Creatine is easily one of the most misunderstood and mislabeled supplements in the fitness industry. Plenty of people claim that Creatine is not only useless, but that it’s even harmful. Others swear by the benefits of Creatine, claiming that it has helped them train harder and get better results. Most of the people who claim Creatine did nothing for their strength or muscle gains clearly don’t care about a little thing called science.
Whether you are a recreational athlete that loves to stay in shape and build muscle, a middle aged man trying to lose 5-10 lbs of fat or an elite level athlete trying to take his training to the next level – Creatine consumption can help you achieve your goals. In fact, Creatine has over 30 years of scientific muscle building evidence behind it (which makes our job infinitely easier), something that Creatine haters seem to ignore.
The Science Behind Creatine
Throughout this ‘Does Creatine work?’ article, we wanted to clearly define everything that Creatine is not. Creatine itself does not build muscles nor does it do anything in regards to protein synthesis. It’s not a steroid or even a pro-hormone (which we discussed here, by the way). Creatine’s effectiveness as a muscle builder has to do with the energy output of your muscle fibers. According to Jose Antonio, CEO of the international society of Sports Nutrition, “Creatine serves as a fuel source for rapid exercise through increased phosphocreatine (PCr) stores.”
Basically, by taking Creatine before starting an intense workout, you’ll be able to train harder. The more energy you have, the harder you can push yourself. More reps, higher weight, less rest. Creatine gives you the fuel you need to maximize every workout. Creatine is not exercise specific, either. It’s great for compound exercises (squats and dead-lifts) and isolation exercises (Bicep curls and Tricep extensions).
Power lifters can take Creatine before their heavy lifts to maximize their strength and lift to their greatest potential. Swimmers can take Creatine before swimming laps to get the most out of their time in the pool. Creatine supplementation will increase the energy output of these large muscles and allow you to lift heavier weight, break down more muscle fibers and get stronger. So far, so good.
Creatine and Weight Loss
Creatine consumption is also great for losing weight. After all, lifting weights is one of the best ways to lose weight. The more lean muscle mass you carry around, the more calories you’ll burn during physical activities. This is why bodybuilders and athletes are able to stay so lean while eating 5,000+ calories a day.
An interesting note about Creatine supplementation is that it will often cause the coveted ‘after burn’ effect; where the body continues to burn calories and your metabolism spikes after an intense workout. Basically, your muscle fibers need more nutrients to recover, so they keep consuming calories after you’ve finished your workout.
It’s worth noting that some of the best exercises for losing weight are sprinting, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and good old fashioned weight lifting. Why do you see so many overweight people going for short jogs on treadmills? Unfortunately, they don’t know any better. A much easier (and more effective) way to lose weight would be to lift weights. Supplementing Creatine would help people lose weight even faster! (We should also mention that tons of pre-workouts have Creatine in their ingredient profile. Here’s our review of one of the most popular pre-workouts on the market, C4 Extreme.)
Creatine and Water Retention
Many people associate Creatine consumption with water retention and having a bloated appearance. The truth is that water retention is more of an issue of quality than anything else. High quality Creatine like buffered Creatine and Creatine HCL will usually cause very little water retention. Now, some of the older and cheaper Creatine monohydrate powders will cause water retention, no doubt about it.
But unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder, you probably won’t notice the difference. The actual amount of water that is retained through Creatine supplementation is so minimal that, frankly, it’s barely noticeable. The newer formulas have eliminated most of the water retention associated with the older Creatine formulas, but for the fitness newbie looking to save a few dollars/pounds, Creatine monohydrate will work perfectly.
Does Creatine Work? Conclusion
Let’s be honest: there are plenty of supplements out there right now that don’t work. As fitness enthusiasts, most people want to see their friends and family succeed and get healthier, stronger and love fitness as much as they do.
In their efforts to keep people away from scams and generic knock-offs, they may accidentally advise against something that actually works. Creatine is a prime example. Even after years of scientific research have been put out, people still have a certain stigma towards it (some people are utterly convinced that Creatine is just another word for steroids).
Without a doubt, Creatine is a powerful supplement, and its effectiveness has been proven time and time again. Creatine will help you improve your maximum muscle strength, muscular endurance and overall anaerobic power. For best results, make sure to supplement Creatine before and after your workouts.
If you’re new to fitness, you’ll be perfectly fine taking the Creatine monohydrate powder. It’s a proven, effective way to increase your strength and the slight water retention probably won’t affect you. If you are a competitive bodybuilder or fitness model looking to craft the perfect physique for an upcoming competition, we’d recommend spending a little extra to cut down on water retention. Creatine works; now you just have to figure out which version of it is right for you.
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