Creatine: intake and use
Creatine can increase performance during short, intense workouts and is, therefore, one of the most popular nutritional supplements for muscle building.
Creatin, auch oft als Kreatin bezeichnet, ist eine körpereigene Substanz, die zur Versorgung mit Energie beiträgt. Der Körper ist zwar in der Lage, Creatin in der Leber, Bauchspeicheldrüse und den Nieren zu bilden, jedoch können wir den Wirkstoff auch über die Ernährung aufnehmen, wobei die Substanz vornehmlich in Fleisch und Fisch vorkommt. Da Creatin die körperliche Leistungsfähigkeit bei kurzzeitigen, intensiven Belastungen steigern kann, wird es sehr gerne als Nahrungsergänzungsmittel eingenommen, um im Training mehr Kraft zu gewinnen und den Muskelaufbau zu steigern.
What is creatine?
Creatine is an endogenous substance that was discovered in 1832 by the French chemist Eugène Chevreul. In 1847, the German chemist Justus von Liebig was able to detect it in the meat of various mammals.
Creatine is 90 percent found in skeletal muscles because the body can synthesize it from the three amino acids methionine, glycine, and arginine in the liver and pancreas as well as in the kidneys. In addition, the active ingredient is in meat and fish (2 to 7 grams per kilogram), so that we can also get the substance through our diet.
It is particularly interesting for athletes who want more energy while training that we can take the body's own active ingredient as a dietary supplement. In fact, creatine is known to improve physical performance during short, intensive workouts, such as sprinting, strength training and bodybuilding.
Because of this effect, not only younger, but also older people can benefit from creatine to improve muscle growth and prevent age-related muscle loss, provided the dietary supplement is combined with exercise.
Especially for vegans and vegetarians, taking creatine as a dietary supplement can be of great importance, since the active ingredient is hardly found in plant-based foods. The body can make it itself, but this amount is often not enough to improve performance in sports.
Effects of creatine
Creatine can improve physical performance, which is why many athletes take the active ingredient as a dietary supplement. As a result, the body can create a much larger supply of creatine in the muscle cells, which can have a positive effect above all on the increase in strength, accompanied by improved muscle building. The fact that the intake of creatine leads to a faster supply of ATP has the advantage that athletes can regenerate better and recover faster after training or competition.
Since 90 percent of the body's own creatine stores are located in the skeletal muscles, more creatine may be necessary, especially during exercise, in order to provide the muscle cells with the required energy or the additional energy requirement. In strength training and bodybuilding as well as in sprinting, the body needs a lot of energy within a very short time, which is released in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
Unfortunately, the body's creatine stores are quickly used up after an intensive workout, which can be compensated for by an additional intake of creatine. By adding creatine as a dietary supplement, the body can also provide more ATP. Depending on the disposition and body type, the performance can be increased by 10 to 15 percent.
Although creatine cannot have a direct effect on muscle building, this effect is caused by the increase in strength, which can then indirectly contribute to an improvement in muscle building.
When does creatine work?
Basically, creatine can work best when the creatine stores are full. However, there are also people, so-called "non-responders", for whom the dietary supplement does not work at all. This is often the case when the creatine stores are completely filled by diet alone and no further supplementation is necessary.
Creatine as a dietary supplement
In order to increase the performance for short-term, intensive workouts, a longer-term intake of creatine is recommended. Creatine is usually taken as a dietary supplement in the form of creatine monohydrate over a period of three to six months, but long-term use is also considered to be harmless.
With older people, in particular, it can often make sense to take creatine daily in order to prevent an age-related decrease in physical performance, usually associated with progressive muscle loss.
Although a so-called "loading phase" is often recommended, in which 20 to 25 grams of creatine are taken, this is no longer needed then, since the creatine level after four weeks of use is just as high as after a loading phase.
How much creatine should you take daily?
We recommend three to five grams of creatine a day, which are generally considered "harmless" and can also be taken over a longer period, if not long-term. How much creatine each person needs depends on a few factors, for example
- physical performance,
- type of the sport,
- existing muscle mass,
- the size of creatine stores,
Depending on the weight and size of the creatine stores, an adult can store an average of 120 to 150 grams of creatine. Unused creatine is simply excreted in the urine.
Creatine is often bought as a powder and stirred into liquids, but there is also the option of taking the dietary supplement as tablets or capsules. Tablets and capsules have the advantage that they are easier to dose, which makes it much easier to take creatine, especially if you travel a lot but still don't want to do without the nutritional supplement. Basically, users should make sure that they have adequate hydration, because creatine binds water.
The powder dissolves best in warm water. However, it can also be stirred into cold drinks, but it takes a little longer for the powder to dissolve completely. It can also make sense to dissolve the dietary supplement in grape juice, since the release of insulin can contribute to an even better intake.
Since it is currently assumed that caffeine can reduce the effects of creatine, users should avoid caffeinated drinks as much as possible.
When should you take creatine?
Creatine is shown to have a positive effect on performance, but the question always arises when best it should be taken.
Since the active ingredient can be stored in the body, it does not really matter at what point in time the creatine is taken. In general, however, it is advisable to take creatine about an hour before or after training - if possible on an empty stomach - so that the body can reabsorb it more easily.
After training, taking creatine can be particularly beneficial because the cells can absorb the active ingredient even better thanks to the stimulated metabolism and improved blood circulation. Incidentally, creatine should also be taken on non-training days so that the creatine stores are always full and an optimal effect can be achieved. However, the intake time does not play a major role here.
How long should you take creatine?
As previously described, creatine can be taken long-term safely, although many athletes still opt for a creatine regimen lasting several weeks. This can happen, for example, as part of a training break or during the definition phase so that the body can recover from the stress and regenerate.
Because the body stores less water during the break, the muscles also look less plump, while the built-up muscles are fully preserved.
Who should take creatine?
Since the active ingredient contributes to better physical performance during short-term and intensive workouts, the intake of creatine is especially for
- strength athletes,
Vegans and vegetarians in particular can benefit from supplementation because they take in too little creatine through their diet and the energy stores are often not sufficient for higher exertion. Regular intake of creatine ensures that the creatine stores are filled to the maximum, which means that the body can also provide more energy during training.
Creatine side effects
When taking a dietary supplement, the question naturally arises whether creatine also has any side effects. However, since it is a safe dietary supplement, it does not have any side effects, provided that it is creatine, which is 100 percent creatine monohydrate.
The only “side effect” is that creatine stores more water in the muscles when you take it for a long time, which can lead to weight gain. How much water is ultimately stored and whether users actually gain weight depends on the body type and can therefore not be generalized.
Nevertheless, creatine is time and again associated with unpleasant side effects, such as diarrhea or abdominal pain. However, this is mostly due to an excessive intake of creatine, for example during a "loading phase".
Take creatine with protein?
Many athletes wonder whether they can also take the creatine in combination with protein, for example after training in the form of a post-workout shake. There is nothing wrong with this, but you should wait at least 30 minutes before adding protein after training.
It is much better to consume simple carbohydrates, for example in the form of grape juice, after training to fill the glycogen stores and raise insulin levels. This, in turn, can not only contribute to better regeneration, but also start muscle building. If you want to intensify this effect, simply take the grape juice with creatine. A protein shake can be drunk after about 30 minutes because the body needs protein for regeneration.
Creatine is one of the most popular nutritional supplements that is interesting not only for athletes but also for the elderly as it can help improve physical performance. Vegans and vegetarians in particular can benefit from the supplement, since a purely plant-based diet is very low in creatine.
To improve absorption, the dietary supplement is ideally taken after training - preferably with grape juice. A loading phase is not necessary when taking creatine. It is much better to take the supplement long-term or at least regularly over a longer period of three to six months in order to achieve a corresponding effect.