The 1 Must-Have Muscle-Building Supplement

Bottom Line: If you want a boost at the gym and a little help growing your muscles, give creatine a try. Combining carbs with creatine can increase creatine levels more than the supplement alone. Never take more than the dose on the label, and if you take more than one supplement, remember to add up the grams. Don’t exceed 30 grams daily for more than a week, and don’t exceed 10 grams daily as a maintenance dose. If you don’t exercise, it’s highly unlikely creatine will help you at all.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring chemical compound in our body that is made from the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. Creatine is found naturally in our skeletal muscle and acts as a substrate, or a supporting material, to act as a quick energy source for the body. Since creatine is needed for muscle energy metabolism, it’s a popular supplement among athletes. But is more necessarily better?

Hundreds of studies have investigated the effectiveness of creatine supplements on athletic performance, strength, and muscle building. While results are mixed, there seems to be some evidence that creatine may increase muscle mass and improve exercise performance in people performing high-intensity training activities. It’s hard to know how effective it is and for whom, because study methods vary so much, study sample sizes are small, and dosing is all over the place.

How does it Work?

Most simply put, creatine is stored inside the muscle cells, which attracts the water that surrounds the cells to actually enlarge the cell. The cells become super hydrated and gives the appearance of a fuller muscle.

Creatine has been shown to increase exercise capacity and indirectly increase muscle mass and strength. A main effect of creatine seems to be increasing exercise capacity, thereby allowing athletes to train harder and produce better results (strength and mass gains). There is no direct anabolic effect of creatine, though it has been shown to increase recovery from intense training.

What Do the Data Say?

Some data suggest that hydrated cells can help reduce catabolism and enhance the body’s ability to make more ATP (the compound that your muscles use for energy). The theory goes like this: by allowing your body to regenerate more ATP, you can then exercise longer and harder, thus taking your training to the next level. This allows you to enter into beast mode and reduce your chances of feeling fatigued post workout.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has stated that creatine monohydrate is one of the most effective nutritional supplements available to athletes in terms of increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training. ISSN also states that there is no scientific evidence that the short- or long-term use of creatine monohydrate has any detrimental effects on otherwise healthy individuals. 

Where Are Some Food Sources?

The best animal source of creatine include beef, pork, wild game such as venison, elk, buffalo, and bison, as well as turkey breast and chicken breast. Cornish hens, lamb and veal as well as fish are also sources of creatine. 

Different Forms of Creatine

Creaitine Monohydrate is the original from that people have been using for quite some time. It is the most widely available creatine product, one of the cheaper versions and the most effective type of creatine. It can cause water bloating in some people.

Micronized Creatine means that the molecules of creatine have been divided, which increases the surface area 20 times, increasing absorption and reducing stomach discomfort that can be common with taking this supplement.

by Brianna Diorio

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