Written by Aoife Corr
Creatine is one of the most well researched and most commonly used supplement to enhance sport performance. It essentially works by increasing the capacity of your muscle to train harder, for short bursts of high intensity activity – such as allowing you to get a few more reps in while at the gym. We know it helps with performance, but it also helps with recovery and has positive effects on concentration, stress levels and mood.
Unfortunately, the majority of this research has been carried out in males, and so creatines effects in females are not yet fully understood, but the research is growing and there are some interesting results!
A lot of women may be hesitant to take creatine because they are afraid that they’ll gain weight – let me tell you now; you won’t. Any weight gain that you may feel you are gaining typically occurs during the loading phase (4 x 5g/day for 5-7 days); is temporary and due to an increase in water weight – which is a good thing! In fact, this temporary weight gain is more common in men rather than women. I started taking creatine a few months ago and didn’t experience any water weight gain, and I loaded for 7 days – if you’re on the fence about taking it, just give it a go.
Research has been carried out that looks at the effect of creatine within a women’s menstrual cycle. This research show that creatine levels in the body seem to decrease and increase in sync with estrogen levels. Estrogen levels normally dip at the start of the follicular phase and evidence shows that creatine supplementation may be most beneficial at this time, in terms of performance and cognitive effects. Furthermore, within a normal menstrual cycle a lot of women may find that they feel a little bloated throughout their cycle, creatine might actually help with this bloating and aid in distributing this fluid and move it into cells.
Women process stress differently than men do, and this stress, along with other factors, can impact sleep and concentration, particularly during the follicular phase of their cycle. Interestingly, creatine supplementation can have a positive effect in reducing these negative effects of the menstrual cycle; helping to improve sleep quality and reduce stress. There is also evidence supporting creatines positive effect on mood and depression occurrence. While further research needs to be carried out in this field, creatine taken during pregnancy has also been shown to have positive effects on foetal development.
To saturate creatine stores, a loading phase (20g/day for 5-7 days) of creatine monohydrate, followed by 5g/day thereout. Creatine tablets are available but research shows that peak absorption of creatine is optimised when taken as a solution. Buy the unflavoured one and you can mix it into your coffee/tea etc – you can’t even taste it.
I think creatine is a supplement that everyone should be taking. It’s so well researched; the benefits are endless and the potential risks are largely unfounded. So, there really is no reason that you should not be taking creatine monohydrate – whether you’re training or not.
Smith-Ryan, A.E., Cabre, H.E., Eckerson, J.M. and Candow, D.G. (2021) Creatine Supplementation in Women’s Health: A Lifespan Perspective. Nutrients, 13(3)
Pihoker, A.A., Peterjohn, A.M., Trexler, E.T., Hirsch, K.R., Blue, M.N.M., Anderson, K.C., Ryan, E.D. and Smith-Ryan, A.E. (2019) The effects of nutrient timing on training adaptations in resistance-trained females. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 22(4), 472-477.