You may have heard about the benefits of taking creatine to enhance your ability to really go big during your workout. But you definitely aren't alone if this supplement is new to you and you want to know more. Enter Rachel Jones, VP and Chief Nutrition Officer at GNC, who is also a registered dietician. She recently talked with Health Digest for an exclusive interview about — you guessed it — creatine.
It turns out this popular supplement offers so much more than you thought when it comes to supporting your exercise goals. In fact, taking creatine is also healthy for the mind, making it an overall body-boosting product.
Before you try adding creatine to your routine, take a look at our exclusive with Jones, where she offered any workout buff insights on buying the best product for you, how to use it at the right time to enhance performance, and understanding exactly how creatine will affect the body.
Can you share a bit about your background and your role at GNC?
I'm Vice President and Chief Nutrition Officer at GNC, where I lead a cross-functional group of 40 associates at the forefront of our commitment to helping consumers Live Well. I oversee global product design and development as well as product brand strategy, both of which are responsible for delivering high-quality products that produce results.
Within these functions, we create and manage the global innovation roadmap, as well as developing, researching, and testing to inform product evolutions. We also create impactful positioning and strategies for owned product brands, which enables GNC to continue to be one of the industry's most trusted, respected, and innovative health and wellness companies. I've been with GNC for more than 18 years and have been part of the creation of more than 2,000 products that help our consumers to Live Well.
I'm also a registered dietitian and maintain my industry certifications through current memberships in key trade organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine, Dietitians in Business and Communications, and Sports and Human Performance Nutrition.
What is creatine, and what does it do for the body?
Creatine is one of the most popular and well-studied ingredients for sports performance — and for good reason! Creatine helps muscles make and circulate ATP, a compound that releases energy used for muscle contractions, especially during quick and intense anaerobic activity. But we can only rely on ATP for extremely short bursts of energy. Having adequate creatine stores — which is typically a combination of naturally-occurring creatine and supplementation to hit peak levels — can support energy demands by helping to produce and circulate ATP for activities like weightlifting, sprinting, or HIIT training.
Beyond supplying an immediate energy source, creatine supports cellular hydration, enhances glycogen stores, and may improve exercise performance by optimizing training adaptations. Creatine has a similar chemical structure to amino acids and plays a major role in building muscle.
But creatine isn't just for athletes. Our brain also stores creatine, and research supports the idea that supplementation may improve cognition and brain health — especially in older adults — as well as potentially offset other age-related declines in skeletal muscle and bone health.
Who should and shouldn't use creatine to support a workout, and why?
Power and strength athletes can benefit from using creatine to support training. Having adequate creatine stores at the beginning of a workout routine can help support exercise capacity and power output. Workouts that require quick bursts of energy like weightlifting or sprinting are best suited for creatine supplementation.
Are there any side effects to be aware of?
It's important to consume creatine supplements with a good amount of water to avoid becoming dehydrated, which can lead to muscle cramping. Athletes competing in weight-class sports should keep in mind that creatine helps to hydrate your cells, which can impact their weight. Overall, creatine is a popular supplement to help with strength, endurance, and workouts, but it's important to talk to a health, wellness, or fitness professional when you're starting or changing your workout routine to make sure you're planning properly and prepared.
What is the right way to take creatine to see the most benefits?
It's important to remember the amount, frequency, and benefits of creatine are unique to each person. The makeup of our bodies is distinct, and no supplement or workout will be a "one-size-fits-all" solution. Before starting to take creatine or adapting your dosage, it's important to speak with a health, wellness, or fitness professional to address any questions [or] concerns and get coached.
Then it's important to determine what your sport and performance goals are based on the activity you're undertaking. Since about 95% of our creatine stores are found in our muscles, athletes whose sports or fitness routine demands quick powerful bursts of energy like powerlifting, sprinting, or football can benefit from maintaining fully-saturated creatine stores.
To saturate stores, power athletes may opt to do creatine load for five to seven days prior to competition as they gear up for their training season or performance. Following a load, stores can be maintained by consuming about three to five grams of creatine daily. For an athlete looking to increase their lean mass or up the intensity of their training, adding creatine to their routine can help increase both! And, when taking creatine, make sure to drink plenty of water.
Can you tell us about the different creatine supplements GNC offers?
Because the body only naturally produces a certain amount of creatine, supplementation can help. At GNC, our products are scientifically backed and the product of research, innovation, and expert formulation. If you're looking to add creatine into your workout routine, we have plenty of options.
Standalone creatine is available in both powder and pill format in our GNC AMP® and Beyond Raw® Chemistry Labs line of products, with doses ranging between 2 to 5 grams. Our clinically studied GNC AMP® Creatine HCl 189™ has also been shown to increase strength and performance with ¼ of the dose when compared to ordinary creatine. We also have a great creatine products from third party brands like Glaxon Electro Creatine and more.
Overall, because creatine is such a powerhouse ingredient, you'll find it many performance products including pre-workouts and mass builders. At GNC, creatine is one of our largest product categories. We have great first and third party brand products that include creatine. Stop into a GNC store and talk to one of our coaches.
To learn more, please visit https://www.gnc.com/.
This interview was edited for clarity.
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