Ladies, we all know that Creatine is typically associated with bulky, burly men sporting 20” thick biceps and triceps in mainstream media.
That’s usually the demographic that supplement manufacturers also aim to cater to, with advertorials and product labels centered around pro bodybuilders.
If anyone’s seen the old ‘MuscleTech’ ads, you’d have a fair idea of what we mean.
If you are a woman, it can almost seem like this is the one supplement that you shouldn’t be using if you are looking to stay lean and mean.
Nobody wants to look like a silverback with tree trunk thick arms, right?
That’s not the case though.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Creatine is an amazing supplement for women that can help optimize performance, delivery more ATP during explosive workouts and help you be stronger, fitter and healthier.
In this article, we’ll shed some light on Creatine for women and also bust some myths surrounding it, that will help you make an informed choice.
First Ladies, What is Creatine?
Creatine is a chemical molecule that is produced in our bodies by the amino acids glycine, arginine and methionine.
- It is not a steroid nor is it a hormonal compound. It is more closely related to amino acids and is associated with a plethora of biological functions at the cellular level.
While it is primarily produced by the Pancreas and the kidneys, the bulk of it is stored in our muscle tissue in the form of creatine phosphate and phosphocreatine.
It is naturally found in beef, venison, pork, chicken and some varieties of fish, such as Cod, Herring and Tuna. Although it has been discovered that wild varieties of meat have twice the quantity of creatine as compared to meat bred in captivity.
Now we know why free range meat and wild-caught fish is so hyped.
On an average, our bodies produce about 2 grams of Creatine. But it has an innate capability to store a lot more in the muscles.
Hence, the recommended maintenance dose of Creatine for athletes is around 5 grams a day. This replenishes our ATP stores and boosts our performance during high intensity workout sessions.
How Does Creatine Work?
When you ingest a food containing Creatine, or when you supplement your diet with Creatine, it is absorbed instantly and gets converted into Creatine Phosphate before being stored in muscle tissue.
During high intensity workouts, like a squat or a deadlift or a sprint, your body needs an explosive burst of energy to kick start that move.
Creatine provides that energy.
When you contract a muscle, this phosphocreatine gets converted into Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP, a form of rapidly absorbing energy and fuels that activity.
What makes it such a beneficial molecule is that your body draws from its ATP reserves at the very beginning of your workouts, when it is the most challenging.
After a while, it switches to fat and sugar to fuel further workouts. But it is estimated that the first 15-20 seconds of any intense activity will be fueled by Creatine.
In theory, that might not sound like a lot to be honest, but when you are lifting and running on the treadmill you notice this minuet boost.
But imagine being able to increase your 1RM deadlift by 10-15 lbs. Or being able to improve your 100m sprint by even 2-3 seconds with a powerful launch into your run.
That’s the edge that Creatine gives you.
Also, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Creatine has a truckload of other benefits for the athlete, that often get undermined by its muscle-enlarging properties that bodybuilder gym bros harp on.
Should Women Take Creatine?
Women athletes using Creatine have a lot to gain from it.
No Pun intended.
Creatine Is Not Gender Specific
Here’s the thing, just because you are a woman and this supplement is portrayed as a dude supplement does not mean that you should not be using it.
Creatine is extremely beneficial for men and can be extremely beneficial for you ladies too. It has been proven to be very beneficial, regardless of gender.
Why I Started Using Creatine
Let me just start off with by giving you the 3 main reasons why I started using creatine so that you can decide for yourself.
I started using creatine because it has been proven to help with fatigue and help improve brain performance. These two reasons alone were plenty reason enough for me to start supplementing with creatine. I saw this as an opportunity to get an edge on my busy day over my peers.
The other reason is because of the improved muscle growth and increased performance that creatine has been shown to provide. Again, an edge.
You can check out the stuff that I use here.
And these are just the three main reason I started.
Down below are all of the main benefits of creatine for women.
Benefits of Creatine for Women
Listed below are key benefits for women that creatine can provide
Increases Fat-Free Lean Mass
There’s a common misconception that Creatine makes you fat. Not true. We’ll do some myth busting in a bit. Meanwhile, Creatine works via numerous biological pathways to help increase fat-free lean muscle mass. It stimulates the formation of new proteins, that helps produce new muscle fibers. It also increases the levels of IGF-1, a hormone that is critical for producing lean muscle mass.
Last but not the least, it reduces the levels of Myostatin, which is like your body’s muscle regulator. When Myostatin levels are high, your body cannot produce new muscle. Creatine limits this. So, if you are looking to turn your little body skinny armed self into a strong, toned woman Creatine might be your ticket.
Creatine has been shown to improve cognitive performance in more ways than one. In animal model studies, it was revealed that it helped prevent a 90% reduction in Dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter that helps improve focus and cognitive functioning. Since it replenishes the levels of Phosphocreatine in your brain, it is also believed to be neuroprotective and helpful in managing a wide range of neurological conditions.
Creatine keeps you active all day by reducing fatigue and tiredness, even when you are sleep deprived. For a busy, working woman, that’s akin to having an endless source of energy for everyday activities. If you work out, this can translate into improved performance and quicker recovery.
It Amplifies Your Cardio
Creatine can dramatically improve your performance during HIIT cardio or any other high intensity cardiovascular workout. It boosts strength, your ability to sprint, amplifies muscle stamina and endurance, increases your resistance to fatigue, allows your body to recover faster and also improves cognitive performance. A lot of the supplements sold in the health and fitness industry produce effects so miniscule that you’d have to be an elite athlete to spot the positive effects that it has on your body. Not Creatine. You’ll get the benefits irrespective of your current body composition. Even if you are just starting to exercise after a 10-year hiatus, Creatine will kick-in and you will feel the effects.
Amplifies Muscle Growth
Creatine is touted to be one of the most effective supplements to increase muscle mass naturally. The first effect that you notice will be the muscle enlarging due to the increased intramuscular water that Creatine pulls in. But over a period of time, the effects go beyond the water retention. The continual improvement in performance in the gym as well as other biological signals that we mentioned above, lead to an increase in lean muscle mass. This is not water weight that you lose when you stop using Creatine. This is permanent muscle tissue that you can retain if you continue to work out and eat well.
Improves Blood Sugar control
Creatine amplifies the functioning of glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT-4), a molecule that is associated with shuttling glucose to your muscles. When clubbed with exercise, this helps improve insulin resistance and keeps your blood sugar levels in control.
Slows Down Bone Loss
Most women are prone to bone loss and osteoporosis (brittle bones) as they age. According to a recent study Creatine supplementation may help in slowing down this bone loss.
Top 5 Creatine Myths Related to Women
Despite all the evidence that supports the use of Creatine for women, who pretty much have the same fitness goals as men, its usage among female athletes and fitness buffs seems to be surprisingly limited.
Most women shy away from Creatine fearing that it might make them look bulky.
Others feel that it makes them fat.
On that note, here are the top 5 myths surrounding Creatine that make women skeptical about using it.
Creatine Makes You Fat
If we got a dollar every time we heard that, we’d be millionaires by now. Here’s the deal. Creatine does not make you fat. Period. It does increase the water that you hold in your cells. But the water retention is intramuscular, which means that it increases the size of your muscles only. It has absolutely no connection with your body fat levels. It does not affect your fat metabolism.
In fact, there was a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning research that states that female athletes who used creatine not only had increased upper body strength, they also had reduced body fat after just 5-weeks.
The only way it can make you look fat is if you have high body fat levels to begin with. That’s a thick layer of fat covering your muscles. In this case, you should be focusing on losing fat before using creatine.
Creatine Makes You Look Bloated or Soft
Again, the only way you could look bloated is if your subcutaneous water levels increased. Creatine does not increase your subcutaneous water levels. All it does is draw more water into the cell which does not make you look bloated. If you feel that you are looking bloated after using Creatine, then you need to recheck your electrolyte levels and your salt intake.
Also, if you are preloading creatine, I would stop that and switch to a much lower daily maintenance dose. I use creatine daily on my off days and my training days. Here’s a study in which it is stated that women using Creatine had greater lower body strength with no bulking effect.
You Lose Your Gains When You Stop Using Creatine
No, you don’t. Even though you may look a little deflated as all the water that was stored in the muscle tissue will slowly get excreted, you will never lose the muscle tissue that you make. As long as you continue to follow a regular diet and lifting routine, there’s no reason why you should lose even a pound of muscle post Creatine usage.
Creatine is a Steroid
Not by a long shot. It’s a chemical molecule that’s similar in structure to amino acids. Anabolic steroids are androgenic hormones or derivatives of it. Creatine does not have any effect on your hormone production, nor does it impact your HPTA. For women, there’s no risk of virilization or masculinity, which is a serious side effect of anabolic steroids.
Creatine is Unsafe for Women
The only possible argument that one could present in favor of this myth is that a large portion of the hundreds of double blind clinical trials using Creatine were conducted on men. Very few were conducted on women. But based on all those tests, it’s very clear that Creatine has an excellent safety profile. It is not unsafe for women when used in recommended doses. In fact, we will discuss other safety concerns in a bit.
Tips for Women Looking to Use Creatine
All said and done, here are some tips for women looking to add creatine to their fitness routine.
Irrespective of whether you are an athlete or just someone who likes to stay fit, these tips will help you use Creatine to achieve your fitness goals sooner.
Avoid Loading Creatine
The Creatine loading phase, where you use unreasonably high doses such as 10-15 gm/day for 7 days, is clearly not required to get results. While there’s some merit that you experience the best results when Creatine levels are saturated in your blood, preloading as a dosage protocol is not written in stone.
According to researchers, most male bodybuilders excrete about 0.1 gm/kg that they ingest when they use excessively high doses of Creatine. Also, there’s enough research that suggests that you can get identical results even if you do not preload creatine. Moreover, loading creatine might increase the possibility of experiencing bloating.
It Works Slightly Better When Used with a Source of Glucose
Ever heard the idea that Creatine needs to be taken with grape juice for it to be effective? Well, that stems from the fact that an insulin spike works as an instant delivery system where the creatine is shuttled into muscle tissue. It can be any source of sugar or carbs that triggers an insulin release though. Doesn’t necessarily have to be grape juice. There’s no preset number to base your protocol on. But around 50 grams of carbs seems to be the sweet spot. What’s even more exciting is that newer research indicates that the delivery works equally well if it’s ingested with roughly 45 grams of Protein. This means that you can just add it to your post workout low sodium protein shake.
You Can Take it Before or After Exercise
One of the most widely debated topics around creatine is the ideal time to take it. There are theories galore that Creatine works best when used pre-workout and that it provides a more pronounced energy boost during your workouts. That’s just bro-science though. There are a limited number of studies that have researched the ideal time to use creatine. The results have been mixed.
In one of the studies, athletes who used creatine post workout reported slightly higher increase in LBM with a reduction in body fat, as opposed to athletes who used it before. In another study, there was not much of a noticeable difference. So, the general consensus seems to be that you need to use it close to your workout period. It can be immediately after the workout or 30-45 minutes before it. It works just as well.
Creatine in Simple Powder Form Works Best
Do not get swayed into buying overpriced creatine supplements that promise better absorption or rapid release. There’s no single form of creatine that works better than the rest. Be it effervescent creatine or chewable gummies, they are all essentially creatine.
In fact, a very popular liquid form of creatine might contain creatinine, which is a useless byproduct that’s released when creatine is exposed to heat or moisture for a prolonged period of time. That’s something that’s very possible during the beverage manufacturing process where citric and phosphoric acids are added as preservatives.
Guess what’s the most stable and effective form of creatine? Creatine Monohydrate powder. It’s almost 100% bioavailable and extremely stable. That said, there might be some difference in the quality of various brands. Chinese brands are notorious for containing contaminants like dicyandiamide and sodium. Buy from reputed brands that offer clean and pure creatine.
There’s No Need to Cycle Creatine
To add to what we have already said about Creatine’s safety profile, there’s no need to cycle it off either. It is already produced naturally in your body so you could never truly cycle off anyway.
There are female athletes who have used creatine for up to five years continually without any problems.
I use my creatine every day without hiccup and will for the foreseeable future.
You Can Take it Even if You Don’t Work Out Regularly
While this entire blog post is focused on the potential benefits of supplementing with creatine for athletes and women who exercise regularly, it is clearly beneficial to use creatine even if you don’t work out. It is neuroprotective, prevents bone loss, increases strength, reduces fat and improves lean body mass. In fact, if you are a vegan, then your diet might be lacking most of the natural sources of creatine. It is a zero-calorie, vegan-friendly supplement. So, why not?
Creatine Can Be Extremely Beneficial for Women
Creatine can be a terrific addition to your general fitness routine.
Just like other multivitamins and supplements that you may be using, it improves your overall fitness and makes you a healthier version of yourself.
We hope that we were able to address all concerns about creatine for women that might have made you skeptical about it.
Have any questions or comments? Leave them down below and I will try and get back with you – same day.
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