You have certainly heard of creatine. This substance occupies a place of honor among supplements, it is in fact one of the most used by fitness enthusiasts. For this reason, many people believe that creatine is a product by bodybuilders, which helps to gain muscle mass. However, this statement is incorrect: creatine’s potential goes much further!
Creatine naturally exists in our body and is capable of giving additional energy to our muscles and neurons. Therefore, the supplements of this substance help to improve physical and mental performance.
Here we had selected some of the best creatine supplements that are present below.
Buyer Guide to Choose Creatine Supplements
Creatine is one of the best known and most used products in the field of supplementation. This powerful molecule increases sports performance and accelerates post-workout recovery, promoting the increase in muscle mass.
These characteristics, in addition to its safety for health, make creatine a highly appreciated and highly recommended supplement.
What Exactly Is Creatine?
Creatine is a non-protein nitrogen compound. Although this molecule contains nitrogen, it is not exactly a protein but rather a tripeptide, that is, a molecule composed of three amino acids.
This substance can be introduced in the diet or it can be synthesized in the liver, kidneys, or pancreas starting from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine.
Most (95%) of creatine is stored in skeletal muscle tissue, which is responsible for voluntary movements. The remaining part, 5%, is found in the brain, liver, kidneys, and testicles. In these organs, this substance will allow the renewal of energy reserves, delaying the appearance of fatigue
What Harm Can a Creatine Deficiency Cause?
Creatine deficiency syndrome is a rare, serious, and potentially disabling disease in which the human body cannot synthesize this compound. However, this pathology is usually detected (and treated) from childhood.
For the rest of the population, balanced nutrition will be enough to keep creatine levels in the recommended range. It is true, however, that a decrease in creatine reserves has been found in the elderly and in people following diets based on foods of plant origin.
These people will exhibit a number of annoying and sometimes difficult to detect symptoms, which tend to improve after creatine administration. We have summarized the main consequences of creatine deficiency in the following list:
- Body mass reduction
- Bone density reduction and a greater propensity to osteoporosis
- Reduction of muscle mass
- Greater propensity to tiredness (muscle and mental)
- Cognitive impairment (slight learning difficulty)
- Decreased ability to memorize in the short term
In Which Cases Is the Use of A Creatine Supplement Recommended?
Numerous studies have shown that the use of creatine supplements helps increase sports performance. This organic acid accumulates in muscle tissue in the form of phosphocreatine, providing energy to muscle fibers and allowing them to contract longer.
As a result, taking a creatine supplement can delay the onset of fatigue and reduce the time required for recovery. This will indirectly stimulate muscle gain and anabolic metabolism.
Fast muscle fibers (also called white fibers or type II-B fibers) accumulate creatine more quickly. Therefore, creatine supplements are particularly suitable for those who want to improve their performance in activities involving these cells, such as weight lifting, or spinning.
It must be remembered that this type of supplement also has positive effects on brain tissue in fact the consumption of creatine can improve the cognitive performance of elderly people or those under stress or with sleep deprivation. Therefore, both seniors and students will benefit from this product.
What Are the Benefits of A Creatine Supplement?
If creatine supplementation is done correctly, body levels of this organic acid will rise. This increase will help to give a greater energy synthesis capacity to cells, especially those of the nervous and muscular type. Consequently, the following beneficial effects will appear:
- Increased muscle strength
- Increased “explosive” muscle power (jumping, shooting, and throwing)
- Greater resistance to muscle fatigue
- Reduction of recovery times
- Increased muscle mass (thanks to more effective workouts)
- Better tolerance to high temperatures
- Short-term memory improvement
- Greater resistance to stress
- Greater resistance to mental fatigue
- Mood improvement
- Increase in glucose metabolism (decrease in blood sugar levels)
- Reduction of triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels (“bad cholesterol”)
- (Possible) Increased testosterone production in men
Creatine supplementation can also cause a greater degree of cellular hydration, in fact, this substance accumulates inside the muscle fibers, thus attracting water into the cells. This reserve of intracellular fluid will give a turgid appearance to the muscles, giving our body a “tonic” appearance.
Finally, remember that you don’t have to be a great athlete to take advantage of the benefits of creatine. Some studies have shown the efficacy of this supplement as a neuronal protector.
If you are in a state of mental or physical stress, creatine can improve your performance at work or your school performance, while protecting you from stress.
What Types of Creatine Supplements Are There?
Nowadays, there are numerous types of creatine supplements available on the market. Although this compound has an excellent absorption rate and is generally considered safe for human consumption, nutrition experts continue to develop new, more effective creatine formulations.
Here are the best known:
- Creatine monohydrate: this is the first creatine formulation to be used as a supplement and is still the most popular among nutrition and bodybuilding experts, thanks to its effectiveness and low price. The disadvantages? It can cause intestinal discomfort and increase water retention.
- Micronized creatine: creatine particles are converted into this much smaller form. This type of creatine dissolves better and is probably absorbed more easily, however it has a higher price.
- Alkaline Creatine: Some people have difficulty absorbing creatine monohydrate. According to some studies, alkalizing this molecule (i.e. increasing its pH from 7 to 12) could facilitate absorption, improve efficacy, and prevent the appearance of digestive disorders. Again, however, it is a formulation with a higher price.
- Ethyl Creatine (EEC): according to the creators this type of product does not cause water retention and is absorbed much better than other formats. This would justify the high price. However, further studies are needed before these claims can be scientifically confirmed.
- Gluconate creatine: this form consists of a creatine molecule linked to a glucose molecule. When the sugar molecule enters the bloodstream, it causes an insulin spike that facilitates the entry of creatine into the cells that need it most. This supplement is not recommended for diabetics and for those who want to control the consumption of sugars in the diet.
- Creatine hydrochloride (creatine HCl): it is creatine bound with a hydrochloride salt. Do not be frightened! This formulation is safe and stable, hydrochloride has the task of enhancing the absorption of creatine.
- Creatine phosphate: this type of supplement contains the phosphorylated form of creatine, which is the molecule that accumulates inside the muscle cell to serve as an energy source.
- Sick Creatine: This combination of creatine with the sick, and energy precursor, could increase energy reserves with greater intensity than other types of creatine. Further studies are needed to confirm this increased efficacy.
As we have just seen, there are indeed numerous variations in creatine supplements. In addition to the existence of different creatine molecules, you can find this substance combined with other nutrients, such as magnesium, zinc, and other proteins. However, creatine monohydrate remains the most recommended formulation by experts.
How Are Creatine Supplements Taken?
If you are thinking of starting a path of integration with creatine, you will probably have some doubts about the correct use of the product. In this section, we will try to answer the most frequently asked questions and offer you a series of guidelines to follow to help you get the most out of your supplement:
- How Long Can I Take the Supplement? Creatine is a safe substance for healthy subjects, even in the case of very long periods. It is possible to use creatine supplements daily for five years without experiencing negative effects.
- When Should I Take My Creatine Supplement? In reality, the time slot chosen for taking creatine does not alter its effects. However, bodybuilding experts usually take these supplements after training, i.e. when muscle cells, having exhausted their reserves, are most interested in this substance.
- Should I Take Creatine on An Empty Stomach or On a Full Stomach? Insulin, the pancreatic hormone that is released in response to carbohydrate-rich foods, positively influences the entry of creatine into cells. So it is recommended to take this supplement with a little fruit juice or any other food capable of generating a “peak” of insulin.
- Do Creatine Supplements Degrade when Subjected to High Temperatures? Yes, cooking processes can deteriorate the molecule and adversely affect its effectiveness by up to 30%, so it is not recommended to add this supplement to hot drinks, baked desserts, soups, or purees.
- Can I Take Creatine and Coffee Together? A famous study has found an interaction between creatine and caffeine, practically creatine has lost its effect in the presence of the stimulant. However, subsequent studies have found no relationship between the consumption of coffee or tea and a lower efficacy by these supplements.
- Will I Lose Muscle Mass if I Stop Taking Creatine? Six weeks after stopping supplementation, you will lose the potentiating effects of creatine. But don’t worry! No loss of strength or muscle has been demonstrated in this case.