Supplements are more popular today than ever before. This is no surprise as often people like to look for little tips, tricks and hacks that will get them to their goals. While supplements can be extremely useful when deployed correctly, they will not make up for weak training and a shitty diet.
Before we dive into the most important supplement in the world we want to drive that point home. If you aren’t training hard and aren’t eating whole foods your performance will be suboptimal and it is less likely you will reach your physique goals.
A quick note on eating. We can’t recommend the book Deep Nutrition enough. It will give you a good nutritional foundation. It shows what to eat, how to eat, and why most diets today are seriously messed up. Check it out! (The link provided is an affiliate link)
Creatine, in our estimation is the single most important supplement in the world that EVERYONE should be taking. Creatine is the most studied supplement in the world with 1000+ medical studies submitted thus far. It has a ton of health benefits, is extremely bioavailable with little to no side effects. Let’s dive into what is Creatine and why you should take it!
What is it?
Creatine is an organic compound that is found naturally in our bodies (muscle fibers) as well as in many animal proteins (foods we eat). Creatine is naturally occurring and shares many properties with other organic compounds, amino acids. Creatine can even be created on its own from the amino acids Glycine and Arginine.
What Does it Do?
At a high level, when you supplement with Creatine you are increasing your bodies natural stores. Obviously. On average, we store about 95% of our body’s Creatine in muscle tissues directly. The other 5% is usually found floating around in our brain, liver, and kidneys.
In short, it is stored in the muscle as a sort of energy fuel useable by your body. Your body uses this fuel to create ATP. ATP as you may know is the preferred energy source for the body. Thus the more ATP you have the more energy you will be able to apply in the gym.
Benefits of Creatine
Creatine has a number of benefits. Some of these benefits are cosmetic and some of them are functional. Here are a few of our favorite benefits of Creatine:
Increased Strength and Aerobic Capacity
Creatine is one of the few supplements that demonstrates time and time again to improve overall muscle strength. This is primarily because it allows for optimal ATP production and usage which will allow you to apply more energy in the gym. Overtime this stacks up and helps increase your total work output. Ie. if you have more energy you can do more reps. If you can do more reps you can grow quicker.
Creatine not only boosts strength gains but also has a positive effect on our aerobic capacity. Again, this benefit is mainly produce by way of Creatine’s effects on our body’s ATP production. Important to note here, Creatine tends to more positively effect quick intense forms of aerobic exercise and has less of an effect on long term chronic cardio. Also important to note, if you goal to live an optimal life we don’t recommend long periods of chronic cardio. Keep it intense and short.
Reduced Muscle Wasting
Creatine can help stave off sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is a syndrome characterized by a progressive loss of muscle tissue and strength. It is generally associated with age and seen in older populations (ie. over 65). Creatine has been shown to greatly slow or even eliminate muscle loss due to Sarcopenia. In fact, you may not even need to do much in terms of lifting to reap these rewards!
Improved Mitochondrial Function
As you may know from your 5th grade science class, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. As such, mitochondrial function and health often dictate our performance in the gym. Creatine directly aides in our body’s ability to produce ATP at the mitochondrial level. This leads to healthier mitochondria and as a result more energy to use in the gym. In fact, having healthy mitochondria not only effects our muscle tissue but also effects our organs. Thus supplementing with Creatine is important to not only increase performance in the gym but to preserve the function of our organs!
Osteoblasts are cells that help form new bone. They produce bone called “osteoid” which is made of bone collagen and other proteins. Healthy bones are extremely important to a functioning body. In fact, it is becoming clear that our bones actually operate similar to other organs and actually send signals to the rest of the body. They are not just some static scaffolding.
Bones are made stronger by weight training. When we expose them to stress via weight training they adapt and get stronger just like our muscles. Creatine greatly improves this process at the cellular level. When we stimulate osteoblasts it causes the release of a hormone-like protein osteoprotegerin which inhibits the activation of osteoclasts. Osteoclasts are involved in bone resorption. As such, the stimulation of osteoblasts by creatine supplementation may downregulate
the activation of osteoclasts to reduce bone resorption!
Lowers Blood Sugar
Creatine use has even been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels throughout the body. As we know, controlling our blood sugar levels is extremely important if we want to live a long and healthy life. Its also important for maintaining a good looking physique and staying lean.
Increased muscle mass and frequent muscle contraction is known to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake into cells. Creatine improves this glycemic control, based on its ability to increase training performance (increased ATP).
The lay person will hear you are using Creatine and automatically assume you are on steroids or some sort of crazy drug. This is not the case and Creatine has virtually no side effects unlike many anabolic agents.
The main side effect people will associate with Creatine use is weight gain. This is primarily because Creatine will cause the muscles to retain water (muscles are mostly water). Thus if you retain more water your weight will increase. In practice we don’t find this to be the case, at least not in a significant way. Storing 1-2 more pounds of water weight is well worth the benefits you will get from the Creatine.
The next side effect people like to point to is Creatine’s effects on hair. One study (out of the thousands performed) found a link to Creatine use and hair loss. However, it is well accepted that Creatine does not directly cause hair loss. But it might make you slightly more susceptible to hair loss if you already have a genetic predisposition towards it. Personally we and many of our clients have experience male pattern baldness and in our experience Creatine does not greatly increase this risk.
How to Use Creatine?
The short answer here is that it doesn’t REALLY matter how you use Creatine. Simply put a 2-5mg scoop in your water each day and you will be good to go. However, there are a couple ways you can optimize your Creatine consumption.
First way is by taking it with food. You want to take Creating when you will be eating. It binds with carbs and proteins making it more readily absorbed into your muscle tissue. So if you want to optimize mix it in a post workout shake.
Second way is to take it after training. Research shows that the muscles are more willing to take in and absorb Creatine post training rather than pre training.
Lastly, you do not need to load Creatine! Some will say that you must load up by taking 10-20mg’s for several days before reducing your intake to the standard 2-5mg. However, we don’t find this to be the case and your body will absorb it overtime. You will waste some money if you front load the process.
Get Some! If you want to buy some Creatine and try it out, this is the one we use. Please note, it is an affiliate link.
In closing, we think Creatine is the most important supplement in the world for lifters and non-lifters alike. It has been studied significantly and poses little to no immediate risks. Despite this low risk profile the upside is quite massive. As such, we think you are missing out and leaving gains in the gym if you are not using Creatine.
That’s it for now!