Creatine: what is the function in the body and how to take the supplement?

You may have heard of creatine, a supplement that can help develop your muscles and improve your performance in sports. There are several controversies about the substance, but in recent years they have been overturned.

What is creatine?

Creatine is a compound naturally produced in the liver and which is essential for the muscles (where most of the substance is found) and for the brain. Made of amino acids, approximately 1 gram of creatine is produced by the body per day.

It has positive effects on the muscles, making them recover more quickly from physical exercise and providing extra energy, allowing the capacity of the muscles to be increased. They are more resistant and efficient thanks to this substance.

As our body produces a limited amount of creatine, there are people, especially high-performance athletes, who use supplementation of the substance to increase its amount and its effects on muscles.

In addition, the substance is present in foods such as meat, eggs, milk and dairy products. Through food, our body obtains it and maintains its proper levels in the body.

In some specific cases, creatine supplements may be indicated to replace it. Generally, only when the person does very intense activities, in search of muscle hypertrophy, and food is not enough to meet daily needs.

What types of creatine?

There are several types of creatine in the supplementation market. They are sold in different forms after chemical treatments or the addition of other varied substances. Many do not have studies on its efficacy and some even have refuted efficacy.

Although there are several other types, we list here the main ones available on the market. They are as follows:

Creatine monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is the most widely used for several reasons. It was the first to be produced as a supplement and is the simplest and cheapest to produce, so it comes out cheaper in the consumer’s pocket. In addition, there are several studies that indicate that it is the most effective of the types.

It is composed of creatine and water, it is poorly soluble and can take longer to be absorbed by the body than the other types precisely because of the lack of solubility.

Several of the types of creatine on the market claim that their absorption is faster, but studies indicate that the rate of absorption is not as relevant to the effects.

Creatine micronizada

Micronized creatine is a version of the monohydrate whose molecules are broken down into smaller pieces, which increases the absorption area. Its main advantage is the speed of absorption, but the use of normal monohydrate is still recommended since studies are usually done on it. In addition, this type is more expensive.

Creatine ethyl ester

Creatine ethyl ester has its molecules linked to an ester, results of the reaction between alcohol and acids. Supposedly it has a faster absorption than the other versions.

Of the three types, it is the most expensive due to its complex production process. Furthermore, it is not very popular as it has an unpleasant taste.

Creatine in serum

Serum creatine is sold so that a drop is dripped under the tongue. It is usually mixed with vitamins and amino acids, but the results are controversial. It is expensive, unstable due to the liquid state of creatine and although it is easy to use, there are studies that prove that it is not effective.

What is creatine supplement for?

In the body, creatine serves, in short, for the use of energy by the muscle. This is because it participates in a process called ATP resynthesis – basically, after doing an intense exercise, the ATP molecules are consumed. Then, creatine makes energy available to the muscles again through this ATP synthesis.

Supplements make this process of muscle depletion less, as soon as the greater presence of creatine in the body makes the consumption of ATP less during activities.

Thus, the creatine supplement serves to improve physical performance and optimize lean mass gains .

Benefits and effects of creatine

The main effect of creatine is to accelerate the production of energy for muscle cells. It does this by reacting with substances in the phosphoryl group (composed of phosphorus and oxygen), causing the production of ATP , which can be understood as the energy exchange currency of cells.

This gives the muscle more energy to make an effort.

These are the effects sought by those who use creatine supplementation, which, despite being present in our body naturally, can be elevated, usually are:

Greater muscular endurance

Creatine improves muscle resistance to exertion. This means that with it, you will have more energy to use during a long exercise, or after a short and explosive exercise.

Faster muscle recovery

With more energy, muscles can recover faster. After heavy exercise, muscle fibers are damaged and this is part of the pain we feel after the effort. Muscle growth occurs through muscle recovery.

With a greater reserve of energy in the cells, the muscles can recover more quickly, which allows you to get back to exercise faster.

Muscle growth

Creatine increases the size of muscles in two ways. Through the accumulation of liquid and through accelerated recovery.

Creatine accumulates water between muscle fibers. The muscles gain volume and the body is not swollen, as this build-up does not happen outside the muscles. But it also speeds up muscle recovery, which means that creatine really helps in real muscle growth.

When you stop creatine, you may notice a decrease in muscle volume as the extra fluid drains away, but the growth gained during the time you were taking the supplement is maintained.

Increased protein synthesis

Creatine is also able to increase protein synthesis. The body uses proteins to build muscle and to increase its production is to give more material so that the body can increase its muscle mass.

Effects on the brain

In addition to the muscles, creatine is also used, to a lesser extent, in the brain. The organ is one of the most energy intensive in the human body, so it makes sense that it uses creatine, which increases the production of ATP for cells.

One study indicated that there is a significant improvement in memory and intelligence test results when people ingest creatine, which is probably due to the fact that there is more energy for brain cells. This indicates that brain function can be improved with creatine.

Side effects of creatine

For a long time there has been controversy surrounding creatine due to possible side effects. It was illegal in Brazil between 2005 and 2010 due to the lack of studies to prove its safety and until today the recommendation is that it is used only by high-performance athletes.

However, it does not exist without any side effects. Some of them are:

Reduction of natural creatine production

The body produces creatine naturally. With time and the use of the substance, especially in higher quantities, it can reduce or even stop its natural production since everything necessary comes from food.

It is important to avoid taking creatine supplementation for more than three months without a break to avoid this type of problem.

Accumulation of liquid

Creatine is known to accumulate liquid. However, it does it differently from sodium, which gives the body a puffy appearance. The fluid that is accumulated by creatine is between the muscle fibers.

Part of the increase in muscle volume is due to this accumulation, but not all. Stopping taking creatine reduces the accumulation of fluid, but you do not lose the muscle mass you gained while using supplementation.

Sickness

Due to poor solubility, creatine can cause nausea during digestion. Stomach pains can also appear because of the consumption of the supplement.

Drug interaction

While there are no direct drug interactions with creatine, there is caution that must be taken when using this supplement. As it adds an extra workload on the kidneys, medications that cause kidney damage or that also increase kidney work can cause kidney damage.

Among the drugs that have this potential are:

  • Amicacina ;
  • Gentamicin Sulfate ;
  • Ibuprofen ;
  • Naproxen sodium .

Remember to talk to your doctor if you plan to start using creatine and take some medication, as it is not only these that have the ability to damage your kidneys.

Myths about creatine

There are several myths surrounding this substance. Here are a few:

Does creatine cause organ damage?

No . Taking creatine in adequate amounts does not damage any organ. There are studies that show that even in the long term, kidney, liver and heart functions are healthy.

Previous studies have found that creatine supplementation causes more creatinine to appear in greater amounts in the urine. Normally high creatinine indicates that there is a kidney problem, however it is natural that it is elevated in case of supplementation.

This is because creatinine is a by-product of creatine. Logically, taking more creatine increases the amount of creatinine in the body and this appears in the urine.

While there is old literature that indicates kidney damage caused by creatine, more recent studies have not found this relationship and point out that it is possible that creatine can cause problems in people who already have kidney damage, since it increases the work done by the organ, as well as the of the liver.

There are studies that indicate that extremely high doses of the substance can cause loss of kidney functions, but at the recommended doses, there is no danger.

Is creatine bad?

It depends . As with any substance, excessive consumption can cause problems, as has already been pointed out in the case of a reduction in the natural production of creatine by the liver and kidney damage in the case of excess. However, these are not the only problem.

People who already have kidney or liver damage may experience difficulties related to creatine. Although the substance does not cause new damage, there is a possibility that it may exacerbate damage already present.

Cirrhosis , fatty liver and kidney failure are diseases that should be observed and, in such cases, it is recommended not to use creatine.

Don’t forget to talk to your doctor about this.

Creatine causes cramps?

No study to date has indicated that the use of creatine causes cramps. The myth may have arisen from someone who had cramps coincidentally shortly after starting to take creatine, for example. Therefore, you can take the supplement without having that concern.

Supplemental creatine fattening?

It depends on what you consider to be gaining weight. Creatine can increase your mass, especially lean mass , but it weighs more than fat.

That is, the consumption of creatine can increase your weight on the scale, especially since the substance can accumulate water in the muscles, which will also increase the numbers.

However, creatine does not increase the amount of fat in the body of the person taking it, so it is not possible to say that it is gaining weight.

After you stop taking the supplement, the volume of the accumulated liquid leaves the body, so this extra weight is also gone.

How to take creatine powder?

There are different ways to take the various types of creatine supplements, in addition to natural sources. Creatine foods are common in the Brazilian diet, but first let’s talk about the supplement.

Taking the creatine supplement after training is recommended, but timing is not essential. Just ingest the right amounts daily and the effects of creatine will appear.

Phases of ingestion

It is recommended to take creatine in two stages. The first is called the saturation phase . During the first 5 to 7 days, you should take about 0.3 grams of creatine for every kg of weight per day.

If you have 60 kg, during the first 5 to 7 days you should take the equivalent of 0.3 × 60 grams of the substance, that is, 18 grams. This amount should be separated into 4 to 5 doses during the day.

After that, for the next 21 to 28 days, you should take 3 to 5 grams a day and then take a break for a month before resuming taking the supplement.

Some studies indicate that the saturation phase is not necessary, while others indicate that it provides a faster increase in creatine during this time.

You can ingest creatine in a few ways.

In powder

Powdered creatine can be mixed with water or milk. The substance is not easily soluble, but water allows for a more efficient absorption of the substance.

To be sure of the size of the doses, follow the instructions on the package.

Capsules

The capsules can be ingested with a glass of water to help swallow or without liquid, whichever you prefer.

To find out how many capsules to take, follow the instructions on the package.

Creatine before or after training?

The time at which you take creatine is of little relevance, however taking it right after training helps more in energy recovery, allowing you to perform other activities more easily afterwards, while taking creatine before training is more appropriate if you want to gain mass muscular.

Price and where to buy creatine

The price of creatine supplementation varies widely, depending also on its type and brand. It can cost R $ 20.00 and R $ 150.00. It is available at most supplement stores. In addition, you can also buy here:

  • Probiotic Creatine ;
  • Creatina Midway;
  • Integralmedica Creatine .

Foods with creatine

If you prefer to use foods with creatine instead of supplementation, it is also possible. The amount will not be the same since to ingest in the food the same as is possible with creatine monohydrate, it would be necessary to eat a lot, but you can increase the amount of the substance in your body.

In food, creatine is mainly concentrated in meat. It is possible to ingest it by eating:

  • Salmon;
  • Herring;
  • Red meat;
  • Liver;
  • Chicken;
  • Cod;
  • Sole;

Salmon sushi and sashimi is especially positive for eating creatine in the diet as in these cases, the fish does not go through the cooking process that can destroy part of the amount of creatine in the meat.

Common questions

Creatine causes kidney and liver damage?

No , unless you use very large doses of the substance . Studies indicate that at the recommended doses and even at relatively high doses, there is no damage to any organ.

It is good to avoid creatine if these organs already have damage as in cases of cirrhosis, fatty liver or kidney failure, since the process of metabolizing the substance can cause problems in these cases.

Does Creatine Influence Doping Test?

No ! Creatine has a positive effect and improves muscle capacity, but it is a natural substance that is already present in your body and food, so it is not considered in the doping test.

Does caffeine reduce the effect of creatine?

-Yeah . A study called Caffeine counteracts the ergogenic action of muscle creatine loading indicates that the muscle benefits of creatine are nullified when caffeine is administered along with supplementation.

When to take creatine: before or after training?

The ideal is to take the creatine supplement about 15 to 30 minutes before starting training.

Thus, there is time for it to be broken and made available to the body, assisting in strength and endurance training.


Creatine is a substance naturally produced by the body and present in food, but it can be taken as a supplement to improve physical performance, endurance and increase muscle mass.

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