You've heard the rumors. Now here's the truth about creatine.
If you've ever gone shopping for protein powder, you may have noticed some creatine supplements on a nearby shelf. Curious? You should be. Creatine is one of the most researched supplements out there.
You may remember this from high school biology, but here's a refresher: ATP is a small molecule that serves as your body's primary energy source, and your body's natural creatine helps your body make more of it. More ATP = more energy. The theory behind supplementing with creatine is that the increased amount in your muscles will replenish ATP more rapidly, so you can train at higher intensities and with higher volume without fatiguing as quickly.
This theory has turned out to be pretty much spot-on. Regardless of sex, creatine has been shown to enhance strength, lean body mass, and improve exercise performance.
Despite the fact that I preach the powers of creatine to everyone (including the unsuspecting person sitting next to me on the airplane), I still hear the same myths, especially from women: "Creatine is just for guys." "It'll make you gain weight." "It'll cause bloating."
None of those myths are true. First off, women have significantly lower levels of testosterone (the hormone most responsible for muscle growth) than men, making it extremely difficult for us to put on a large amount of muscle mass. A low-dose creatine supplementation protocol (3 to 5 grams daily) will also make any bloating or GI distress unlikely.
But enough about what it won't do. Here are three amazing benefits of creatine:
Creatine helps fight osteoporosis.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, one in two women over the age of 50 will experience a fracture due to low bone mineral density (or osteoporosis).
Strength training is commonly recommended as a means to increase bone mineral density and prevent osteoporosis. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging showed that adding a creatine supplement to resistance training actually results in increased bone mineral content compared to resistance training only.
How does this work? Resistance training plus a creatine supplement has been shown in numerous studies to increase lean mass (muscle). More muscle increases the strain on your bones, which provides the perfect stimulus for them to get stronger. Even if you're in your 20s and 30s, it's never too early to start building strong, healthy bones to help prevent low bone mineral density from occurring down the road.
Creatine makes you stronger.
If you want to look and feel stronger in the gym, creatine is a great place to start. Emerging evidence in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning and the Journal of Applied Physiology has shown that supplementing with creatine can boost strength.
Creatine improves brain function.
Creatine works in the brain in a similar way it works in your muscles. Both use creatine phosphate (PCr) as an energy source. And just as your muscles get tired after working out, your brain can fatigue during intense mental tasks like calculating spreadsheets and organizing meetings. In this sense, creatine isn't just beneficial for your workouts, but also for your brain!
Research from Neuroscience Research has shown that just five days of creatine supplementation can significantly reduce mental fatigue. Another study published in Biological Sciences found creatine to improve both short-term memory and reasoning skills, suggesting its use as both a brain and performance booster!
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