So that's why we recommend them.

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