What is Creatine?

“Creatine – I’ve always heard about how creatine floods your muscles with water so when you stop using it you lose the mass, but I’ve now learned that the gains during use are still enhanced because of better synthesis and muscle energy etc. I’m considering taking small amounts (I want the benefits and not the massive bulk increase)… What are your opinions on it and what dosage would be right?  Are there any concerns with using?” – NxJ’er


A definition first, creatine is found naturally in the body’s muscle tissues and helps generate muscular contractions.  You can consume it in fish and meat; but as you noted, it is also bottled up in supplements.  Once the body makes it (or you swallow a pill or eat food), creatine is metabolized in your skeletal muscle, the heart and the brain.  It then becomes a major energy store for those tissues.

The “mass” you refer to is the bulking-effect that might cause muscles to retain water. Creatine is water-soluble, which means that it is not stored for long periods of time (read: you are not going to store it long enough to suddenly have “enhanced” muscle energy synthesis).  There is some evidence that supplemental creatine may enhance performance in high-intensity, short-term activities (think: sprints and weight-lifting).

If you wanted to try creatine supplements, the typical form is called “creatine monohydrate powder.”  The dosing is a loading dose of 20 grams or 0.3 grams per kilogram in divided doses four times a day for two to five days, followed by a maintenance dose of no more than two grams daily.  When taking supplement – it’s very important to take with water (6-8 glasses per day at least) to avoid dehydration.1

Concerns with using: creatine supplements should be avoided by children, adolescents, pregnant women, nursing moms, and anyone at risk for kidney disorders, such as diabetics.  Also, caffeine in coffee, tea and sodas seem to interfere with any beneficial effects of creatine supplementation.

For your goal, it doesn’t seem like supplemental creatine is necessary.  Any clean muscle gains you’d like to gain can easily be made with increasing calories from lean protein sources and legumes.

Source:

1. Williams MH, Branch JD.  Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: an update.  J Am Coll Nutr. 1998; 17:216-234.

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