5 Health Benefits of Creatine for Athletes – Strength, Performance

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Creatine is a well-known substance that has been researched thoroughly. While it occurs naturally in the human body, it has also gained popularity as a supplement used by people who are looking to increase physical fitness.

It’s known for contributing to increases in both power and strength. Do you know what we’re talking about? It’s all about creatine.

Our bodies’ amino acids produce creatine naturally. A strong majority of creatine (95%) is stored in the muscles that are attached to our bones.

But how about the other 5%? The rest of this creatine is stored in locations such as the liver, kidneys, and brain and is released whenever we perform any sort of physical activity.

The stored creatine in our skeletal muscles is called phosphocreatine. It comes in handy once it’s released, because it’s jam-packed with strong phosphate groups which give huge jolts of energy to our bodies whenever our muscles are in need.

If you’re an average person, then you’re probably using around 2 grams of creatine on a daily basis.

Creatine is produced, stored, and released naturally in our bodies. It’s enough to keep the average person going.

But how about bodybuilders and athletes? These people may require a bit more. That’s why it has gained popularity as a supplement in the physical-fitness community. Using it as a supplement has been shown to give many health benefits.

This article will be all about using creatine as a supplement. We’ll be giving you 5 vital health benefits of this substance. But we’ll be going over some more details first.

What Creatine Does

As mentioned earlier, the creatine stored in skeletal muscles is called phosphocreatine. Whenever it gets released, your body gets an instant and rapid boost of ATP. This is needed whenever physical activity is being performed.

During maximum-capacity physical effort, strong jolts of energy will last in a range of 5-10 seconds before having a drop in phosphocreatine stores, which causes fatigue.

So, when you take it as a supplement, what happens? Two main things will happen. First, it will re-generate more ATP during your workout.

Second, you’ll have an increase in phosphocreatine stores, which positively affects recovery after the workout. (study)

All together, this lends a hand to increases in overall strength gains. These gains are the reasons why so many people in the fitness community are turning towards the supplement.

Using creatine supplements will do more than just aid in the regeneration of ATP and increase phosphocreatine stores. Creatine is attracted to water and when its molecules enter the cells, water molecules follow along.

This causes the cells to swell. Whenever the cells swell, this gives our bodies an anabolic signal. This signal leads to extra utilization of glycogen and protein. It also minimizes the overall breakdown of protein.

Benefit #1: Workout Performance & Muscle Gains

This is one of the biggest benefits towards using creatine as a supplement. And it’s why many people in the physical-fitness community are turning towards the substance.

Whenever creatine supplements are used, there’s a huge burst of energy that happens during anaerobic exercise.

These high-intensity workout bursts cause increased performance during power training. And this leads to gains in strength as well. Let’s look at what the studies have to say.

Workout Performance

Studies have shown that weightlifting performance has been positively affected by the use of creatine supplements. (study, study, study)

For example, at maximum strength, the maximal amount of repetitions used in the exercise were increased by 26%.

To put that into more understandable terms, let’s suppose that you were bench-pressing a certain weight 4 times at maximal effort. By using creatine, you could add an entire rep to the set, allowing you to press it 5 times instead.

Muscle Gains

There’s a study that puts the effects of creatine up against the effects of protein as supplementation. The study involves the use of creatine monohydrate at 6-24 grams daily, and protein at 20 grams daily.

Through muscle mass building exercise routines, it was shown that the creatine supplementation when combined with dextrose actually increased the growth of muscles by as much as protein supplementation.

The use of creatine and dextrose can cause 20% more growth in the muscles, in contrast to not using any at all.

Effects On Myostatin

Myostatin is a specific protein which is produced and released by myocytes. Myostatin actually inhibits the growth of cells in the muscles. When there are high levels of myostatin in the body, this adversely affects muscle growth.

When creatine is paired with resistance training, it actually brings the levels of myostatin down. In turn, this causes an increase in the potential of muscle growth. Power athletes can take advantage of muscle gains by using creatine.

Benefit #2: Brain Health

When it comes to using creatine as a supplement, the benefits reach far beyond muscle growth and increases in workout performance. It has also been shown to positively affect the health of the brain as well. (study, study)

People with Parkinson’s disease can find creatine beneficial as it can help protect your brain in ways that can prevent depression. Creatine can also help with the cognitive functioning of the brain. Let’s dig a little deeper into the details.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that has negative effects on dopaminergic neurons in a specific area of the brain.

PD adversely affects the movement of the victim. People with PD often find themselves prone to poor fitness, losses of mass in the muscles, less strength, and above-average fatigue.

A study was performed with mice. The results showed that creatine helps prevent drops in the dopamine levels in the brain.

Small amounts of dopamine are what cause certain symptoms in people with Parkinson’s disease. By using creatine, someone with PD can help prevent lowering dopamine levels. It will also increase strength and workout performance in patients.

Diminishing Depression

There was a study performed on 5 different women who were dealing with depression. These subjects had no positive response to past therapeutic treatments.

These women were given 4 grams of creatine on a daily basis, which was included with the SSRI antidepressants that were already being taken.

The women reported enhancements in mood. This enhanced mood can be contributed to the increases in phosphocreatine levels, shown through brain imaging.

Other Forms Of Brain Protection

Studies have been performed on animals to test the efficiency of creatine on other brain-related issues. Creatine supplementation was shown to improve the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

Creatine was also shown to decrease the chances of brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, epilepsy, and strokes. It was also shown to protect neurotransmitters (GABA) from damages that could occur over time.

Cognitive Functioning

Creatine is well-known for helping decrease muscle fatigue. But it’s also been shown to help decrease mental fatigue as well. In turn, this improves overall cognitive functioning. Studies have shown many positive benefits for creatine affecting cognitive abilities.

For example, whenever vegetarians used creatine as a supplement, they improved their brains’ processing speed, memory, and overall intelligence.

Pairing Use With Coenzyme Q10

There was a study conducted on 75 different people who had PD and mild cases of impairment to their cognitive abilities.

When Coenzyme Q10 was paired with creatine, results showed that the participants found delays in the declination of their cognitive abilities. The study required the combination of these 2 to be given for over 18 months.

Benefit #3: Decreased Muscle Damage & Muscle Fatigue

It’s no mystery that creatine efficiently aids muscles in growth. But on top of this, creatine has also been shown to decrease the chances of muscle damage and muscle fatigue as well. (study, study)

When carbohydrates were paired with creatine, a study showed that the knee extensor muscle recovered more quickly.

When maltodextrin was paired with creatine, studies showed that runners had a reduction in inflammation. Creatine alone also showed to have positive effects on inflammation when studied in young sprinters.

Benefit #4: Reduced Muscle Loss Due To Aging

Studies were conducted on a group of elderly people. The results showed that creatine supplementation can help slow the deterioration of muscles due to aging. (study)

Not only that, but supplementation also pointed towards an improvement in endurance along with strength increases when paired with resistance training.

There was another study conducted which involved 30 elderly men. The results showed that, when paired with proper workout routines, supplementation increased the mass of lean tissue. It also improved leg strength and overall endurance.

In 2 more studies involving 46 elderly people, it showed positive effects on overall functional capacity.

Benefit #5: May Increase Testosterone

While creatine supplementation is known throughout the fitness community for increasing testosterone, there are still more studies that should be done. (study)

While study results have pointed towards an overall increase in testosterone, some of the results have been inconsistent. Let’s look further into some previous studies that were conducted.

There were multiple studies conducted on athletes who ranged from amateurs and all the way up to elite athletes.

For the athletes who were sprint-swimming and taking creatine supplements, there was found to be a 14% increase in testosterone. Rugby players who were deprived of sleep also found jumps in their testosterone levels.

However, in the elite college football and rugby players, there was very little (if any) increase in the overall testosterone levels. This inconsistency in the results leads to further studies needing to be conducted.

Better When Combined with Glycerol & Dextrose

Human case studies have shown that creatine supplementation combined with glycerol like GlycerSize can increase cell volumization by over 40% more. (study)

When combined with dextrose it can increase glycogen resynthesis (muscle fuel) by as much as 82% and it was as powerful of a muscle builder as protein supplementation. (study)

Creatine Supplements: Many Benefits Await

Creatine is a naturally-occurring substance in the human body and is created by amino acids. Around 95% of creatine is stored in the muscles attached to our bones, where it’s released whenever we perform physical activity.

People who engage in an average amount of physical activity will do just fine with their naturally-occurring amounts of creatine. However, when it comes to people who have high-intensity workouts, supplementing with it can be beneficial.

If you do a lot of anaerobic exercises, then you’ll be able to reap the benefits that supplementation has to offer.

You’ll not only find increases in workout performance, but you’ll find increases in overall muscle gains as well. It’s worth noting that creatine supplements will have little-to-no effects on people who engage in endurance workout routines only.

While more studies are needed, there is a correlation between creatine supplementation and improved brain health. It has effects on the neurotransmitters in the brain, which can contribute to mood enhancement.

Creatine Dosing – How Much Should You Take?

First and foremost, this guide should be used as secondary information to whatever your doctor recommends if he/she has recommended the use of creatine to you.

With that being said, the most common dosage is either 5g of creatine monohydrate or 3g of creatine HCL.

HCL is more water soluble than monohydrate so you need less of it to accomplish the same bioabsorption rate.

If you eat a ridiculous amount of red meat, you may already be loaded up since that is the best natural source.

However, there are a lot of negative health consequences with eating extreme amounts of red meat so this is not advisable. It’s just easier and safer to consume it in supplement form.

Will Creatine Damage Your Kidneys?

There’s a bit of a myth surrounding creatine and the health of your kidneys. You may have heard that the supplement can do some serious damage to your kidneys. However, studies prove otherwise.

Short, medium, and long-term studies have shown that creatine is safe to use and that it poses no direct risks to your kidneys. The myth comes from a single-case study from a specific patient who had kidney disease and used it as a supplement.

Whenever creatine is broken down, it turns into creatinine. Properly-functioning kidneys will work to quickly remove creatinine. However, if kidneys are damaged, they will not remove the creatinine.

This was the case in the above single-case study. If your kidneys are damaged and you’re taking it as a supplement, you’ll see a heavy rise in creatinine levels.

If your kidneys are functioning normally, then you will only see a rise in creatinine if you take heavy doses of creatine. However, your kidneys should remove creatinine quickly.

Potential Side Effects: Exercising Safe Use

Whenever using creatine as a supplement, it’s known to likely be safe for use whenever doses are taken up to 20 grams on a daily basis.

However, there are some side effects that can arise due to dehydration or taking too much creatine at a time. These side effects include stomach pains and stomach cramping.

How can you help to prevent stomach pains and cramping when using creatine? For starters, it’s good to always stay hydrated throughout the day.

Especially if you plan on doing high-intensity workouts, which are the ones recommended for creatine use. Also, using HCL instead of the Monohydrate form will allow you to take a smaller dosage for the same results which may help eliminate any possible side effects.