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What Does Creatine Do?

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance found in our bodies, primarily in muscles and, to a lesser extent, in the brain. It’s also present in some foods, like red meat and seafood. In simple terms, creatine is used by the body to produce energy rapidly, especially during high-intensity, short-duration activities like sprinting or weight lifting. 

This compound is a popular supplement among athletes and fitness enthusiasts, aiming to enhance performance and increase muscle mass. The introduction of creatine as a dietary supplement has generated significant interest in understanding its role in exercise performance, muscle health, and other potential health benefits. 

Table of Contents

In this article, we will explore the various aspects of creatine, from its basic functions and benefits to its usage in sports and health.

What are the sources of creatine?

Creatine is a compound made of amino acids—arginine, glycine, and methionine. It’s not a protein but a small, nitrogen-containing compound. Our bodies naturally produce creatine from these amino acids, primarily in the liver and kidneys. Additionally, we can get creatine from our diet. Foods like red meat, fish, and poultry are good sources. For instance, a piece of grilled steak or a fillet of salmon contains a significant amount of creatine.

Although our body can make creatine, dietary sources contribute substantially to the creatine stores in our muscles. For people who do not consume much meat, like vegetarians, the natural production of creatine in the body is especially important. However, the creatine levels in muscles for vegetarians are usually lower compared to those who eat meat.

What are the functions of creatine in the body?

The primary function of creatine in the body is to help make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of the cell. When muscles are working hard, they use up ATP rapidly. Creatine, stored as creatine phosphate in muscle cells, quickly regenerates ATP, providing energy. This process is especially important during short, intense physical activities.

Because it helps rapidly replenish ATP, creatine is crucial for muscle contraction. During activities like lifting weights or sprinting, where quick and powerful muscle movements are required, creatine ensures that the muscles have the energy they need to perform effectively.

The Impact of creatine on muscle mass and strength

Creatine supplementation is often associated with increased muscle mass. It helps draw water into muscle cells, making them larger and promoting a favorable environment for muscle growth.  Additionally, creatine can boost the effects of resistance training by enhancing cellular signals that lead to muscle growth and recovery.

Studies have shown that creatine can improve strength and power output during high-intensity activities. This improvement is likely due to increased muscle energy availability and enhanced growth and recovery of muscle tissues.

What is the effect of creatine on the brain?

Although most known for its role in muscle health, creatine also helps the brain. Research suggests that creatine can improve memory and cognitive function, particularly in tasks that require swift thinking or problem-solving.

Studies have indicated that creatine supplementation might be particularly beneficial when the brain is under stress, such as during sleep deprivation or mental fatigue. This suggests that creatine’s energy-boosting effects are not limited to muscle cells but extend to brain cells.

Why do fitness enthusiasts mostly use creatine?

A man in the gym drinking water from a cup

Creatine is widely used in the world of sports and fitness due to its ability to enhance physical performance and muscle development. 

Many athletes and bodybuilders include creatine in their nutritional regimen. They use it because it helps in short bursts of high-intensity activities like sprinting, weightlifting, and jumping. This makes it a popular supplement in sports that require quick, powerful movements.

The main attraction of creatine in sports is its potential to increase power and strength. This benefit is particularly evident in activities that involve repeated short bouts of high-intensity effort. Additionally, creatine can aid in quicker recovery between these intense bouts, allowing athletes to maintain a high level of performance throughout their training or competition.

The common approach to taking creatine involves loading and maintenance phases. During the loading phase, a higher dose is taken for a few days to rapidly increase the muscle creatine stores. This is typically followed by a lower maintenance dose. However, some prefer to skip the loading phase and take a steady, moderate daily dose from the start. The recommended dosage can vary, but a typical maintenance dose is around 3 to 5 grams daily.

In sports and fitness, creatine is recognized for supporting intensive training and improving performance in high-intensity, short-duration activities. Its role in enhancing muscle recovery also makes it a valuable tool for athletes looking to optimize their training and competitive edge. 

However, individuals need to consider proper dosages and consult with health professionals, especially in competitive sports.

Health benefits of creatine beyond muscle and brain

Health benefits of creatine

While creatine is most known for its benefits in muscle and brain function, it also offers several other health advantages:

It helps to improve cardiovascular health

Creatine has the potential to support cardiovascular health. It may help improve heart function, especially in those with heart conditions or those recovering from cardiac events. Some studies suggest that creatine can enhance the energy metabolism of heart cells, which is crucial for the healthy functioning of the heart.

It helps to increase bone density

Research indicates that creatine might play a role in bone health. It may assist in increasing bone density and strength, particularly when combined with weight-bearing exercises. This aspect of creatine is especially relevant for older adults above 40, who are at a higher risk of bone diseases like osteoporosis.

What are the side effects of using creatine supplements?

While creatine is considered safe for most people, it’s important to be aware of potential side effects and safety considerations.

Some people may experience side effects when taking creatine. These can include

  • Stomach discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight gain, mainly due to water retention in the muscles.

These effects are typically mild and can often be reduced by taking creatine with food or using a lower dose.

Research suggests that long-term use of creatine is safe for healthy individuals. However, there are still questions about the long-term effects of high doses. It’s advisable for individuals to consult with a healthcare provider, especially if they have pre-existing health conditions or are taking other medications.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are creatine side effects?

Common side effects of creatine include stomach discomfort, nausea, muscle cramping, and diarrhea. These are usually mild and can often be reduced by taking creatine with food or using a lower dose. 

Another side effect is weight gain due to water retention in the muscles. It’s important to note that long-term use of creatine is considered safe for healthy individuals, but staying hydrated and following recommended dosages is crucial.

What does a lot of creatine do to your body?

Taking high doses of creatine over a short period, often called the “loading phase,” can rapidly increase the creatine stores in your muscles. This can enhance your muscle’s ability to produce energy rapidly, improving performance in high-intensity exercises. However, excessive intake of creatine, especially over the long term, can lead to unnecessary strain on the kidneys and may cause gastrointestinal issues. 

Should I take creatine every day?

Many people take creatine daily as part of a regular supplement routine. The typical maintenance dose of creatine is around 3 to 5 grams per day. This daily supplementation helps maintain high levels of creatine in the muscles, which can benefit muscle strength, power, and recovery. However, individual needs can vary, so it’s a good idea to consult a healthcare provider to determine the best approach for your goals and health status.

What does creatine do to make you bigger?

Creatine helps increase muscle size primarily through two mechanisms. First, it draws water into your muscle cells, increasing their volume and size. This water retention contributes to a fuller look of the muscles. Second, creatine supports muscle growth by enhancing cellular signals that lead to muscle repair and growth, especially when combined with resistance training. This can result in an increase in muscle mass over time.

About Thomas Arkenis

Avatar photoThomas is a natural health enthusiast and our resident journalist. He's an avid contributor to various traditional medicine conferences and forums, Thomas stays on top of the latest industry trends to bring you the latest product and ingredient innovations.

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