Welcome to the second post in this series! Creatine and BCAAs, you’ve probably heard about them if you’re into fitness. If not they are both supplements that people take in order to boost gains. But what exactly are in these? And how exactly do they help get those gains we so badly desire?
So what is creatine? Creatine is a natural substance that is found in skeletal muscle. Essentially it helps to produce more ATP (the body’s energy source) and thus helping you have stronger and better workouts. Creatine has shown to increase fat free mass and muscle morphology when doing resistance training and has been suggested to help with sprint and endurance training.
But is creatine safe?? There have been studies that show the long term use of creatine can be but the effect on different groups of people is unknown. 30g per day for 5 years has shown to be safe, with a smaller dosage of 3g per day over a lifetime has also been shown to be safe. Of course taking anything in excess can show side effects, and whenever thinking about taking a new supplement to consult your doctor if you have any health issues.
Should I take creatine?
That’s really up to you, creatine will pump water into your muscles, as well as helping you to lift/run heavier than you would do normally. However, it has been shown that the effects may not be the same with longer bouts of exercise. Which may be helpful for those who are doing big lifts at the beginning of a workout – more power behind them = heavier weight = more progress.
So in short, if you want to lift heavier and grow some muscle, taking creatine (as well as a calorie surplus) will defo get you there.
How To Take Creatine
There will be a dosage on the tub, and if it has set instructions follow that. But a lot of the time in order to reap the benefits sooner a lot of people go through ‘loading’.
This is where you take 20g/day of creatine to saturate your muscles and reap the benefits of creatine faster. This is then followed by a daily supplementation of 2-5g.
Loading isn’t necessary but it will take longer for you to reap the benefits. If you don’t mind waiting longer than loading isn’t necessary, but if you are impatient loading is a perfectly safe option for you to do!
Creatine is probably one of the few supplements that has been highly researched and proven to actually work. Meaning no wasting your money on a maybe supplement!
If you are involved in the fitness world you have probably seen this plastered all over the place! But is it needed and what does it do?
What are BCAAs
BCAAs (branch chain amino acids) are broken down proteins, so what you will be consuming in simple terms are amino acids. There are 9 essential proteins that we need in order to lead a healthy lifestyle, and BCAAs typically contain 3 of these (Leucine, isoleucine and valine). This is supposed to help reduce soreness and aid recovery in your muscles after an intense sesh! But do they work? Well, the answer is complicated due to conflicting research but in short, maybe.
Does it work?
There is very little research looking into BCAAs and if they actually make a difference in helping to aid muscle soreness, however there still has been research that does suggest it has an effect (1, 2). However in these studies it wasn’t said if there was any protein supplementation. As BCAAs are the cut down versions of protein, having a diet high in protein may show similar effects.
In recent reviews it does seem to show that BCAAs have been helpful at helping muscle soreness in the first 24hrs, but again total protein intake isn’t addressed. But again there is research saying that BCAAs isn’t much help and doesn’t make a difference in muscle soreness (4)
Should I Take It?
If you are having adequate protein then these aren’t really necessary. However if you fancy trying them out to see if you feel a difference by all means try it! But they aren’t a necessary thing that is guaranteed to work unlike creatine (3)
To be honest taking this is totally up to you! Evidence surrounding BCAA intake is so varied that there isn’t a straight answer. If you want to try it out, by all means do! Just know these aren’t as important as eating enough carbs, fat and protein and calories! They’re a supplement so use them as such! (also they don’t go towards your daily protein goal so keep that in mind)
So really creatine is a defo for those who want to see some progress with muscle growth and increase strength! And BCAAs are a maybe, grab them if you want, see how they affect you and have any positive effects! Recommend taking 20g/day (start slowly and work way up to this dosage) but this depends on the type of BCAAs so make sure you read the label of the tub to see how much you can take!
In the references are some interesting articles that I think may be helpful and interesting for you to read as well as the ones that were included in this article.
- Shimomura, Y., et al (2010). Branched-Chain Amino Acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism ,20, p.236-244.
- Ra, SG., et al (2018). Effect of BCAA supplement timing on exercise-induced muscle soreness and damage: A pilot placebo-controlled double blind study. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 58(11), p.1582-1591. Doi: 10.23736/s0022-4707.17.07638-1.
- Rahimi, M.H., et al (2017). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation and exercise-induced muscle damage in exercise recovery: A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Nutrition, 42, p.30-36. Doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2017.05.005.
- Estoche, J.M., et al (2019). Branched-chain amino acids do not improve muscle recovery from resistance exercise in untrained young adults. Amino Acids, 51, p.1387-1395. Doi: 10.1007/s00726-019-02776-5.
- Starkoff, B.E., et al (2020). Protein supplementation does not enhance recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage. Journal of Exercise Physiologyonline, 23(1), p.99-112.
- Kim, J., Lee., C., & Lee, J., (2017). Effect of timing of whey protein supplement on muscle damage markers after eccentric exercise. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, 13(4), p.436-440. doi:10.12965/jer.1735034.517.