Whether you pump iron at the gym or engage in some other fitness or athletic activity, you are going to hear a lot of recommendations for supplements to up your game. As an example, protein powders are all the rage for building muscle. Another commonly touted product is the creatine supplement. Promises of better physical performance garner attention from anyone who is passionate about their pursuits in the gym or on the field. However, extra creatine will not deliver enhanced performance in all sports. Understanding what creatine is and its role in the body will help you to determine if supplementation is the right choice for your activity.
What Is Creatine?
Proteins in your body are formed by amino acids. Essential amino acids are not produced in your body, and they must be consumed in the form of dietary protein sources. Nonessential amino acids are produced naturally within your body. Creatine is an amino acid compound that is made up of three amino acids, which are nonessential glycine, essential arginine, and essential methionine. Creatine is produced in your liver and kidneys. It is then stored in your muscles as creatine phosphate. When you engage in an athletic activity that calls for short bursts of increased energy or muscle contractions, the creatine phosphate converts adenosine diphosphate into adenosine triphosphate, the compound that provides that extra boost of energy to enable your body to perform with greater intensity. Many fitness enthusiasts and athletes flock to supplement shops in pursuit of more of this workout enhancement in a bottle, but not all of them will reap the gains.
Should You Take In More Creatine?
It depends on which type of activity you routinely engage in. If weightlifting is your thing as you strive to build bulging biceps sooner than later, then creatine may help you to achieve your goal. Other physical activities, such as football or track and field, which require short durations of increased energy for intense muscle contraction, may benefit from creatine supplementation as well. Bodybuilders may consider taking creatine if they want to maximize the following benefits:
- Gain weight in lean muscle mass
- Enhance their strength so that they can lift more weight
- Enhance their performance so that they can perform more repetitions of each lift
Similarly, someone who performs track and field may be able to sprint faster and further if he or she takes creatine supplements. However, if your fitness activity of choice leans toward an endurance activity, such as aerobic exercise or bicycling, that does not require short bursts of energy and intense muscle contractions, then your body will turn to its glucose as an energy source instead of utilizing creatine phosphate.
Do Any Foods Contain Creatine?
The role of a supplement is to fill in the nutrients that your diet or your body has not provided adequate amounts of. When it comes to creatine, your body only produces half of that which your body needs. The remaining half comes from foods that you eat and from supplements. Dietary sources of creatine include the following:
- Meat, including beef, pork, and wild game meats
- Fish, such as salmon and tuna
To enhance your athletic performance, you may need to add a creatine supplement to your nutrition plan to give you that extra boost.
Are There Synthetic Creatine Supplements?
The most widely available synthetic creatine supplement is creatine monohydrate, and you can find it in an oral pill form or as a powder to mix with water or into a protein shake. Be sure to discuss creatine supplementation with your physician first so that he or she can help you to determine if you can take creatine safely. Some key points to keep in mind if you are considering taking creatine supplements include the following:
- Creatine may be taken at a larger loading dose for a brief introductory period before dropping the daily amount taken to a lower maintenance dose.
- Creatine is absorbed into the muscles more efficiently when taken with carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, brown rice, or fruit.
- Creatine can interact with certain medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and potentially cause kidney damage.
- Your muscles absorb and hold water from the rest of your body when you take creatine, so be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Follow your physician's dosing instructions to the letter when taking creatine. When any other medical professional or institution asks you which medications you are currently taking, remember to include all supplements that you are taking as well, including creatine.