Creatine… Should you believe the hype?

Supplements or Nah: Volume 2

You’ve dabbled in Whey Protein, might have even tried some pre-workout but now it’s time to step you supplement game up, is creatine the way forward?

What is creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance, it can be found in the diet mostly through meat and fish (Roughly 3-5g per kg). It is also produced by the kidneys, pancreas and liver. Creatine is stored in the muscle and is a vital component of energy production during high-intensity exercise such as sprinting or lifting weights.

Benefits

  1. Well researched and safe – This is fundamental for any supplement you are looking to include in your diet. Creatine is one of the most well researched supplements on the market. While no supplement is completely safe, as mentioned in my blog about protein (Check it out here) creatine has a solid evidence base to demonstrate it’s usefulness and safety
  2. Increased muscular endurance – Creatine supplementation allows your muscles to resynthesize ATP (the bodies main fuel during high-intensity exercise) more effectively. This means you can pump out more reps per set, meaning progressive overload and serious gains!
  3. Increased work capacity – Along with getting more reps in a set you are able to recover and maintain this enhanced performance through multiple sets which means you perform more work throughout your workout.
  4. Increased lean body mass – Creatine = more muscle, the two factors above mean that over time creatine supplementation will allow you to gain more lean body mass and get to your goal physique faster.
  5. Increased Strength – A larger muscle is usually a stronger one, along with the ability to do more work in your training sessions, creatine supplementation has been proven to increase strength gains.

Drawbacks

  1. Water retention – some people taking creatine can experience rapid weight gain of 1 – 2kg, this weight gain is due to increased water retention in the muscle cells, so if you are trying to cut weight for any reason this is something you should consider.
  2. Side Effects – Some people experience symptoms such as muscle cramping and stomach pain however these symptoms are not massively common.
  3. Non-responders – for some people creatine will not elicit the effects described, these are called non-responders, I’m not sure there’s any research to determine what percentage of people this is but it’s widely estimated at around 20-30% of people. So it’s kind of a joy kill if you make the investment and see no gains.

How to supplement creatine?

Firstly, we are referring to oral supplementation, because it’s easy and proven to be effective. Creatine as a supplement is not something you can take once and expect to see the effects immediately you have to do something called ‘Creatine Loading’ this is essentially just increasing the amount of creatine that is stored in the muscle cells.

There are two ways to do this with oral supplementation:
Consume 20g per day (5g x4 throughout the day) for 5 days or;
Consume 3-5d per day for 30 days.
Following this, you need to maintain supplementation (3-5g per day depending on current lean body mass) in order to keep creatine levels elevated.
You should try to take your creatine alongside a carbohydrate or carbohydrate and protein containing meal.

In terms of the type of creatine, you should be taking the most studied form is Creatine Monohydrate this is proven to be effective, the science around many other variants is shaky even if the supplement companies do a good job of marketing them. You can get them in both powder form or in tablet form, whichever you find more convenient.

Below are some links to products I’ve tried and would recommend, but there are tons of great products out there and as I said previously creatine monohydrate is the way to go so as long as that’s your main/only ingredient you should be good to go.

Bulk Powders – Pure Creatine Monohydrate 1kg
The Protein Works – Creatine Monohydrate 1kg
MyProtein – Creatine Monohydrate 250 Tablets

Personally, creatine is just about the only supplement I really value, it was the first ever supplement I took and I personally saw the benefits, years later seeing the research, it’s still a supplement I believe in. With a lot of supplements, it’s really hard to prove they work, the research just isn’t there. Or even if there is you would be better off adjusting your diet (Whey Protein for example). However, it’s really difficult to get large amounts of creatine in the diet and we know it works, I think that’s what makes this supplement so great and so trusted.

Let me know what you think? Is creatine in your supplement draw?

Sources/Find Out More

THE SAFETY AND EFFICACY OF CREATINE MONOHYDRATE SUPPLEMENTATION

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Supplements or Nah?

Volume 1 – Protein

Protein, Creatine, Pre-workout there are tons of supplements out there. Supplements to help you gain muscle, lose fat, train harder whatever you want to achieve, there’s a supplement for that.

With so much out there it’s hard to know what’s useful and what’s useless! In this series of blogs, I’m going to address some of the big dogs of the supplement world, their benefits, their drawbacks and whether you should be investing in them.

Protein

Perhaps the first supplement most people reach for on their fitness journey, because to get big you need to be hitting that protein powder after every workout right?

What is protein?
Protein is one of the 3 key macronutrients your body needs to survive, its made up of building blocks called amino acids, 20 in total 12 of which can be produced by the body, 8 must be sourced from the diet. Proteins provide structure to the cells of the human body and importantly they are essential in the building and repair of muscle tissue. For most people, meat will be a key source of protein, produce such as beef and eggs are rich in essential amino acids, however, protein can also be sourced from plant-based products such as soy.

So how much protein do you need?
The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for protein is between 0.8g – 1.2/kg b.w. This means for most people reading this it is unlikely you will be deficient in protein. However, if you are in the gym trying to make some gains, you might want to have a little extra, more protein = more gains? Well to a certain point yes, Phillps (2013) recommends 1.4 – 1.6g/kg b.w. for those engaging in resistance training with the goal of building muscle. So for an 80kg person, this would amount to 112 to 128g of protein per day. For some context, this is roughly 2 chicken breasts, 4 eggs and a piece of salmon, so easily attainable baring in mind you will also get some protein in smaller quantities from other foods such as rice and bread.

No Whey Bro!
Even though they’re many types of protein supplements on offer today we are going to talk to talk about the most commonly used one. Whey protein is a milk-based protein, you’ll usually find it in powdered form.
Whey is a popular choice because it’s high in essential amino acids which is important for any good protein, it digests quickly and it’s relatively cheap.

Benefits

  1. It’s Quick – Every nutritionist worth they’re salt will preach to you it’s a food first approach. Supplements are just that, a supplement, something to be added, they are not a replacement. However there are times when you don’t have time to get a meal, you might be at work or on the go. A protein shake is a quick, easy way to get some dietary protein in.
  2. It’s Filling – if fat loss is your goal, protein is your friend for two main reasons, it’s going to help you preserve lean mass, there is some research to show it may be beneficial to consume up to 2g/kg b.w. of protein when in a caloric deficit. It will also help fill you up making you less likely to go raid the cookie jar. Which is obviously very helpful when you’re trying to get lean.
  3. It’s Versatile – Whey protein can be consumed as a drink but it can also be used as an ingredient in tons of recipes from pancakes to cookies, there are tons of great blogs, cookbooks and websites that will give you great recipes you can make with your whey protein. If that’s something you want to see more of let me know in the comments and I will whip up some stuff in the kitchen and share that with you all.

Drawbacks

  1. Varying quality – Depending on the brand of protein you go for there are huge variances in the quality of the protein you will get. Accurate labelling has been a problem in the supplement industry since there has been a supplement industry and protein is not exempt from this so it’s difficult to ensure that 25g or protein they claim on the bottle is true.
  2. Safety – I’m not trying to scare anyone and for the most part whey protein is a very safe supplement. However, there have been multiple reported cases of athletes getting busted for doping in relation to supplements they are taking and for banned substances appearing in supplements. There is a risk with every supplement, as mentioned above labelling is not always accurate and not every company is as diligent in there testing. So when you are looking for supplements to take it’s important to choose a reputable brand with rigorous testing procedures. If you are a drug tested athlete you should be taking supplements from tested batches in order to make sure you don’t get caught out and for your health in general.
  3. Cost – Depending on your brand of choice 1kg of whey protein can cost you anything from £20 – £45 for which you’d get roughly 40 servings which may last you just over a month with daily use. Depending on your budget this could be a significant cost to you. Especially considering the amount of actual food you can buy for a similar cost.

Is it worth the investment?
It depends – I am not going to be the one to say it’s useless, I think it’s a great supplement. If you are often on the go or you just can’t stomach that extra meal, whey protein is a great way to get that extra little bit of protein into your body. However, you still need to eat and there is never going to be a replacement for eating well (nothing legal anyway) that’s going to get you the same results. If you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, way before you start ordering tons of powder you need to get your meals in order, get some training under your belt and then you can start really considering whether whey protein is the right investment for you.

What do you think? Are you heading straight to the shops to get your protein fix or is it just one big scam? Let me know in the comments!

Learn More/Sources

PROTEIN CONSUMPTION AND RESISTANCE EXERCISE: MAXIMIZING ANABOLIC POTENTIAL

WEIGHT MANAGEMENT FOR ATHLETES AND ACTIVE INDIVIDUALS