If you’ve been looking for ways to increase your muscle mass and improve muscle performance, you’ve likely heard about creatine. It’s currently one of the most talked-about supplements for anyone who works out often, but it’s something anyone can benefit from.
While creatine doesn’t receive a lot of praise in the media, there’s often a misconception when it comes to the importance of it. Believe it or not, our bodies will produce creatine, and it’s a necessary supplement for some body functions.
If you’re considering adding creatine to your daily supplements, you’ll want to put aside everything you’ve heard up until now. We’ll breakdown what this supplement is, how it works in our body, and how it can help you in the gym. When taken properly, creatine can become your new best friend!
What Is Creatine?
Putting aside anything negative you’ve heard about creatine is easy once you realize there isn’t a lot of research and studies proving them right. In fact, studies consistently show the growing benefits creatine will have on our bodies.
Creatine is a substance our body creates naturally and is made up of the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. They are largely stored as phosphocreatine in our muscles, but can also be found in the brain, kidney, and liver in tiny amounts.
By supplementing with creatine, you will effectively increase the levels of phosphocreatine in the muscles. This substance will work hard at producing ATP, which is known as the “energy currency” in our body. More phosphocreatine means more ATP, which means better performance when exercising.
In addition to that, creatine can also alter a variety of cellular processes that can have different benefits on the body.
While creatine is produced in the body, we can also get it from various red meats and fish. This will make meat-lovers happy but could leave vegans feeling left in the dust.
The good news is supplementation can save the day! Studies show that creatine is extremely safe for adult use, also noting that any excess will be metabolized and released in our urine.
While the benefits will run large and wide, they can largely be broken down into three different categories — muscle gain, exercise performance, and brain function. Let’s take a look at all of these benefits:
- Higher levels of phosphocreatine means more energy for your muscles
- Allows you to train harder and longer
- Enhanced cell signaling, which can help muscle growth, repair, and recovery
- Helps hydrate cells in your muscles
- Raises anabolic hormones in some people
- Can reduce the breakdown of proteins in the body
- Could lower myostatin levels, aiding muscle growth
- Helps to prevent neurological diseases in some people
- Lowers blood sugar levels
Creatine supplements will be most beneficial to older people and vegans that don’t eat meat regularly. Since our body will excrete any excess creatine, it’s typically known to be safe for anyone. Studies and research are ongoing for creatine, but it has only revealed positive things so far.
The Many Forms of Creatine
As effective as creatine is, they don’t make it very easy when trying to find the right creatine supplement for you. That’s mainly because there are 12 main forms of creatine that all have different effects on the body.
Creatine Monohydrate continues to be the most popular form of creatine, as well as the most studied. If you’re looking for the most reliable form of creatine, you’ll want Creatine Monohydrate. It’ll be available as anhydrous creatine (100% creatine), traditional monohydrate creatine (90% creatine and 10% water), and even micronized creatine (improved water solubility).
With that being said, there are known benefits for the other 11 forms; they just haven’t received enough research to prove the effects. The other forms include:
- creatine hydrochloride (better water solubility)
- buffered creatine monohydrate (better body absorption)
- creatine magnesium chelate (binding magnesium)
- creatine ethyl ester (enriched with ester)
- creatine citrate (combined with citric acid)
- creatine malate (bound to malic acid)
- creatine nitrate (binded to nitrate molecule)
- creatine gluconate (bound to glucose)
- creatine pyruvate (pyruvic acid)
- creatine alpha-ketoglutarate (alpha-ketoglutaric acid)
- multi-component creatine (combination of several types of creatine)
Due to the research being conducted, it’s best to roll with creatine monohydrate or micronized creatine.
How Do I Take Creatine?
Another reason many people avoid creatine is the intended use of it can be challenging to manage. For best results, researchers recommend following a strict “loading phase” in the beginning before decreasing the dose for long-term use. This might make the supplement appear more high-maintenance than it is.
The loading phase isn’t required but could benefit those that are taking it as an exercise-enhancer. It will involve taking 20 grams per day for 5-7 days. Additionally, it’s recommended that you take the 20 grams in 5g increments throughout the day.
After the week-long “loading phase,” you can decrease your daily dose to 3-5g to maintain creatine stores in your body.
If you are taking creatine because you don’t eat meat, you can skip the loading phase and start with 3-5g daily right off the bat. Be aware that it might take a while before you start to see maximum benefit.
Ingredients To Look For In The Best Creatine Supplements
When shopping around for the best creatine products, you’ll notice some of them will come with added ingredients or nutrients. Other times, they’ll come completely by itself.
While creatine is effective by itself, adding these extra ingredients can give you more benefits when working out or supplementing. Let’s take a look at some of our favorites.
As we mentioned earlier, creatine is made up of the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine. You’ll often see creatine combine other amino acids in with their products. There are four amino acids most commonly found:
- Glutamine – This amino acid is often used as energy for skeletal and smooth muscles throughout the body. It also helps with recovery. Look for around 2-3g in your supplement.
- Carnitine – This is derived from an amino acid and plays a significant role in energy production by transporting long-chain fatty acids to mitochondria, where they are broken down. Look for around 1-2g in your supplement.
- Beta Alanine – This beta amino acid helps the production of carnosine, which plays an essential role in muscle endurance, especially with high-intensity workouts. Look for around 1-2g in your supplement.
- BCAAs – These will consist of three amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine). They are some of the most important supplements when it comes to muscle growth and recovery. Look for around 2-4g in your supplement.
HMB, or Beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate if you want to sound scientific, is made in the body when leucine is broken down. It is believed to help in slowing down the breakdown of protein and speeding up the synthesis of muscle repair. Although more studies and research are needed, there doesn’t seem to be any concern with taking it.
- Recommended Dose: 2,000mg per day
If you don’t know the importance of taking vitamins every day, it’s about time you learn. Vitamins play essential roles in a wide variety of body functions. While many of us will get enough vitamins in our normal diet, it’s very common to be deficient in certain areas. When it comes to building muscle exercise performance, three come to mind:
- Vitamin B12 – in addition to forming red blood cells, Vitamin B12 plays a role in converting food into energy and the communication between muscles and the brain.
- Vitamin C – this vitamin will help turn carbs into energy and help protect the body from oxidative stress caused by working out.
- Vitamin D – in addition to helping absorb calcium and phosphorus, Vitamin D can help with muscle contractions and the synthesis of ATP.
Best Creatine Supplements
When it comes to finding the best creatine supplement for you, you’ll come across hundreds of different brands that all seem the same. To help make the decision much easier for you, we’ve gathered a list of our top-three creatine products.
We’ll have one with straight creatine, one with HMB added, and one with glutamine added — that way, you have a good list of options.
Bulk Supplements Creatine Monohydrate
Our number one choice for creatine supplements is Bulk Supplements Creatine Monohydrate. This supplement comes in powder form but is also available in capsules. It includes 2500 mg of micronized creatine monohydrate and is gluten, soy, sugar, and dairy free.
Bulk Supplements Creatine Monohydrate provides a variety of health benefits. These include increased muscle mass, aiding in weight gain, brain support, and an increase in overall anaerobic strength as well as ATP.GET THE BEST PRICE ON BULK SUPPLEMENTS CREATINE MONOHYDRATE
Transparent Labs Creatine HMB
One of the best creatine supplements comes from Transparent Labs. Transparent Labs is a very reputable brand that makes a wide variety of supplements. In their Creatine HMB, they include 5,000mcg of creatine monohydrate, 2,000mcg of HMB, and 5mg of BioPerine — which is known to be a bioavailability enhancer.
They don’t use any artificial coloring, artificial sweeteners, or artificial preservatives. It’s also a gluten-free and non-GMO product.GET THE BEST PRICE ON TRANSPARENT LABS CREATINE HMB
Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine
If you’re looking for a good creatine supplement without any added ingredients, you can never go wrong with Optimum Nutrition. They will also provide a variety of different supplements, with this one being their creatine product.
You’ll find 5,000mcg of micronized creatine monohydrate. Many people prefer this if they’re making their own supplement stack and want straight creatine.GET THE BEST PRICE ON OPTIMUM NUTRITION MICRONIZED CREATINE
BodyTech Creatine + Glutamine
BodyTech is a producer of many well-known supplements. These include BodyTech BCAA and of course, BodyTech Creatine + Glutamine. This creatine supplement utilizes glutamine and beta alanine as well. It’s a powerful blend of three nutrients essential to training performance.
You’ll find 5,000mcg of creatine monohydrate, 3,000mcg of glutamine, and 1,600mcg of beta alanine. It doesn’t contain sugar, gluten, salt, artificial colors, and artificial flavors.GET THE BEST PRICE ON BODYTECH CREATINE + GLUTAMINE