When you hear creatine, you probably think of oversized male bodybuilders — due to creatine being one of the most popular supplements for muscle growth next to protein powder, it makes a lot of sense. The biggest misconception when it comes to creatine is the amount of new research increasingly underlining the benefits of creatine for women, especially related to building lean muscle without the appearance of bulk.
If you regularly exercising, then adding creatine to your diet can help you reach your fitness goals. There are various types and forms of creatine, from creatine monohydrate, to creatine hydrochloride, to magnesium creatine chelate. Here are answers to commonly asked questions by women looking trying to find out if creatine is right for them:
First, what exactly is creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid that our bodies store in our muscles and brain to use as a natural energy source. When our bodies need energy (like during exercise), they convert creatine into phosphocreatine, which fuels our muscles by means of ATP - the energy carrying molecule.
While creatine is available as a powdered, pill, and gummy supplement, you can also get it through various food sources like organ meat (liver, heart, kidneys), red meat, chicken, and fish. For vegans and vegetarians in particular who likely don’t get much creatine through their diets, a creatine supplement is a great way to support healthy levels in the body.
Who should take creatine?
Anyone who lifts weights, sprints, or faithfully attends HIIT classes, can benefit from taking creatine, says Lauren Antonucci, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.S.D., C.D.E., C.D.N., sports dietitian and owner of Nutrition Energy. Creatine is also a certified nootropic ("smart-drug") that improves memory, focus, and reasoning as well.
Can some women in particular benefit more from creatine?
Creatine has unique benefits for women over 50. The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that, in addition to the cognitive benefits cited, "creatine supplementation can help support healthy bones and skeletal muscle mass", which is a common concern that comes with aging.
Studies have shown that a group of postmenopausal who were given creatine and asked to do resistance training showed "increased physical function, lower limb lean mass, and overall improved quality of life". Many women (and even men) over 50 experience a loss in overall muscle mass due to age, although when combated with exercise and creatine, can keep their edge.
When to take creatine
Though researchers still don’t all quite agree on the single best time to take creatine - before, during, or after exercise have all been proven effective.
Some research also suggests taking creatine alongside some carbohydrates (simple sugars) boosts its effectiveness. Carbs stimulate our production of the hormone insulin (delivery vehicle), which then helps transport nutrients (including creatine) into our muscle cells.
Creatine can build lean muscle mass
It’s true, you should retain a bit of water, but not large amounts and not in the areas your worried about. Creatine promotes cellular volume or the amount of water content in your muscles. When a volumized muscle is placed under the stress of a lifting session (ladies, you should be lifting HEAVY) you increase amino acid uptake and protein synthesis. Both processes are essential in building lean muscle mass. The more lean muscle you have, the stronger and faster your metabolism becomes. So yes, your muscles might hold onto a bit more water thanks to creatine supplementation but it’s for a good reason and ultimately works in your benefit.
Stress and cramps
There's a giant misunderstanding when thinking creatine is going to cause bloating or give you GI distress. It's bad enough that we have to deal with bloating and cramps during certain times of the month, so why makes things worse with a supplement? As long as you stick consistently to a low-dose protocol, it's highly unlikely you'll see any change in your weight or any unpleasant side effects.
Is creatine vegetarian friendly?
While creatine is found in red meat, chicken, and fish... the amino acid itself is vegetarian/vegan friendly. In fact, vegetarians who forgo dietary sources of creatine may want to consider adding the supplement to their routine. Bear Balanced gummies are both made entirely of organic and vegan ingredients to help meet those needs!
How to take creatine?
The bottom line is that it’s best taken on the same day as your workout.
Like other vitamins and supplements, creatine is also most helpful when part of a consistent routine, so you should aim to take it daily. Adding it to your morning daily essential vitamins regiment or sometime around your workout can help make that daily habit stick.