What Is Creatine?
And Should You Be Taking It?
By James Brusard B.S.
Over the past several decades, countless dietary supplements have flooded the fitness industry claiming to do everything from improving performance to dropping body fat in a few short weeks. The unfortunate truth about many of these products is that most are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and may contain variable quantities of the desired supplement, filler ingredients, and even contaminants that may be harmful if ingested. Creatine, on the other hand, is available over the counter and in various forms, and is not screened for or banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the International Olympic Committee (IOC), or the NCAA.
Since creatine grew in popularity in the early 1990s, 1,000+ clinical trials and studies have been conducted with billions of servings of creatine ingested. Creatine is now regularly used among recreational, collegiate, and professional athletes as one of the most popular sports dietary supplements on the market, with more than $400 million in annual sales. Creatine in supplement form is a tasteless, crystalline powder that readily dissolves in liquids when in monohydrate form. Roughly 95% is stored in skeletal muscle in fast twitch, type II fibers. It serves as an energy substrate for the contraction of skeletal muscle with the intention of creatine supplementation being to increase phosphocreatine levels in muscles, as well as free creatine, with the goal of postponing fatigue, for performance enhancing results.
Creatine is one of the most popular nutritional ergogenic aids for athletes. Studies have consistently shown that creatine supplementation increases intramuscular creatine concentrations which helps aids in the performance of high intensity exercise performance leading to greater training adaptations. In addition to athletic and exercise improvement, research has shown that creatine supplementation may enhance post-exercise recovery, injury prevention, thermoregulation, rehabilitation, and concussion and/or spinal cord neuroprotection. Clinical applications of creatine supplementation have been studied involving neurodegenerative diseases (muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease), diabetes, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, aging, brain and heart ischemia, adolescent depression, and pregnancy. These studies provide a large body of evidence that creatine can not only improve exercise performance but can play a role in preventing and/or reducing the severity of injury, enhancing rehabilitation from injuries, and helping athletes tolerate heavy training loads.
In terms of its general makeup, creatine is a nitrogenous organic compound found in muscle that is available in the diet through consumption of milk, red and white meat, fish, and mollusks, with meat and fish providing the richest sources. A typical non-vegetarian diet supplies anywhere from 1 to 2 g of creatine per day. An average 155 lb young man has a creatine pool between 120 and 140 g, varying by muscle fiber type and muscle bulk.
In a normal diet that contains 1–2 g/day of creatine, muscle creatine stores are about 60–80% saturated. The most effective way to increase muscle creatine stores is to ingest 5 g of creatine monohydrate (or approximately 0.3 g/kg body weight) four times daily for 5–7 days. A loading dose of creatine is often used prior to implementation of a daily maintenance dose. Some studies have indicated that creatine stores can be increased without a loading dose, albeit over longer periods of time. A commonly accepted loading dose regimen is 20 to 25 grams per day, divided 4 times daily for 5 to 7 days. After the loading phase is complete a 5-10g per day dosage is required for maintenance.
Despite the large body of research supporting supplementation of creatine, the majority of the products on the market are not regulated by the FDA. This illustrates the importance of putting your trust into products like DotFit’s creatine monohydrate that is NSF certified for sport, which means it’s third-party tested and guaranteed to be both safe and effective.
Still have questions about proper creatine supplementation. Schedule a complimentary Nutrition Consultation.
Butts, J., Jacobs, B., & Silvis, M. (2018). Creatine Use in Sports. Sports Health, 10(1), 31-34.
Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., & Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, (14)18.