If you’re actively lifting weights in the gym or participating in some type of sport or activity that involves a good deal of sprint-like training, one thing you need to be aware of is how creatine is going to impact your performance.
If you’ve read about supplements before, you’ve very likely heard of creatine on more than one occasion.
But, you still may not have a firm idea of whether this is something that you should be using or whether it’s more for those who are looking to get large, bulky muscles.
Let’s go over what creatine is, where you can find it, and whether you should consider supplementing.
What Does Creatine Do?
First let’s talk about how creatine can help you. Whenever you perform an intense muscular contraction, your body is going to rely on a molecule called ATP to help perform that action. ATP is the fuel source that helps you hoist 150 pounds on bench press or run that 50-meter dash you do when performing interval training.
When you first start out your workout session, you have a certain amount of ATP already sitting there waiting to be used in your muscle cells. Typically you’ll have enough to last around 5-8 seconds depending on the individual.
Once that ATP is used up however, you now need to find a way to make more. Enter creatine.
Creatine comes into play here because it will then begin to join up with a molecule called ADP, which then makes it ATP. As this takes place, you now have more ATP to which you can continue performing the exercise with.
This process will happen very rapidly as long as there is sufficient creatine in your system. When your creatine stores run out however, you’re full out of fuel and the exercise intensity will have to be lowered.
So as you can see, elevating your creatine levels in your body will serve to help you exercise longer at that intense pace, which can then lead to greater training progress.
Foods That Contain Creatine
The good news is that each and every day, you will make some creatine naturally. The manufacturing of creatine happens in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas when you take in foods rich in a combination of different amino acids.
Which foods provide the best sources? It would appear that the absolute best way to top up your creatine sources is by eating wild game meat such as venison, elk, buffalo, and bison. Sadly, many people hardly ever consume these in their daily diet. This is one big reason why they turn to supplementation instead.
Wild game isn’t the only source of these important amino acids however. You will also take in some creatine when you eat free range chicken, turkey breast, lamb, as well as veal. These need to be free range however to reap full benefits. Most people eat grain-fed, which won’t provide the level of creatine you’re looking for.
Finally, wild caught fish will also provide some creatine, however the level is much lower than the sources noted above.
If you are looking for non-meat sources of creatine, you’ll be out of luck. In order to provide sufficient amino acids for your body to manufacture creatine, you’ll need to eat foods that contain a mixture of arginine, glycine, and methionine. This means turning to peanuts, walnuts, coconuts, chickpeas, and oatmeal for arginine; seaweed, spirulina, watercress, spinach, and sesame seeds for glycine; and brazil nuts, oats, and sunflower seeds for methionine.
It can take quite a bit of effort for vegetarians to eat enough of these sources to get sufficient creatine to exert full benefits, so again, supplementation is often the route they choose to go.
So if you are considering supplementation, how much should you take? If you are eating plenty of the meat sources noted above that contain creatine, you should be fine with a minimum dose of around 2.5-3 grams per day. You will likely already have some creatine in your system, so you’ll simply want to top it up by using the supplement.
If you are a vegetarian or someone who is training exceptionally hard (or has a very large amount of muscle mass), taking your creatine supplementation into the 5-10 grams per day range may be more beneficial.
This will help ensure that you always have high levels and are ready to tackle those intense workouts that come your way.
Take note that you will be best served by using your creatine immediately post workout along with a fast acting carbohydrate source, which will best help drive the creatine straight into the muscle cell.
Some individuals also choose to perform a loading phase, taking 20 grams of creatine (4, 5 gram servings) for a period of 5 days prior to moving into the maintenance dosages mentioned above.
You can do this loading phase if you want and if you believe you are quite low in creatine, however some people do experience water retention and/or cramping from doing it, so just be aware those may be some side effects you notice.
All in all, creatine is one of the most research-backed and proven supplements that you can be using as you go about your workout program. If you hope to build lean muscle mass or increase your overall speed and power, it is one product that can definitely help you achieve success.