Creatine is possibly one of the most used supplements in the fitness industry because of the fantastic benefits it boasts for anyone looking to build muscle and strength.
Not only this but it has been thoroughly tested over the years resulting in both a safe and cheap product that is easy to use.
Creatine is a molecule that naturally occurs in the human body and helps with the creation of ATP energy that is used for high-intensity exercise like weightlifting.
As well as, being naturally occurring, creatine can be found in a range of food items including steak, fish and eggs.
Additionally, the amount of creatine in the body varies from person to person which means the total effect you receive from creatine may vary. For example, if your levels are already high then you’re likely to see less of an effect when supplementing with it.
However, if your levels are starting out low then you more likely to see a big difference when you start taking creatine regularly.
When it comes to legal supplements and the difference they can make to your progress, creatine is far and away the leader.
In a review of over 200 studies, creatine came out on top as providing the biggest benefits to recreational weightlifters looking to add size and strength. With additional studies showing that creatine:
Creatine does all these things in 3 main ways.
We’ve seen that creatine plays a role in the production of ATP, the most basic form of energy in your body’s cells.
ATP fuels high-intensity exercise like weightlifting but cannot be sustained for more than about 10 seconds, after which point your body needs time to produce more.
When you supplement with creatine you top up your body’s stores of phosphocreatine which can then be used to produce more ATP and give you a small increase in work output before you fatigue and switch energy sources. (7)
This means when supplementing with creatine you’ll be able to lift a little heavier for a little longer which allows you to apply progressive overload beyond the point you already have and build more muscle and strength.
Supplementing with creatine also increase the water content in your muscles and may also increase IGF-1 a hormone that plays a key role in muscle growth. (8)
Additionally, creatine may also play a role in reducing muscle breakdown during and after exercise which can contribute to a greater amount of muscle mass over the long-term.
We’ve touched on this already, but because supplementing with creatine increases the amount of ATP you have, this has a knock-on effect of allowing you to lift more and lift heavier weights.
Research shows that using creatine can, on average, allow you to lift 20% more across all rep ranges when compared to a placebo (12% increase only) (11).
This is an absolute strength gain of 8% when compared to those not supplementing with creatine. Nothing to turn your nose up at.
Additionally, researchers interestingly found that creatine helped participants increase their bench press 1RM by 3 – 45%. The bottom line is, if you want to get strong then you want to take creatine.
Supplementing with creatine is super simple.
All you’ve got to do is take 3 – 5 grams every day and you can do this by mixing it into your food or drink. Doing it like this will top up your creatine stores after a couple of weeks.
The alternative is to ‘load’ your creatine and take 20 grams a day for the first week and then switch to the lower 3 – 5 grams daily.
Both options will see you reach the same place, but the loading will get you there faster.
In terms of when to take it:
However, neither of these things are essential and ultimately taking it consistently is better than taking it post-workout if you only do it a couple of times a week.
When it comes to supplements you can’t go wrong with creatine, especially if your goal is to gain muscle and build strength. This is because it can help you:
All of which are important factors in building lean muscle.