What is Creatine?

Written by Carl Lombard

Need that extra boost to jump higher, sprint faster, or pump more iron at the gym? Creatine may just be the supplement you need. Nearly everyone in the fitness community has heard of this highly successful supplement, but you still may be wondering, ‘exactly what is creatine?’ The answer is probably far less scandalous than you may think. Creatine is essential an amino acid compound, composed of L-arginine, L-glycine, and L-methionine. This supplement is used by both high-performance endurance athletes, and body builders/weight trainers as a source of energy and a means to bulk up.

Is Creatine a Steroid?

Because of the controversy that initially surrounded this supplement, many still ask today ‘is creatine a steroid?’ The answer, however, is quite simple—No!

As mentioned above, creatine is a tripeptide amino acid compound, and it is not classified as a steroid by either the scientific or legal definitions. A steroid, scientifically speaking, has a specific backbone structure that is composed of 4 conjoined cycloalkane rings—creatine does not have this compound structure. In addition, creatine does not have nearly as much of an impact on your hormones as steroids, like say injectable testosterone.

The stigma surrounding creatine that has caused many to wrongly associate it with steroids is due to its powerful abilities to help users bulk up fast. However, the distinction is important as creatine is not a steroid and it is not considered illegal as a performance supplement.

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Benefits of Creatine

Since it first hit the shelves, high-performance athletes, body builders, and weight trainers alike have rushed to take advantage of the many fast-acting effects of this supplement.

High-Intensity Endurance: One of the greatest benefits of creatine is that it helps regenerate ATP (the energy source that fuels your body’s cells) during high-intensity workouts. This is because creatine acts as a high-energy phosphate to prevent fatigue.

Bulking Up: If you are looking to go up a weight class, or simply achieve the swole body you’ve been working towards, creatine can help you bulk up fast. This is mostly because it help you retain water weight and it can cause your muscle cells to inflate—creating a volumizing effect. In fact, many who use the supplement report an increase of 6 pounds of body weight or more within the first few weeks of intake.

Support Muscle Recovery: Recent studies have also suggested that creatine may also benefit strength and endurance athletes by supporting muscle recovery and repair following intense workouts.

More: Many other benefits have been associated with creatine, including enhancing brain power, increasing anaerobic capacity, preventing age-related muscle catabolism, and more.

Does Creatine Make You Gain Weight?

Another common query about the supplement is “does creatine make you gain weight?” For bodybuilders, adding high doses of creatine to your diet is an effective way to bulk up. This is because creatine has been shown to increase water retention and build muscle mass quickly, with the average user gaining 1-3 pounds within the first week of intake. However, if you would prefer not to gain weight while using creatine, you can decrease your dosage to about 2.3 grams per day and still benefit from its effects without taking on addition water weight.

Does Creatine Build Muscle?

If you’ve been wondering “does creatine build muscle?”, you are in for some good news. Studies have shown that regular intake of creatine does not only inflate the muscle cells, but it also helps to build muscle mass. In fact, one study conducted by the Université Libre de Bruxelles showed that patients taking creatine supplements experienced a 2kg increase in body mass compared to the control group. Because creatine is composed of three amino acids, it helps increase the natural synthesis of protein in addition to giving your body the fuel it needs to reach new fitness goals and build muscle.

Additional Notes: There have over the past 5-10 years been several new variations of creatine introduced in supplements by a range of different companies. The standard “original” creatine is known as “creatine monohydrate”. Other variations like Creatine HCL, Creatine Ethyl-Ester, Kre-Alkalyn (or buffered creatine), micronized creatine, and a few others. I’ll get into these others more later, but just know they are out there. Most of them simply allow for lower dosages (through higher uptake) or claim slight improvements in response by “non-responders”.

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Carl Lombard

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