Around 95% of the body’s stores of creatine are found distributed through the muscles, with the remaining shared largely between the brain, liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
Creatine aids the body in producing Adreno triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a high-energy molecule that serves as your muscles’ main energy source- it is the key energy source for hefty contractile movements like heavy lifting and high-intensity training. Increasing the body’s stocks of ATP will lead to greater contractile power through muscles and will allow a degree of greater endurance under heavy load.
Most dietary creatine comes from meat consumption, especially red meat. The more meat included in any given diet, the more creatine will be taken in, especially if joints are typically taken from meat cut close to the bone. Whilst creatine supplementation is crucial to any athlete, it becomes particularly important under a few conditions, including:
- During a cut, when a diet will naturally include less meat
- For those following plant-based diets, as their intake will, of course, be lower than average
- Exercise and muscle mass also play important roles in determining the body’s creatine needs and stores. Generally speaking, the more muscle mass somebody has, and the harder they train, the more they will typically need as supplementation.
Creatine supplementation quite naturally increases the body’s stores. This comes in the form of accessible phosphocreatine, which is largely stored in the muscles, ready for use as a perfect energy source under intense loading.
Creatine supplementation can aid in muscle gain as follows:
- Improved workload: Creatine supplementation enables more total work or volume in a single training session, which is one of the key factors in longer-term muscle growth.
- Improved cell signaling: Creatine can increase satellite cell signaling. This helps with muscle repair and inspires new muscle growth.
- Increased volume of anabolic hormones: Creatine supplementation may lead to a rise in hormones that are key to hypertrophy which is a key goal many gym-goers seek from their gym membership!
- Decreased myostatin levels: Myostatin is a protein, elevated levels of which can inhibit hypertrophy. Elevated levels of the protein myostatin can slow or totally inhibit new muscle growth. Supplementing with creatine can reverse this process, depressing myostatin levels so that hypertrophy can take place.
- Increased cell hydration: It’s actually quite common to put on a couple of pounds when you first start taking creatine. This will be in the form of water weight and is very healthy and beneficial. Creatine brings water into your muscle cells, which may play a role in increasing rates of hypertrophy.
- Reduced protein breakdown: Creatine may inhibit atrophy- the breakdown of muscle- and so increase total muscle mass in the long run.
When to take creatine and how much?
Most people will need to replace 1-3 grams of creatine per day to maintain proper creatine levels. However, as levels required are largely based on lean muscle mass, muscular and athletic needs, and levels of hormones like testosterone- all of which are usually raised for athletes and gym-goers - more may be required by those pursuing an active lifestyle.
Supplementation will likely be required by athletes and gym-goers, usually in the form of powder.
It’s common for manufacturers to recommend taking up to 20 grams of creatine powder per day for the first month, in what they call a ‘loading phase.’ Though this is healthy enough, there is little evidence that it does any good: it can more readily be explained as manufacturers naturally wanting consumers to consume more of their product. Creatine levels will usually be most efficiently met at around 3-5 grams per day. This closer normal, though there will be a leeway of a couple of grams either side. Even going up to 10 grams is not uncommon.
To work out what the correct creatine levels are for you, with your biometrics and activity levels, it’s best to go with a creatine level calculator such as the one below: this will give you a good guide to getting the right amount in for enhanced training and muscle growth.
As always, when considering taking any additional supplements, we advise you to always consult your doctor and gain full medical advice that is specific to you prior to starting.