Athletes and those looking to get the most out of their gym sessions often turn to supplements to aid their efforts. In fact, most of them take at least some kind of supplement – be it a protein shake to help them build muscle more effectively, a sports drink filled with electrolytes to help their workout session last, or green tea extract to help them in their weight loss journey. If you asked your male friends about what they supplement their workouts with, many of them would name creatine as one of the things they use regularly.
Creatine is indeed one of the most well-researched sports supplements that have a myriad of benefits for those frequenting the gym. How come, then, that your exercise-loving female friends will most likely not name this supplement as one of their staples? Despite being well-researched, there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding creatine when talking about women’s supplements. However, it has a lot of untapped potential for improving your workouts and even your health. Here is what you should know about it and why you might want to start taking it on the regular.
What is creatine and how does it work?
When someone says that creatine boosts one’s performance, it is easy to mistaken it for a steroid. However, this is the first misconception about creatine that you need to forget. Creatine is not related to hormones. It is actually an organic compound that is naturally synthesized in your body. Creatine is produced in your kidneys and liver, from the amino acids arginine and glycine, with the help of methionine. However, it should be noted that despite being made up of amino acids, it is not a protein. In fact, creatine had already been discovered in the 19th century, when scientists determined that it is an important component in our muscles. While it is primarily found in your muscles, it is also present in your brain.
However, what’s more, important to talk about is the role and effect of creatine. The reason why creatine is useful in getting you closer to your fitness goals is that it helps with generating energy, to put it simply. You might already know that ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the energy currency of the cell and it is basically what keeps you going. You expend ATP with your every action, breaking it down into ADP (adenosine diphosphate) and a phosphate molecule. Once you’ve used up your limited supply, you will get tired and won’t be able to go on with your exercise until your ATP supply is replenished. This is where creatine comes into the picture. It promotes the conversion of ADP back into ATP, which means that you will have the energy for a longer time, allowing you to also work out longer and harder.
Considering that your body naturally produces creatine, it is not an essential nutrient, however, its many benefits make taking it worth considering. This is especially true for vegetarians and vegans who do not consume the foods creatine is naturally found in. Those include meat, particularly red meat, as well as fish. Needless to say, you would need to eat considerable amounts of these foods to even get close to the amounts of creatine supplementing can provide your body with.
Benefits of creatine for women
Creatine improves your performance during your exercise sessions. However, you might be worrying that the price of this performance improvement might be excessive muscle gain, weight gain, and other undesirable side effects. There are indeed a lot of myths surrounding this supplement. Here are the specific benefits of creatine for women to help clear up all the misconceptions around it.
You might be associating creatine with the image of bulked-up men pushing weights. Indeed, creatine is the most effective supplement out there for those who are looking to build muscle mass. However, you don’t have to worry about bulking up excessively. Building muscle takes more than just taking a supplement, so you won’t get bulky overnight. In addition, while creatine does have the same basic function in men and women, there are some differences in its effect depending on your sex.
Because of their testosterone levels, men build muscle faster – this is a well-known fact. So, as a woman, what you’ll gain from creatine supplementation is a push in building strong, lean muscle, rather than acquiring a bulky figure. Creatine’s power to aid lean muscle building can be especially significant for mature women who are stepping into the age where muscle loss becomes a concern. Taking this supplement can help with muscle retention in your golden age and you can stay healthy and strong!
We already explained the chemical process that creatine is liable for. It is only natural, thus, that this supplement can boost your energy levels and improve the effectiveness of your workout session if taken in appropriate doses. It will allow you to work out longer: it improves your resistance to fatigue so you won’t get tired as easily. It will also allow you to work out more intensely, which means that you can make the most of your time spent at the gym and move towards your fitness goals at a higher speed.
Creatine is especially useful when you’re doing high-intensity workouts – it can improve your performance by as much as 15%! The higher lactate threshold and the improved recovery time are also benefits that will optimize your workout sessions like nothing before. But it’s not only in the gym where creatine can help your performance. It will also generally improve your energy levels in your everyday life. Especially if you are vegetarian or vegan, it is a good idea to supplement your body with creatine to stay energetic.
We already mentioned that creatine helps you with building lean muscle. However, we must emphasize the huge potential this supplement has when it comes to improving your strength. Creatine has been shown to be very effective at boosting strength, both in the upper and lower body, for short periods of time. This is a benefit that can take your exercise sessions to the next level if you are training weightlifting, for instance. It also comes in handy if you participate in combat sports where you need to be at your peak performance during matches.
However, building strength is a concern that should be one of the primary fitness goals of any woman, not just weightlifters and boxers. It is extremely empowering to have the physical strength and to be able to fend for oneself. It not only boosts your confidence but can also protect you should an unforeseen situation arise. Finally, it’s not only about performing well now, but also about training your body for your future. You will be grateful for having a strong body when you step into your senior years.
Another misconception concerning creatine consumption has to do with water retention. The reason why some women have been reluctant to try this supplement is that it is said to increase water retention and thereby, cause bloating and gaining “water weight.” These words are not welcome in any woman’s life, so it’s only natural they don’t want to risk it. However, the truth is that creatine won’t cause you such problems. Creatine has no harmful side effects to speak of, and studies have found no health risks for healthy individuals. It does have hydrating properties – it enhances cellular hydration which is useful for balancing your body temperature. However, you will not notice a significant change in your body water or weight. There is only a minor increase during the loading period that stabilizes later on. In fact, men are more likely to experience a larger increase than women. That said, if you are still experiencing bloating, the cause is likely something else that you should investigate.
At the same time, others are concerned about dehydration and cramping when using creatine supplements. However, this should not be a concern if you are drinking enough water for your height, weight, as well as the level of physical activity. What needs to be kept in mind is that creatine helps you perform at a higher intensity, which means that you will naturally sweat more intensely as well. Calculate this into your hydration strategy and forget about myths that say creatine causes dehydration.
Improving cognitive processes
We briefly mentioned in the beginning that creatine is stored in your muscles and brain. We already explained how it helps you work out harder, so it is clear what the creatine in your muscles is used for. However, what about the creatine in our brains? The fact of the matter is that creatine has a slew of other benefits that do not particularly concern exercise, and some of those are related to cognition. Thinking also uses energy – our brain uses a lot of ATP when performing complex tasks and will also experience fatigue when it needs to work hard. Creatine can thus improve your brain functions the same way it improves your workout performance. Not only does it reduce mental fatigue, but it has even been shown to improve both short and long-term memory with just a short period of usage.
This means that taking creatine powder will not only benefit you during your workouts but even at work. This effect of creatine has other implications as well. Just like it helps you fight muscle loss in your golden age, it can also be useful in preventing neurological diseases. According to research, creatine can also slow down the progression of conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and so on. But taking creatine for improved mental clarity during your workouts is also a valid option. It increases the amount of oxygen your brain absorbs and therefore, it can help you think quicker and make better decisions in sports where this is a concern.
Protection against osteoporosis
Finally, another good reason to consider taking creatine as a woman lies in its protective properties against osteoporosis. This condition affects women much more frequently than men, and one of the best ways to protect yourself against it is strength training. By starting to build your muscles today, you will provide the perfect environment for your bones to get stronger. With appropriate creatine supplementation, you can make the most of your workouts and ensure your bones will remain healthy as you step into old age.
At this point, you probably don’t have any more doubts about whether you should turn to this supplement. So, the next question you might have probably concerns the dosage. First and foremost, what kind of creatine should you take? Creatine monohydrate is the most widespread variety. It is also the one that has been studied the most thoroughly, so it is a no-brainer that this is the safest choice. As for dosage, the practice of loading is often utilized in order to increase the muscles’ creatine stores before switching to smaller doses for the long term. Loading involves taking larger amounts of creatine over 5-7 days to reach the desired state faster. However, loading is not a mandatory step, so you should inform yourself and decide whether it would benefit you. As for the normal daily doses, the recommended amount is 3-5 grams a day depending on your needs. You can choose when you want to take it, just keep it consistent. Finally, you don’t have to worry about dependency; you can stop taking creatine whenever you want.
For those who work out seriously, the introduction of a supplement that will greatly improve their performance is a no-brainer. However, as a woman, you might have been concerned about the myths surrounding one of the most powerful sports supplements. It would be a shame to miss out on the massive potential of creatine if you are looking to build strength and lean muscle, as well as take your workouts to the next level. The unexpected benefits this supplement has for your brain function and overall health are the cherry on top.