Creatine supplements and why they work to increase muscle mass

Creatine supplements is a familiar name for people who exercise a lot. Chances are most gym-goers have either taken a creatine supplement or know someone who does. One of the most popular supplements available, creatine is known to boost muscle mass, increase strength and improve performance.

In addition, there is evidence to show that creatine has other health benefits, including protecting against neurological disease. Here’s how and why creatine works.

Building muscle mass and improving strength using creatine supplements

We all have creatine naturally stored in our muscle cells. It helps muscles produce the energy needed to work hard, whether lifting heavy weights or doing endurance exercises. This is why creatine supplements, including the likes of ON Micronized Creatine Powder, are so popular with people who specifically want to build muscle.

Creatine at a chemical level is similar to amino acids and is actually produced by the body from two amino acids: arginine and glycine. How much creatine your body naturally stores depends on various factors, including how much exercise you do, your individual muscle mass, whether you eat meat and hormone levels. Hormones specifically affected by creatine are testosterone and IFG-1.

Most (at least 95%) of the body’s creatine is stored in its muscle cells as phosphocreatine. The remainder is stored in the kidneys, liver and brain. Creatine supplements increase the phosphocreatine stored by the body and manifests as energy in muscle cells.

Creatine boosts overall health as well as muscle mass

Creatine can boost your overall health and muscle growth in a number of ways:

  • Increases the store of phosphocreatine in your muscles, which then boosts endurance for high intensity exercise.
  • Increases the amount of exercise you can complete in one session, which is important for long-term muscle growth.
  • Improves cell signalling, which helps muscle repair and growth.
  • Raises anabolic hormones.
  • Increases the amount of water stored in muscle cells, which helps muscle growth.
  • Reduces protein breakdown and increases muscle mass.

Creatine works for both short- and long-term muscle mass growth, according to various studies. It’s also effective for different types of people, from elite athletes to older people who have previously been sedentary. A study on creatine supplements and their effect on strength training in older people shows that participants were able to significantly increase their muscle mass and leg strength.

Creatine improves strength and endurance levels

A study on endurance levels and supplementing with creatine shows that participants increased their overall strength by 8%. Specifically, their weightlifting performance was boosted by 14% and the maximum weight for one rep of a bench press by around 43%.

Less well known is the fact that creatine can help the brain function better. Studies show that lots of neurological conditions could be improved by creatine supplements, ranging from Parkinson’s disease to epilepsy. More human studies are needed to prove this, but there are encouraging signs. For example, a study of children with traumatic brain injury shows that supplementing with creatine for six months improved fatigue levels and dizziness in participants.

What’s the best dosage of creatine supplements?

Some people choose to start supplementing with creatine with what’s called a ‘loading phase’. The aim is to increase stored creatine levels as quickly as possible, by taking 20g per day for seven days. This should be taken in 5g doses throughout the day, and then after seven days, the dose dropped to between 3g and 5g a day. This lower dose can be taken indefinitely.

It’s not mandatory to take it in this way, and the same results can be achieved over a slower timeframe by taking between 3g and 5g every day. However you choose to use creatine supplements, it’s important to drink enough water throughout.

Creatine remains one of the easiest to take and one of the cheapest supplements on the market. It’s well worth trying for those who want to boost athletic performance or suspect they do not have high enough natural stored creatine in their muscles.