If you’ve been going to the gym for a while, you’ve surely heard about creatine. It’s one of the first supplements you see people adding to their pre-workout mixes or post-workout protein shakes, and it’s recommended by almost any personal trainer on the planet. And for a good reason.
Unlike many popular fitness supplements, creatine is not only used because it has good advertisements. It’s actually the supplement that’s most backed by science (bar protein), and its positive effects on people that train frequently are many.
In this article, we’re going to turn our attention to talking about whether creatine supplements are a good idea for women who train. We will discuss what creatine is, what it does, and how it’s beneficial for a regular gymgoer.
So if that sounds like your cup of tea, then hop on the ride.
What is Creatine?
Many women wrongly assume that creatine is a supplement taken by men when they want to become stronger or gain muscle. Additionally, many have heard that creatine can harm your weight loss journey as it causes water retention and weight gain. However, all of these statements are a bit incorrect.
Creatine is an important component of your muscles’ structure, and it was discovered by scientists in the 1800s. You produce it naturally in your liver from the precursor amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine.
With that said, even though it’s made up of amino acids, creatine is not considered a protein because of the way our bodies metabolize it. Unlike protein, when creatine gets broken down, it doesn’t involve the removal of nitrogen when excreted from the body by the kidneys.
Because your body has the ability to produce creatine naturally, it’s not typically considered to be an essential dietary nutrient. However, if you’re someone that trains regularly and has particular fitness goals in mind, supplementations may be helpful in building strength and muscle. On top of the creatine that your body produces, this amino acid is also found in small quantities in some foods, such as fish and red meats.
What Does Creatine Do?
In order to not make things too scientific or complicated, we can simply state that creatine is a supplement that will allow your muscles to work longer and harder as it helps them replenish the fuel within muscle cells that enables them to sustain energy.
How does it do that?
Well, creatine allows the muscles in your body to sustain energy by helping to replenish the adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is known to be the energy currency of the muscle cells. The creatine in your muscles combines with a Pi (phosphate) molecule and creates what’s known as a (PCr) phosphocreatine compound.
Once this new form is achieved, the PCr plays a vital role in the energy metabolism in your muscle cells and is particularly helpful for activities that require a short burst of intense energy, like sprinting, jumping, boxing, or weightlifting.
To put it simply, every time you want your muscles to contract, you have to expend ATP. When they do so, ATP gets broken down to adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and a separate phosphate molecule, which, combined with the enzyme ATPase create energy and enable your muscles to move.
The problem is that your muscles’ ATP supply has a limit. So if you use all of it without replenishing, your muscles will not be able to contract, and you will begin to fatigue gradually. By supplementing with creatine, you will allow your body to replenish more of its ATP supply and to do so quicker so that you can last through longer and more strenuous workout sessions. And as we all know, the harder and longer you work, the better the results.
Are Creatine Supplements Good for Women?
Creatine supplements for women are a topic that’s often discussed within the fitness community. We all know that most men that go to the gym regularly and are working towards some fitness goal take creatine, and they do so without any issues. But with women, the idea that creatine will make them gain weight, become bloated, and generally affect their physique in a negative way stops them from actually starting supplementation.
The question is: Are any of these claims true?
Most creatine research has been done on men. However, some scientific evidence suggests that the supplement is just as effective for women. Similar to men, women can experience the benefits of creatine accumulation, as it helps them fatigue slower and train harder over a period of time. It’s shown to be particularly helpful for females that want to gain strength.
With that said, creatine for women has been shown to have a positive effect only when it’s accumulated over a longer period of time (more than a month). So if you expect to take it today and see the results tomorrow, you will end up disappointed. Unlike many supplements that have an immediate effect, creatine has shown to work with accumulation – meaning that the longer you take it, the better the effect.
In most studies conducted, creatine has been shown to help female athletes achieve better results in their strength training. For one particular study, 15 female NCAA Division 1 soccer players were separated into two groups: seven were given creatine, and the other seven were given a placebo. After 13 weeks, the group that was taking 15 grams of creatine on a daily basis showed improved and better results in their maximal squat strength and bench press compared to the group that was taking a placebo.
Is Creatine Good for All Women?
When it comes to creatine supplementation, people can easily be divided into two groups – one that benefits from it (responders) and one that doesn’t (non-responders). The fact that some studies show that there are women who experience no benefits from creatine in terms of strength, muscle-building, or aerobic capacity is a clear sign that it doesn’t work for everyone.
The group of so-called “non-responders” may exist due to the type and size of the muscle fiber that a person uniquely possesses. Men and women with more fast-twitch fibers and a larger initial cross-sectional area of all muscle fiber typically see more benefits of creatine supplementation compared to those with fewer fast-twitch muscle fibers and a smaller cross-sectional area.
Biologically, women tend to have smaller cross-sectional areas for both their fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers. This is particularly true for women that don’t workout often or who do more aerobic activity and less strength training.
Additionally, it’s considered that women have more creatine in their muscles compared to men, so they might need to take more in order to increase their creatine levels above what’s considered normal for their body types. Essentially, that means women might have to take more than the usually recommended 3-5 grams.
Creatine is the most studied supplement out there, and most of the data suggests that it can be beneficial for an athlete, regardless of their gender. Additionally, creatine is one of the cheapest supplements on the market, and its standard form (creatine monohydrate) is the best option to take if you want to see whether creatine will have a positive effect on your workouts.