It should come as no surprise that resistance training is the most effective way to pack on pounds of muscle and increase physical strength. Countless actors and physique competitors rely on this form of exercise to sculpt and improve their bodies.
While the use of supplements cannot make up for a lack of proper diet and exercise, some supplements are too efficacious to be ignored. Creatine is one of them. A non-essential nutrient, creatine can be obtained from dietary sources like meat and fish. To experience the full muscle-building effects of the nutrient, however, one must consume several times the amount found in everyday foods.
Countless claims about creatine supplementation, both positive and negative, have been made by scientists and the media for several decades. Some claim that consuming large amounts of the nutrient can be harmful, while others tout the plethora of health benefits it offers.
The overwhelming majority of scientific literature suggests that creatine has numerous benefits for athletes engaging in short-duration, high-intensity, anaerobic exercise like sprinting. Endurance athletes, on the other hand, have little to gain from creatine, because its effectiveness has been shown to decline as the duration of exercise increases.
According to a position paper published by the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine supplementation “increases cycling power, increases total work performed on the bench press and jump squat, and improves sports performance in sprinting, swimming, and soccer.” This is all to say that supplementing with creatine improves many aspects of explosive athletic performance.
However, for people concerned with increasing the size of their skeletal muscle, this next point is the most exciting:
long-term studies have determined that weightlifters supplementing with creatine gain an average of two times the amount of lean body mass as those taking a placebo.
The only evidence of serious bodily harm caused by creatine supplementation is purely anecdotal and theoretical. It seems that “collectively, in spite of a few controversial results, creatine supplementation combined with resistance training would amplify performance enhancement, endurance strength, and muscle hypertrophy”.
Given its affordability, it’s not hard to see why creatine is the most popular supplement on the market today. It plays an important role in maintaining adenosine triphosphate concentration in skeletal muscle tissue. ATP is an organic compound that acts as a fuel source for certain metabolic processes, including muscular contraction.
Creatine stored in muscle tissue replenishes ATP energy. Supplementing with creatine is an effective way to increase total creatine concentrations in the body, which in turn makes it possible for muscles to do more work before becoming exhausted. As a result of more work and heavier loads, muscles grow faster and allow athletes to break through earlier plateaus. In fact, it is not uncommon for a person to experience a noticeable increase in strength after only a week of daily use.
The popularity of this time-tested supplement has resulted in the creation of dozens of different forms of creatine, including kre-alkalyn creatine, creatine citrate, and creatine ethyl ester. These are advertised as having fewer side effects and being more effective than creatine monohydrate, the most researched and among the cheapest forms of the supplement.
Though some people may benefit from the reduced gastrointestinal distress of these novel forms of creatine, I advise sticking with the monohydrate variety, considering that it has decades of research backing it up. Perhaps the most popular method of creatine monohydrate supplementation consists of a loading phase, a maintenance phase, and an off-cycle.
The loading phase usually lasts for a week, during which the athlete takes 15 to 20 grams of creatine a day to saturate her muscles. After the first week, she takes 5 grams a day for a number of weeks in order to maintain levels. To maintain her body’s sensitivity to creatine, she then stops taking the supplement for a few weeks before starting the process all over again. In my experience, this is the most effective supplementation protocol.
However, many people will experience gastrointestinal distress from taking 15 to 20 grams per day, in which case I suggest taking 10 grams a day to load, or skip loading altogether. Studies show that although creatine loading saturates muscles very quickly, it offers no long-term benefits. Test subjects who skipped loading and instead took 5 grams a day from the outset had the same creatine concentrations and performance improvement after 30 days as those who loaded.
Creatine is an effective ergogenic aid for athletes, physique competitors, models, and anyone who wants to be able to lift more weight and look their best. Muscles will look rounder and fuller after just a few days of use because of the water weight the supplement causes muscles to store. Don’t be put off by naysayers and the results of poorly conducted studies. Doctors and scientists unanimously agree that creatine use has no known negative long-term side effects.
If you decide to use the supplement, be sure to drink plenty of water. Some trainers will advise you to up your intake to a gallon (about 4 litres) a day in order to take full advantage of its positive effects. Explosive athletic exercise is a vital component of any athlete’s workout regimen. You may very well find that creatine is just as vital a component to your supplement stack.
..... Kazim Zaidi