Creatine: How to choose the best in 2021
Today we are going to talk about one of the supplements most used by athletes and lovers of good shape: creatine.
Effective to increase lean mass and training intensity, supplementation with creatine is unanimous among practitioners of intense physical exercises.
Amid so many options, with different brands and prices, we will show in this article what you should take into account before buying the creatine that will meet your expectations and needs.
First, the most important
- Creatine, despite being present in our body and in some elements, is proven to be effective when taken as supplements.
- Despite some controversies, if used correctly, it can really improve your performance in training and ensure muscle hypertrophy.
- Here we will show you everything you need to know about creatine, when and how to use it and, of course, how to choose the right type for you.
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At first glance, all creatine options may look the same. But you need to evaluate several factors to ensure that the supplement you choose is right for you.
So we created this Buying Guide with all the information you will need to make the best decision when investing in creatine.
What is creatine?
Creatine is a compound formed by three amino acids: arginine, glycine and methionine.
Did you know that produced by the pancreas and liver, creatine is present in almost all muscle fibers (about 95%) and, to a lesser extent, in the brain (about 5%).
In addition, creatine is also found, in a small percentage, in some foods.
However, in cases where creatine is more in demand, only enough is achieved through supplementation. This is the case of practitioners of intense physical activities, for example.
That’s because the main function of creatine is to provide energy for muscle contractions.
After being synthesized by the liver, creatine reaches muscle tissue and helps to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a molecule responsible for the storage and supply of energy for cellular activities.
As a result, creatine increases energy for training, strength and fatigue delay, especially those involving intense strength and contractions, such as weight training and running.
In addition, creatine can increase protein synthesis and fluid retention in muscles, which helps to conquer muscle hypertrophy and faster muscle recovery.
That is why this substance has become a great supplement ally for athletes.
Other effects of creatine include improving sleep, increasing testosterone levels and fighting free radicals, as creatine also has an antioxidant function.
How did creatine become popular?
Creatine supplements began to be used in the early 1980s.
But they only gained popularity in the following decade, with the athletes who won the gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 who used the supplement.
Today in the USA, about 50% of college athletes, 25% of basketball players say they consume creatine regularly to improve sports performance.
It is worth mentioning, however, that creatine is not an anabolic steroid.
How to use creatine?
For specialists, the best way to start creatine supplementation is with the guidance of a nutritionist, doctor or nutrologist.
Especially because, to have the desired effectiveness in your body, creatine needs to be accompanied by a strength training and proper diet.
That is, supplementation without weight training and without proper nutrition will not result in an increase in muscle mass.
Following your doctor’s recommendation, we suggest that you also follow some usage tips that we list below:
Hydration: Since creatine attracts water to your muscles, you should increase your daily water intake. 2.5 to 3 liters of water is the minimum you must supply your body every day.
- Quantity: The amount of creatine per day, recommended by Anvisa, is 3 g, however, many researches use 5 g of creatine as the basis of daily supplementation. However, if consumed in extremely high doses, creatine can cause loss of kidney functions, among other problems. In addition, it is worth mentioning that this product does not replace a balanced diet and its consumption at the best dosage should be guided by a nutritionist or doctor.
- Saturation: Creatine saturation involves consuming a larger amount of the supplement for 5 or 7 days in order to fill the entire musculature with creatine and accelerate its effects. In this case, you already start supplementing with 20g (divided into four or five daily doses). After this period, the cells will all be saturated with creatine and you can start to ingest only 5g of the nutrient per day.
- Cycling: Some people choose to take creatine in cycles to improve the body’s response to the supplement. In general, those who choose this method, take creatine for 30 days and stop consumption for another 30 days. And so on.
- Carbohydrate Source: Some experts claim that the best way to take creatine is in conjunction with another supplement and a fast-absorbing carbohydrate source. This is because, in order for nutrients to be better absorbed by muscle, cells need the presence of insulin. And the best way to cause a spike in insulin is to consume rapidly assimilated carbohydrates that can be in the form of supplements or foods.
When is the best time to take creatine?
Experts say, in theory, you can take creatine pre- or post-workout.
Post-workout creatine is believed to replenish creatine stores depleted during physical activity. With that, your muscles are fueled for the next workout.
Pre-workout creatine could, in theory, increase ATP in cells, increasing energy for exercise and recovery.
However, some researchers believe that taking creatine before training will not make you more energetic.
That’s because creatine needs time to be metabolized in the body and its benefits depend on the saturation of muscle cells.
Thus, as the body needs at least five days to reach muscle saturation of creatine, taking it pre-workout will not make a difference.
Can I combine creatine with Whey Protein?
You can and should. Combining creatine with Whey Protein is ideal for those looking for more results in gains in muscle mass, strength and energy to intensify weight training.
Whey Protein is a protein supplement, usually made from the protein extracted from whey, which is absorbed quickly by the body.
And the truth is that, after training, our body asks for protein, since it is essential for the development, recovery and preservation of the muscles in your body.
In addition, combining these two types of supplements will guarantee several benefits, such as:
- Muscle reconstruction and repair;
- Increased muscle mass;
- Injury prevention;
- More energy and strength in training.
To combine the two supplements, there are several options. You can dissolve the creatine powder in water and then add Whey Protein.
But you can also consume them separately, and even at different times of the day.
What foods contain creatine?
Originally synthesized in the liver and pancreas, creatine can be found in small proportions in red meat, poultry and fish.
If you prefer to use foods with creatine instead of supplementation, it is also possible.
It is worth remembering that the quantity will not be the same and, therefore, the results will not be as efficient either.
One of the main foods rich in natural creatine is red meat, especially lean meat.
It is estimated that 453 grams of raw meat contain about 2 grams of creatine.
Other foods rich in creatine are fish, such as tuna, salmon, sashimi and sushi. Likewise, a minimal amount of creatine can be found in milk.
What are the myths about creatine?
Despite being a substance produced by the body, the creatine supplement still causes many doubts.
Therefore, we have gathered below the main myths regarding creatine and the necessary explanations for you to consume this supplement without fear. Check out:
- Kidneys: One of the concerns with using creatine is with regard to the kidneys. So far, according to all the studies done on this, there is no indication that the correct consumption of creatine can cause damage to the kidneys. Since, however, creatine can significantly increase kidney work, we recommend that you consume plenty of water during the day. In addition, as we have seen, if consumed in very high doses, creatine can cause loss of kidney functions.
- Liver: Another possible concern with creatine would be the effect of the supplement on liver functions. But, as with the functioning of the kidneys, several studies on the subject have been carried out and no association has been found between the correct use of creatine and liver problems.
- Swelling: When people say that creatine is fattening, in fact people are referring to the fluid retention caused by the amino acid. As we have seen, creatine attracts water to the muscles which causes swelling and increased lean mass. But it does not increase the weight on the scale. That is, the weight variation that occurs in general in the first days of supplementation, is basically water and not fat. Especially because creatine does not contain calories. If the swelling brings discomfort to you, increase your water intake and try taking natural diuretics, such as some types of teas.
- Cramps: It is not uncommon to see information out there that the use of creatine contributed to the appearance of cramps. However, to date, there is no study that has identified this relationship. Therefore, you can take the supplement without having this concern.
Does creatine have side effects?
Just like any substance we eat, creatine as a food supplement can also cause some side effects.
The most expressive of these effects is, of course, water retention in muscle tissue.
The fact is that this fluid retention can increase the risk of dehydration. Hence the importance of drinking more water when starting to supplement with creatine.
In addition, it is possible that there is a decrease in endogenous production. A study has shown that creatine supplementation could alter the natural production of creatine by the liver and pancreas
Other possible side effects of creatine are:
- Stomach pains
- Elevated blood pressure
Who is creatine supplement for?
Creatine supplementation, despite all its benefits, has some contraindications.
Check below, that you should not use creatine in supplement form:
- Minors, since there are no tests of the effect of the supplement in this age group.
- Pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding or intending to become pregnant
- People with diabetes or who have had liver problems and kidney deficiencies
All of these examples cited should only use creatine if released by a healthcare professional.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of creatine?
Creatine has numerous advantages. It is no wonder that it is one of the most used supplements in the world of bodybuilding.
In addition to providing more energy to the muscles, it also acts in the control of blood glucose, promotes bone health and stimulates the production of testosterone.
Another advantage is that creatine can also be used by vegetarians to stimulate muscle growth.
This is because vegetarians tend to have lower levels of creatine due to the absence of animal protein in the diet.
In addition, creatine allows you to maintain intensity for longer during workouts.
This leads to an increase in the volume and even the load of some exercises. And that, of course, means greater muscle hypertrophy.
And, because creatine provides immediate energy to cells, this ensures that muscles do not go into fatigue from lack of fuel.
In addition, studies suggest that creatine supplementation reduces inflammation after intense training.
It is able to improve post-workout recovery.
Not to mention that it is also able to reduce damage to muscle cells, improving post-workout recovery.
But still, creatine can have some disadvantages. As we have seen, it is also a substance that is passive of side effects.
In addition, the supplement is not indicated for people who have a disease, such as diabetes and kidney disease.
Not to mention that, when consumed in excess, creatine can also cause damage to the body, especially to the liver and kidneys.
The important thing in any case is that, in order to guarantee the desired effects and complete protection of your health, you must use creatine with your doctor’s supervision.
The following are the main advantages and disadvantages of creatine:
- Muscle strength gain
- Increases training intensity
- Increases lean mass
- Accelerates recovery
- Can be combined with other supplements
- It is recommended for vegetarians
- May cause side effects
- May cause harm to the body if misused
- Not suitable for everyone
How much does creatine cost?
The price of creatine varies a lot depending on the manufacturer brand, the size of the package, among other factors.
But in general, you will find creatine on sale costing between R $ 10 and R $ 1,000. Of course, you don’t have to buy the most expensive one.
The important thing is to choose the one that best suits, in terms of composition and quality, the objective that you will establish with your doctor.
Where to buy creatine?
You will find creatine for sale at supplement stores, sports stores, department stores, and hypermarkets. Still, we recommend that you make your purchase at online stores like Amazon.
That’s because, in online stores you will find more options of brands and sizes, competitive prices in addition to, of course, purchasing creatine from the comfort of your home.
Purchasing Criteria: What You Should Consider Before Choosing Creatine
As we have seen, the creatine supplement is very effective for your muscles when combined with exercise and nutrition appropriate to your purpose. But how to choose the best creatine among the many options available on the market today?
First of all, as we have already said here, you need to be accompanied by an expert. But it is also essential that you understand what the characteristics of each type of creatine are, so that you invest in the one that will actually bring you expected benefits.
Therefore, we have listed below for you the main factors that must be taken into account before purchasing your creatine:
Next, we’ll explain each of these factors in detail so that you can make the best decision and invest in the ideal creatine.
The first factor that we recommend that you take into account before purchasing the supplement is the type of creatine to choose.
In recent years, new forms of creatine have been developed in order to improve its absorption by the body.
In addition, of course, to try to reduce the unwanted effects of poor digestion that may be associated with the supplement.
Therefore, currently, creatine can be found in several forms. But the most common are of the type: monohydrate, micronized, ethyl ester and hydrocrolized.
Creatine monohydrate was the first type to appear, which is why it is the most common one sold on the market.
Because it is the most natural form of creatine, monohydrate is also considered the most efficient.
Because it is the most natural form of creatine, monohydrate is also considered the most efficient. However, this type has low solubility and can cause gastric discomfort, such as a stuffy feeling and even diarrhea, in some people.
To minimize the chance of these side effects, we recommend taking this creatine with some carbohydrate.
The micronized creatine, on the other hand, is basically creatine monohydrate, only “broken” into smaller particles.
Thanks to this process, micronized creatine has a surface that is about 20 times larger.
Because of this, the absorption rate of the supplement is higher and discomfort during digestion is reduced.
You will find at least four types of creatine, which differ mainly by their digestion process and side effects.
In addition to these types, you can also find the creatine ethyl ester. This creatine went through an esterification process and was added with an ester.
This process guarantees high absorption rates, around 99%, and completely eliminates intestinal discomfort.
Finally, there is also hydrochlorinated creatine. this type of creatine is 40 times more soluble in water, when compared to monohydrate.
For you to have a notion, a dose of 5g of creatine monohydrate would need about 400ml of water to be totally solubilized.
The same dose of hydrochlorinated creatine would need only 21ml of water. Therefore, its recommended dosage, 1.5 grams, is less than the others.
However, for those who have never used creatine before, the tip is to start with the monohydrate version, which has a better cost-benefit ratio.
Remembering that you can also opt for combined creatine, which is both micronized and monohydrate.
Another factor that you should take into consideration before choosing the best creatine is how the substance can be consumed.
The choice here is very personal and should be according to your routine.
On the market, the supplement is available in powder, capsule, tablet and liquid form.
In powder, creatine tends to be more concentrated and can be mixed with water, milk and even other supplements with or without flavor.
The liquid form of creatine, which is still more difficult to find, is usually easier to absorb.
Capsules and tablets are the most practical, especially if you need to use creatine outside the home.
In this format, creatine can be taken with a glass of water to help swallow or even without liquid.
Also evaluate the creatine packaging size. In that case, you need to take into account the quantity and duration of consumption and, of course, the cost-benefit ratio.
In general, the bigger the product the cheaper the creatine will come out. But there is no point in investing in a product that is too big if your usage plan is shorter.
To give you an idea, you will find creatine powder in pots from 50g to 1kg. In general, the 70g pot is good for 20 days of use.
Packages with tablets and capsules can be found containing between 60 and 400 units.
As we have seen, your choice will depend on your goal, which should be defined with your doctor.
For example, if you decide to use 3g of creatine daily for three months, you will need 270 grams of the product.
Purity is one of the criteria that define which is the best creatine. In general, creatine should have other components added to its formula.
So stay tuned: any component other than creatine hinders the product’s effectiveness and decreases the concentration of substances that really matter in the supplement.
In general, the best brands on the market offer a high degree of purity, which varies between 99% and 100%.
You should also take into account the taste of creatine. Despite being a supplement easily ingested with water it is possible to choose versions with flavors.
Flavorless creatine is easier to consume by mixing it with other liquids, such as water and juices.
But, especially if you choose creatine in the form of tablets, you can find the supplement with several flavors such as: lemon, strawberry, grape, orange, chocolate.
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