You need Creatine.
That statement is a little misleading, however, because the human body produces it.
Creatine, just like protein, is a supplement that deserves attention. There is too much information out there when it comes to creatine, let alone all supplements.
Most of the information comes from misconceptions and a lack of knowledge.
This will mostly be centered on creatine monohydrate and anything else may not follow suit.
Why is Creatine Important?
Creatine is necessary for force production in the muscles. The Phosphagen system is responsible for breaking down creatine phosphate (CP) to accomplish a task.
This system is responsible for high intensity, short duration activity. Close to maximal outputs lasting 6 seconds or less are almost exclusively utilizing the phosphagen system.
The problem with using creatine phosphate as an energy source is that it is horribly inefficient. It is broken down rapidly and has the worst capacity for ATP synthesis.
It also takes about 2-3 minutes (or more depending on the individual) to replenish ~90% of your ATP stores.
Simply put, creatine is the energy source for power activities that last a few seconds (sprinting, shot put, weightlifting, etc.)
Where Does it Come From?
Creatine is produced by the body in small amounts. There is a limited capacity for storage.
The main way to get creatine through diet is animal products, especially red meat. A deficiency in creatine is not common in the American diet but vegetarians and vegans may be at risk.
Luckily for most people, they are all set with healthy levels of creatine.
Supplementing Creatine will increase the stores of CP and make it more available to the muscles. Remember that it will not all store, though.
Is Supplementing Safe?
The simple answer is that creatine monohydrate supplementation is safe. There are 2 caveats to that statement, though.
1. Too much creatine at once can cause some serious stomach problems.
2. Dehydration can set in without adequate water intake.
Otherwise it is not going to destroy your kidneys, liver, cause cancer, or start a fake online relationship with you.
5 grams daily is recommended for safe intake. Just make sure you have creatine monohydrate and not a thousand of different ingredients in powder form.
Should you Supplement?
Remember the number one rule of supplements: supplement does not mean replacement. There is no better way to get creatine (or any other nutrient) than from a good diet.
So if you are not eating enough food, you do not need creatine. You need more food.
A creatine monohydrate supplement can be helpful for those in training to enhance, not cause their gains.
You still need to train properly and have a good total diet to reach the goals you want. Creatine can be helpful for getting a little bit extra out of your strength and power training. Just remember if you are weak, creatine will not make you strong. You need to put some weight on the bar and lift it.
There are a host of other general benefits that creatine supplementation has. Most of them are performance based and it may not be essential to take for health reasons.
We are learning a lot more about creatine and signs are pointing towards it being safe and effective. It is not a miracle worker but it can be beneficial with little risk.
Creatine Loading does not appear to be necessary, except maybe just to get the stomach used to the supplement.
It is possible to be a non responder to creatine. This has to do with muscle structure, diet, and other factors. Luckily the supplement does not have adverse side effects if it was to be ineffective.
Make an Informed Decision. Read these before you take anything.