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Creatine has been established as an important component of maximal muscle growth, strength and energy in the world of weightlifting, hence its almost ubiquitous presence in pre-workout formulations. Though creatine can be formed in the kidneys and liver from arginine, glycine and methionine, weightlifters should supplement this production, either by taking powdered creatine supplements such as creatine monohydrate, or by consuming large amounts of creatine-rich foods.
Beef is hands down the richest food source of creatine, with two grams per pound of meat. If you are opposed to the idea of eating red meat, alternative sources of creatine are found in poultry and in fish such as salmon and tuna. Those of you who are vegetarian or vegan will be hard pressed to pull sufficient creatine from foods and will have to supplement via synthetic forms such as creatine monohydrate, micronized creatine, or creatine citrate.
You may be able to consume massive amounts of meat and supply your body with the 3 to 5 grams of creatine which are considered the norm in bodybuilding circles, especially if you are adamant about obtaining all of your performance substances from whole food sources, but that would require massive dedication and a lot of meat chewing! However, if you are in a building phase, then I truly believe that you are doing yourself a disservice if you are trying to get all your extra creatine solely from food sources.
The original form of creatine which was used by bodybuilders and which is still very much in use today is creatine monohydrate. This is the cheapest form of creatine, but it is poorly absorbed, which explains its tendency to cause bloating and digestive upset. Another negative aspect of creatine monohydrate is that some people don’t respond at all to it. If this is the case for you, then you might want to explore the different forms of creatine which are out on the market. The two best forms of creatine, in my humble opinion, are:
1. Micronized creatine – The micronized form of creatine features smaller molecules, so absorption is significantly better, eliminating the issus of bloating and diarrhea which are often caused by ingesting the non-micronized form of creatine monohydrate.
2. Creatine ethyl ester – This is by far the most absorbable form of creatine, but more expensive than the monohydrate form. You can find this substance in capsule form.
Another form of creatine which is at times used in some of the more popular pre-workout formulas is creatine nitrate. The extra NO2 makes creatine water soluble and also lends a decent pump to workouts. However, when purchased alone, creatine nitrate is costly and thus is not one of my recommendations.
If you want to enhance your creatine intake, consider food sources in combination with supplement sources so that you can obtain an optimal amount which your body is able to utilize.