Fuel Your Workouts With Creatine - Oxygen Magazine

Fuel Your Workouts With Creatine

Add a little fire to your training with creatine.
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Women considering creatine for the first time always lament, “I don’t want to get too big, bulky and bloated.” Even devoted Oxygen readers who covet muscle shudder at the thought of having too much of it. rest assured ladies, you won’t turn into “The Situation” just by taking creatine. What can you expect? better workouts that lead to a stronger, leaner you. Piqued your interest yet? Get to know how this well-researched supplement can help you perform at your peak in the gym.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a natural compound found primarily in fish and red meats (beef, lamb, pork). Note that there isn’t much in chicken or turkey. Non-vegetarians take in about one gram of creatine per day (or more if they eat a lot of red meats and fish).

Creatine is also produced in your body, primarily in the liver, from the precursor amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine, at a rate of about one to two grams per day. Even though creatine is made from amino acids (the building blocks of protein), it’s not considered a protein in itself. Unlike proteins, creatine synthesis does not involve formation of peptide bonds, and its degradation does not involve removal of nitrogen when excreted from the body. So, the thought that creatine intake can harm your kidneys because they have to work harder to remove nitrogen is not a concern. In fact, many studies have confirmed the safety of creatine for healthy women, with no harm to kidney function at all.

Supplemental creatine is manufactured in a lab, and is a tasteless and odorless white powder. There are many forms of creatine on the market, but what you want to choose is the most common and effective type: creatine monohydrate (in powder or liquid form). Stay away from creatine ethyl esters, as they are potentially dangerous to your health.

How It Helps You Train Better

The role of creatine in your body is to help your muscles work harder and longer. It does this by tag-teaming with a phosphate (P) molecule to create a compound called phosphocreatine (PCr). Creatine in the form of PCr plays an integral role in energy metabolism within the muscle cell, especially in activities that require short bursts of intense energy, like weightlifting and sprinting. PCr replenishes our basic unit of energy, ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate), which helps drive quick, short-duration muscular movement such as lifting weights.

This is the key, because the reason people get tired during intense exercise, or your muscles can’t perform difficult exercises over and over again, is that we only have small stores of ATP in our body to make these movements possible. But, with the extra PCr from creatine, you’re given more fuel — which you wouldn’t have had otherwise — to support these types of exercises. This means you can exercise harder for longer, and burn more fat and calories. So, instead of fatiguing after just five or eight seconds of a really hard sprint, you can run for 10 to 12 seconds; or, instead of giving out during a heavy squat session, you can push harder and last longer.

Research on Women

Sports supplement research is historically conducted on men, for several reasons: scientists know that studying women is hard (hey, we’re complex creatures!) due to things like greater hormonal variations and smaller muscular responses. But there is recent evidence that clearly shows that creatine can help gals build muscle faster than they would without it.

In 2011, researchers from Canada showed that creatine monohydrate influenced muscle size and strength in 17 women aged 21 to 28 years old. They were given five to eight grams of creatine or a placebo in a split dose before and after a workout that was completed either two or three times per week. Measurements were taken for muscle thickness of the biceps, triceps, quadriceps and hamstrings. At the end, the women had a significant increase in muscle size and strength with creatine supplementation compared to no supplementation at all. There was a great increase in biceps thickness, and a significant improvement in lower-body strength. However, upper-body strength hadn’t improved significantly, but this may be because the training period was only six weeks long.

A similar study examined the effects of 35 days of creatine monohydrate supplementation on 16 female lacrosse players (aged 18 to 22 years old) during their pre-season conditioning program. Some of the women took a loading dose of 20 grams of creatine per day for seven days, followed by a maintenance dose of two grams per day for the remaining days.

The other women took a placebo. All women completed a resistance-training workout three times per week. The results: those taking creatine had a greater increase in their maximum bench press strength.

Overall, these studies support several others showing the beneficial effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation on strength, muscle size and weightlifting performance in women.

How To Use Creatine

Take three grams of creatine monohydrate per day with meals, or in your workout shake before and after your workout.

Why? An average healthy person excretes approximately two grams of creatine each day. Taking at least three grams per day will replace this loss and enhance your muscle creatine content. Depending on your bodyweight and training intensity, you can take up to six grams a day.

Tip: Take creatine with sugar or a meal containing carbs and protein.

Why? The purpose of this is to initiate the release of insulin in the body, which drives more creatine into muscle cells. Insulin rises with food intake, especially when the food contains carbohydrates (sugar, sweet potatoes, oatmeal) and amino acids from protein (whey, fish, eggs).

When you take creatine with carbs or both carbs and protein, you can ensure that your body will respond to the strength- and performance-enhancing benefits of creatine. Otherwise, it may do nothing for you. Note: if you’re really worried about water retention, be sure that you don’t exceed more than 50 grams of sugar with creatine. This will cause a huge insulin spike and water retention. Figure competitors avoid sugar when they’re in contest prep mode for this reason.

Creatine Outside Of The Gym

It has been studied for many other purposes: in people with clinical depression, creatine was found to have beneficial effects on low self-esteem and social withdrawal. It can also help post-menopausal women maintain ideal bone mineral density and bone strength, which helps prevent or delay osteopenia and osteoarthritis. Finally, it’s been given to pregnant mice and was shown to help protect the brains of babies born in situations of low oxygen levels.

Busting Creatine Myths

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Some people claim that you must take a very high dose of creatine (10 to 20 grams per day) for one week straight or longer to drive creatine into muscles quickly, and pump them up with as much creatine as possible. However, this practice is not needed unless you require creatine to work immediately.

Bloating

Creatine can make you bloated, but not if you stick to pure brands devoid of fillers or flavors (creatine monohydrate). If you do gain water weight, keep in mind that it is only a short-term effect; stick it out and you will see the benefits.

Daily Dosing

You can choose to take creatine every day, or just on training days. In the Canadian study previously mentioned, the researchers found that creatine did not need to be taken daily, but was better taken in smaller, more frequent doses on training days. To increase muscle size and strength, try supplementing with creatine two or three times per week before and after your workouts.

Take three grams of creatine monohydrate per day with meals, or in your workout shake before and after your workout.

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