Whether or not you exercise regularly, you have likely heard of creatine supplements. It is one of the most widely used dietary supplements and, quite frankly, it’s for good reason. There is a large body of research behind the efficacy and safety of creatine supplementation. How, though, does it work? Are there side effects? Should I take it? This article will answer all three of those questions!
Energy production. Creatine is an amino acid that is produced by the body in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. Additionally, dietary creatine can be found in meats such as beef and fish. This amino acid is converted into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which the body then uses as an energy source for exercise. On average, a person produces 1-2 grams and consumes 1-2 grams of creatine per day. Supplementation helps to saturate the creatine stores in your muscle, providing more readily available energy and effectively increasing your tolerable workload. Creatine also functions as an antioxidant and may improve cognitive function.
Side effects. Creatine supplementation has been shown to be safe and effective among adults when used properly. The recommended daily dose is 3-5 grams per day (along with plenty of water). Due to the fact that creatine is osmotically active (basically it attracts water) there is an initial increase in water weight of about 2-4 pounds. This is a normal part of the process. To be safe, those with pre-existing kidney conditions should consult their physician before supplementation. It is also recommended that those under the age of 18 avoid creatine supplementation as its effects on still-developing muscles and bones are uncertain.
Is it for you? Again, creatine is one of the most studied and safe supplements available. It has been shown to increase energy and improve performance. Of course, nutrition and exercise are the larger factors at play. That being said, creatine increases energy, has anti-inflammatory properties, and potentially even aids cognitive function. Creatine can be beneficial even without exercise. So, if you haven’t already, give it a try!