By K.Aleisha Fetters
Creatine is a supplement staple for many gym goers looking to build muscle and power up their workouts.
But do you need it? How much should you take? And what exactly is creatine?
1. What It Is
When you eat meat, your liver and kidneys take some of the meat’s amino acids and make creatine. Your bloodstream then shuttles the creatine to your muscles, which convert it into creatine phosphate, a potent form of cellular energy, says Cleveland Clinic dietitian Kate Patton, R.D., C.S.C.S.
Creatine supplements are often creatine monohydrate, which your body also converts into creatine phosphate.
2. Why You Need It
The creatine phosphate in your muscles generates adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your fuel for explosive exercise like plyometrics, sprints, heavy lifts, or interval training.
But you deplete your stores after just 10 seconds of sprinting or weightlifting, says Eric Rawson, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., an exercise scientist at Bloomsburg University. So more stored creatine phosphate means more power for growth-stoking reps.
3. How to Consume It
If you do explosive exercise, take in 15 to 20 grams of creatine a day for five days to preload your system. Then, after this phase, consume 2 to 4 grams a day.
To get there, you can either eat more protein (beef, pork, and salmon all have 2 to 3 grams of creatine per 8 ounces) or take a creatine supplement. This amount will maintain your creatine phosphate levels before and after exercise, Rawson says.
Just be sure to consume the creatine with carbs, which help your muscles retain more of it.