Should You Take Creatine?

Many athletes are into supplements – I work with them every day as a Sports Dietitian. A common supplement people ask about is creatine. A lot of athletes wonder if they should take creatine or if creatine is safe. I am here to give you some insight into creatine and how it may be a good fit for you. 

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound that is found in animal products. Beef and seafood contain some of the highest levels of naturally occurring creatine, but these still aren’t high levels. Creatine is stored in the body as phosphocreatine, which is then used for energy in your muscles. It has gotten a lot of hype surrounding strength and fitness levels, and is actually one of the most researched supplements on the market. 

Our body also makes around a gram of creatine daily through our liver and pancreas. But if you have ever taken creatine, you know that a standard serving is 5 grams. This effective dosage has been determined through many research studies that have found 5 g to be sufficient to maintain creatine muscle levels after they have been saturated. We will get into the loading phase a little later. 

creatine

Benefits of Creatine Supplementation

You may just be someone who knows you should take creatine, or you want to, but you don’t really know what it does. Here are some of the great benefits research has found: 

  • Greater strength and muscle performance
  • Preventing muscle, ligament, and tendon injury
  • Speed up recovery
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Counteracts bone aging

Is Creatine Safe?

There are some misconceptions surrounding creatine and its safety. Taking creatine in moderate amounts for most individuals will not cause renal damage or GI distress if taken correctly with the help of a medical professional. There is also a non-negotiable with creatine supplements, and that is making sure a supplement is third-party tested. 

How to Spot Third-Party Tested Supplements

If you didn’t know, supplements are only very loosely regulated by the FDA in the United States. Crazy, right?! Supplements are almost a free for all, and it’s the consumers job to make sure they are taking supplements that are safe. There are different companies out there that test supplements for accuracy to make sure what’s inside matches the supplement label on the outside of the container. If you see the stamp of approval from one of the companies below, then what is on the label is actually in the product. 

My favorite stamps to look for are NSF, NSF for Sport, Informed Choice, and USP Verified. These are constantly used and have good practices when it comes to third-party testing. You may notice that some are specific for sport, this is where my athletes come in. 

Athletes at any college or professional level are held to certain standards about substances. There are banned substances by the NCAA and the World Anti-Doping Agency that athletes must be on the look for. If you are buying a supplement without that stamp of third-party testing, you don’t know what you could actually be taking. If you take a supplement only tested for accuracy to the label, not banned substances, you put yourself at risk of ingesting something you would not want to pop up on a banned substance test. 

Don’t feel discouraged though, there are many different third-party tested supplements on the market! Here are a couple of favorites: 

Klean  

How to Take Creatine

There are many different ways you can take creatine, and you will see different methods between people to avoid unwanted side effects. However, there is a researched way to take creatine that will give you the desired benefits you are looking for when taking creatine. 

When starting creatine, you need to saturate your muscles. This is what we call the “loading phase”. This will increase your muscles creatine content so you are at steady levels throughout the rest of your supplementation time. This looks like taking 20 grams (in 5 gram increments) throughout the day, for five to seven days. During this phase you will want to stay on top of your hydration to avoid GI discomfort. However, contrary to popular belief, creatine is NOT dehydrating. Creatine actually works to  

After you have supplemented 20 grams a day for 5-7 days, you will move to a maintenance dose of 5 grams a day. This consistent dose will ensure that you have adequate stores in your muscles of creatine. 

Conclusion

Almost everyone, especially athletes, has heard about creatine. This is something I discuss with clients all the time, and it is something that I recommend. Creatine has many benefits that are heavily covered by research, which makes my dietitian heart happy! This isn’t a fad supplement that will come and go with time that doesn’t really work. It has a time and place for everyone! 

If you have more questions about supplementation and want to work with a professional to see if creatine is for you, apply for 1:1 coaching! We have great resources we want to share with you to make sure you do things correctly and see the results you want.

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