Creatine is some of the top-most used nutritional performance-enhancing supplements for athletes. But how does creatine work? There is arguably more to this product than meets the eye. Other than boosting athletic performance, studies show creatine supplementation could enhance post-workout recovery.
Including, amplifying thermoregulation, injury prevention, rehabilitation, and spinal cord neuroprotection. The question is, what happens to your body when taking creatine? How does it actually work? Here, you can take a closer look at the benefits of creatine and its impact on the human body. (1)
How Does Creatine Work in the Body?
Creatine is believed to enhance lean muscle mass and strength. It can also speed up muscle recovery during workouts. This makes it a practical dietary supplement for athletes in need of a quick burst of speed and energy. Particularly when they need to handle high-intensity workouts, like mountain climbing, jump roping, hill walking, running, etc. (2)
In high-intensity training, creatine’s main role is to amplify phosphocreatine stores, which can create more ATP, thus supplying the body with a hefty dose of energy. This can definitely come in handy when you are doing some heavy lifting.
How Does Creatine Work to Build Muscle?
What does creatine actually do to build muscle? Creatine exerts its beneficial compounds through a multifaceted mechanism. It reduces protein breakdown and increases anaerobic energy capacity. Therefore boosting physical performance and muscle mass. (3)
So, how does creatine build muscle? In the form of a dietary supplement, creatine can aid the body gain muscle in a number of ways. Such as:
Creatine makes you gain water weight – Creatine can trigger fluid retention. It can draw water into the muscle cells. Causing puffiness around the legs and arms. The muscles can look larger, even for those that recently started training.
Creatine makes you work harder – The product may have the potential to enhance total workload and sprint performance when training. One report of 14 active men showed that after a week of creatine supplementation (25 g/day), volunteers improved their muscle performance. The men did repeated sets of jump squat and bench press exercises. (4) (5)
Creatine makes you build muscle faster – Creatine could stimulate many crucial biological processes that trigger increased muscle size and growth. Studies show that this supplement reduces myostatin levels. This is a molecule capable of hindering muscle growth. By decreasing myostatin levels, your body has ample opportunity to build muscle quicker. (6)
Does Creatine Make a Big Difference?
In short, yes. Creatine is one of the most efficient and well-researched supplements on the market. It enhances your performance at the gym. It also reduces your recovery time and gives you a solid boost for HIIT (high-intensity interval training).
It works by holding the water in the muscles, making the legs and arms look thicker. When you pair that with regular physical activity and muscle-building foods, like eggs, salmon, and chicken breasts, you can enlarge the actual muscle tissue.
Does Creatine Make You Fat?
Since creatine raises water content in the muscle cells, people are worried if this supplement will make them put on a few extra pounds. Regardless of the quick boost in weight, creatine won’t make you fat. To gain fat, you would be eating a lot more calories than you burn.
Creatine in the form of a supplement can be helpful for increasing performance and muscle power. You can also use it to manage your weight. Studies of 609 participants show that volunteers who took creatine supplementation lost more body fat than the placebo group. The creatine group shed 0.5 kg more fat mass, making it a viable option for weight management. (7)
Creatine isn’t a fat burner. It is a supplement you will be using to maximize your fitness performance. But, it won’t negatively affect your fat mass.
How Do I Know if Creatine Is Working?
Creatine is a fundamental energy booster. With it, you can sprint faster, pump out more reps, and go the extra mile with any physical activity you are doing. If you’ve recently started using the product in the form of a supplement, you should start feeling the creatine effects in roughly 1 week. If the training volume has increased, then the product is working.
If the body doesn’t respond to it, then work on your diet. Diet is just as important as training when building muscles. In some foods, like seafood, milk, and red meat, there is a higher creatine level.
In a standard carnivorous diet, you will naturally be consuming anywhere from 1 to 2 g of creatine a day. Vegetarians have lower creatine amounts in their system.
Therefore, vegetarians usually notice a more significant response to creatine supplementation than people who consume highly carnivorous diets. On that note, you can’t expect creatine to be a “miracle solution.” If your meal plan is junk, creatine supplementation alone won’t be enough to get the desired results. You will still need to consume a good amount of lean protein and carbs.
Who Should Take Creatine and Why?
Creatine can be a go-to choice for anyone looking to take their exercise performance to the next level. Countless strength athletes and bodybuilders are already using creatine supplements on a regular basis. But, even if you are not a fitness expert, you can still make use of the creatine benefits.
People with naturally low creatine base levels (like vegetarians) can use the product, including individuals with neurodegenerative disease and the aging population. Thanks to its neuroprotective function, the product can protect brain health.
Just taking creatine won’t make you stronger, it can also make you work harder and get the most out of every workout session. This is exactly what people are looking for when they want to get ripped. Do have in mind, however, that creatine is an opportunity, not a guarantee. If you don’t watch your diet and you skip the workouts, you can’t really reap the creatine benefits. Lastly, don’t forget to consult with a specialist before adding any new supplements to your diet. They can determine which product can be helpful for you and what nutrients you may be lacking in your current eating regimen.
We hope you found this article about how creatine works and why you should take it helpful!
Jason Chapman has a degree in Exercise Science and is a personal trainer with 10+ years of experience in fitness and strength coaching. Jason spends his time with BodyCapable researching the latest strength training trends and writing science-backed, informative content. Jason likes to spend his spare time hiking, traveling, and of course training!
Body Capable’s content is for informational and educational purposes only. Our website is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment; we encourage you to seek out a medical professional whenever necessary.