Creatine is one of the most popular fitness supplements particularly among men looking to improve muscle mass. It is also one of the most well researched. But most women even if they workout regularly shun creatine supplements.
So should women consider Creatine supplements?
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a molecule produced in the body and found in certain foods like meat, eggs, and fish. Creatine comprises the amino acids L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine. Cardiac and muscle tissue contain high levels of creatine.
Creatine is present in most cells and acts as an energy reserve. It does this by enhancing the process of creating ATP from adenosine disphosphate (ADP). Supplemental creatine helps improve levels of ATP making it useful if stores are limited. While our liver produces most of our creatine you can increase your levels through certain foods and supplementation. As the majority of creatine stores are in the muscle cells, supplementation can increase available energy in the muscles which can lead to gains when exercising regularly. Creatine supplementation also increases the water content in muscle cells – this also results in changes in the expression of certain genes linked to muscle growth.
Research has shown creatine supplementation may have the following benefits when it comes to exercise performance.
If you’re exercising regularly, you may benefit from taking creatine if you want see improvements faster. If you are following a vegan or vegetarian diet you are likely to be lower in creatine and therefore the benefits may be more significant.
Should Women take Creatine?
There is no reason why women shouldn’t take creatine. If you want to build muscle and stay lean it can help women just as much as men. Many women are concerned that taking creatine could lead to bloating. However this should not the case – good quality creatine should not cause any noticeable bloat. In addition if you are trying to lose fat and preserve muscle which typically means cutting back on calories you will find creatine even more beneficial.
Most of the research on creatine use creatine monohydrate. There are other products on the market such as buffered creatine, creatine citrate, and hydrochloride. However there is very little evidence that these forms are any more effective than creatine monohydrate.
You may have heard of creatine loading – this is when you take a higher dose for a week before dropping down to a lower maintenance dose. However you shouldn’t need to creatine load. Studies have shown you can get optimal benefits by simply taking 5g creatine daily
To aid absorption it is often recommended you take creatine with protein and / or carbohydrates – an ideal time to take it would be as part of your post workout snack.
Are there any side effects?
For some people if you take a large dose in one go you may experience stomach discomfort or loose stools – to avoid this keep the intake to 5g daily and drink plenty of fluids during the day
Another concern is whether it can adversely kidney health. If you have poor kidney health do check with your doctor before supplementing. However generally speaking if you are exercising regularly and have healthy kidneys there is no concern with creatine supplementation.