There are several types of creatine supplements in the market. Creatine is an athlete’s best friend. Whether you’re just weight training or looking to get the best out of your workouts, creatine is the supplement you may want to consider using. Why? what is creatine and what does it do? Well, you’re about to find out. This article covers every detail you need to know about creatine, and we’ve also provided a list of some of the best types of creatine on the market to help you’ll find one that would fit your lifestyle and workouts.
WHAT IS CREATINE?
Normally, creatine is produced in the body and mostly stored in the skeletal muscles where it acts as an energy reserve to delay the onset of muscle fatigue, allowing you to carry out high-intensity activities such as weight lifting and sprints, for longer periods, eventually leading to strength gains and increased endurance levels. The brain also stores creatine which it uses for energy metabolism for neurons.
Creatine in the brain helps to improve cognitive functions. Creatine is produced in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. It can also be obtained from dietary sources, primarily from meat. Vegetarians typically have lower amounts of creatine in their bodies, but they could make up for it by taking creatine supplements.
BENEFITS OF CREATINE
Creatine offers many benefits for both health and performance in training, particularly training that involves weight lifting or any other high-intensity workouts. Here are some benefits of creatine:
- Creatine boosts your strength and endurance level so you can push yourself harder and longer during your workout sessions.
- It also improves your energy levels and mental focus so you can get the most out of your workouts.
- Creatine pulls excess water into your muscles which makes them swell and look bigger, thereby promoting muscle growth and performance. It also provides psychological benefits this way by boosting your confidence in the gym.
- Creatine promotes muscle recovery so you can train harder and do more reps between sets and exercises.
- There is evidence that creatine has neuroprotective effects as well as benefits that improves cognitive performance.
- It can help create new muscle tissue and increase lean body mass.
- Creatine also boosts overall body metabolism.
HOW CREATINE WORKS
When doing high-intensity workouts, your body depends on ATP for energy, however, ATP supplies energy at a particular rate, so if you continue pushing your muscles to their maximum, your body exhausts ATP faster than it receives, leading to depletion in ATP.
When ATP is exhausted, the creatine that is stored in the muscles in its phosphate form (creatine phosphate) is broken down to form more ATP for the body to use as energy. This reaction is faster, so more ATP is supplied to the body, which is what you need for an explosive workout session.
Naturally, creatine stores in the bodies of adults are about 120g, but this can be increased through supplementation. By taking creatine supplements, you essentially increase the total creatine pool in your body, thereby preventing fast ATP depletion during workouts and providing you with more energy for a more productive workout.
TYPES OF CREATINE
Here’s a breakdown of the different types of creatine supplements:
1. Creatine Monohydrate
This is the most common type of creatine supplement on the market. It is also the most researched type of creatine. A review of the safety of creatine in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that creatine monohydrate has a more physiological effect on intramuscular levels, compared to other types of creatine.
That is to say that creatine monohydrate offers more benefits such as improved upper and lower body exercise performance. Creatine monohydrate is made by bonding creatine to a water molecule. It’s cost-effective and proven to be safe and effective.
2. Buffered Creatine
Manufacturers of this type of creatine aim to improve the stability of creatine in the stomach, by adding an alkaline powder such as bicarbonate to the supplement. The creatine that addition to this buffering agent creates a slightly more alkaline compound which can decrease the rate of creatine breakdown in the stomach and improve its uptake in the muscle. A study of buffered creatine showed that there is no difference between it and creatine monohydrate in terms of effectiveness and tendency to cause any side effects.
3. Creatine Hydrochloride
It is made by binding creatine to parts of hydrochloride molecules. Hydrochlorides dissolve faster and better in water, so it is believed that they can also be absorbed as efficiently in the body, therefore should be taken in smaller amounts to achieve the same benefits. It is also believed that since less is consumed, you’ll need to use less water, which helps with bloating and other gastrointestinal symptoms you may experience when taking creatine monohydrate, however, these beliefs are more speculations than they’re facts as there are no data to support them.
4. Creatine Nitrate
Creatine nitrate is a more recent type of creatine supplement on the market. It is made by binding creatine molecules to nitrate molecules. Manufacturers claim that by doing this people will receive equal benefits from a smaller dose of creatine nitrate compared to creatine monohydrate.
To back up this claim, a 2016 study found that there was no significant difference in lifting volumes between people who took a low dose of creatine nitrate and those who took creatine monohydrate. Preliminary findings suggest that so long as you’ve supplemented with creatine for at least 28 days, you’ll have enhanced exercise performance just as someone who supplemented with creatine monohydrate.
5. Creatine Ethyl Ester
This type of creatine is made by binding creatine to ester salts. Manufacturers claim that creatine ethyl ester is superior to creatine monohydrate, however, a 2009 study proved these claims wrong as the result of the study showed that creatine ethyl ester produced no additional benefits to increased muscle strength or performance.
On the other, some evidence indicates that creatine ethyl ester may be better absorbed in the body than creatine monohydrate, but this depends on the rate of muscle uptake in each person.
6. Liquid Creatine
This type of creatine is packaged in a liquid ready-to-drink formula, instead of in a powder form. Although this type of creatine may seem more convenient than other types of creatine supplements, research shows that liquid creatine is less effective and break down easily when it remains in liquid form for several days.
7. Creatine Magnesium Chelate
Magnesium is bounded to creatine to make this type of creatine supplement. There are claims that it absorbs more effectively than creatine monohydrate, however, there are limited studies to affirm this.
SIDE EFFECTS OF CREATINE
Creatine is considered safe and its side effects are usually mild, but to minimize the risk of experiencing side effects, it’s a good idea to take creatine with a large glass of water and salt, since it pulls more liquid into the muscles. Also, talk with your doctor about potential side effects and follow their instructions on how to take the supplement.
However, you may experience the following when taking creatine supplements:
- Mild stomach discomfort
- Muscle cramps
HOW TO TAKE CREATINE SUPPLEMENTS
Creatine can be taken either before or after a workout session, however, it is best taken after workouts because then it provides you with the energy boost you need and reduces fatigue. It also helps muscle recovery, so you’ll be able to train better and frequently throughout the week.
Whereas when taken before workouts, you risk experiencing muscle cramps and nausea which will make you not enjoy your workout for long. This depends on the individual, some people do better taking the supplement before working out without experiencing any side effects, so it is advised to try both ways and see which works for you.
You could also take creatine with other supplements such as post-workouts and weight gainers. An easy way to do this is to mix your creatine supplement with your other supplement and add it to a smoothie.
Be sure to take lots of water almond with your dose of creatine supplements as it can help with better uptake into your muscle tissue and reduce any potential side effects. Also, for better effectiveness, you could take the supplement with a meal that is rich in carbohydrates and protein.
It will also improve uptake into your muscles and reduce potential side effects of taking creatine on an empty stomach. Changing your creatine doses at least weekly will help increase its effectiveness because then, your body does not adapt to the dose which will continue to improve uptake into your muscle tissue.
Don’t take creatine with caffeinated drinks as they can reduce creatine uptake into your muscles and also reduce its benefits. Don’t take it on your rest days, that will make you feel bloated, affect your performance when you go to the gym, and lead to poor sleep.
You now have a list of different types of creatine supplements and their levels of effectiveness, hopefully, this helps you when you get to the roll of different types of creatine supplements in the supermarket.