Guide to Omega Fatty Acids + Supplementing with Omega-3

Guide to Omega Fatty Acids + Supplementing with Omega-3

The importance of omega fatty acids in your diet can’t be ignored. Omega-rich foods are crucial in my diet and omega supplements are a non-negotiable staple in my supplement stack. If you want to optimise your health, you may want to pop them in yours too. Here's why:

It is said that we evolved on a diet with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of approximately 1:1 [ 1 ]. In Western diets, this ratio is now said to be at least 10:1, with some sources suggesting that some individuals have a ratio as high as 25:1.

Essentially, we are getting too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3. And it’s making us sick.

These shockingly high ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 are one of the reasons why many diseases that are caused by or linked to inflammation (arthritis, allergies, heart trouble, Alzheimer’s, depression and cancer) are becoming epidemics in Western countries.

I have a chronic condition myself, Cystic Fibrosis, which is characterised and worsened by inflammation. So I’ve learnt as much as omegas from how to optimise your omega-3 to omega-6 balance and omega-3 and -6 testing, to the different types of omega supplements.

Unsurprisingly, the deeper I delved, the more questions I had and no single book, journal or web page could answer them all comprehensively. So this article pulls most of what I learnt together in a way that I hope will help you too. For that reason, it’s a bit of a long one - more of a guide, really (okay, it's an absolute monster of an article!) - but I’ve done my best to split it up into easy-to-digest sections. 

I hope that you learn at least one thing from it and that it inspires you to make simple changes to improve your health long-term. 

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Guide to Collagen for Women

Guide to Collagen for Women

There are a lot of collagen products appearing on the market within joint supplement formulations as well as supplements that come with the promise of younger looking skin. The latter especially appears in many perfectly-packaged forms from drinks to jellies.

I was intrigued as to whether there was any difference between the supplements on offer, in format, dosage and price. Most importantly though, I wanted to look into the evidence base to find out whether I could expect them to really work.

So, here's everything that I think you should know about collagen, plus reviews of some of your best supplement options

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Essential Guide to Compression Sportswear

Essential Guide to Compression Sportswear

My biggest question with compression clothing is always ‘what qualifies it to be labelled as a compression garment?’. The word ‘compression’ seems to get thrown around a lot in the activewear market and I always wonder quite how justified its use is. 

The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be any definitive answer to this question. So, being ever curious, I’ve spoken with brands, analysed product labels and descriptions, trawled through a number of research journals and scoured patents to try and find an answer myself.

I feel it’s so easy for people to be misled by brands referring to their products as compression garments, when the product is no more technical and has no more R+D behind it than a standard pair of running tights. 

So, I am urging you to question where you spend your money, and what your sportswear can actually do to help you improve. Whether you’re a bodybuilder, runner, cyclist or gymnast, here’s what you need to know:

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Protein Supplements for Women

Protein-Supplements-Women-Guide

Protein for Women doesn't Exist

Protein supplements are getting increasingly popular, but there is still some confusion over what women need in a protein supplement, and whether they need them at all!

First thing’s first. Protein for women doesn’t exist. There are many companies that try to convince women that they need a different kind of protein supplement than men, but they don’t.

Protein is a macronutrient, like carbohydrates or fats. Can you imagine if women were told that they needed to eat a different kind of chicken than men? It’s simply not the case! Protein is protein. And women need it in the same way that men do. Ignore marketing ploys and follow this simple guide.

While there are many protein supplements becoming available, from protein bars to protein desserts, the focus of this guide is protein powders.

If you’d like more information on the role of protein and protein sources in general, head to my protein guide for women for a thorough overview.

Benefits of protein supplements

It’s always best to take a ‘food first’ approach to getting protein into your diet, but like many other people, I’ve found protein supplements incredibly helpful in meeting my daily requirements.

Protein powders are great to top-up your protein intake while being able to control your intake of other macronutrients.

Protein supplements are convenient (requiring almost no preparation), are easy to consume in a rush or on-the-go, and are very affordable with some coming in at as little as 30p per serving.

Protein powders are available in a range of flavours, most of which are great for satisfying a sweet tooth! However, they tend to be sugar-free, instead being sweetened using sucralose or, increasingly popularly, stevia.

Protein-Powder-Supplement-Types

Types of protein powder

There are several different types of protein powder on offer. Protein powder can be derived from different food sources, different forms can be blended, and additional ingredients can be added.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is the most popular product when it comes to protein supplements. It is regarded as the gold standard and is usually used in research as a control. Whey naturally occurs in milk and is filtered to make whey protein products.

The reason that is it so popular is that it has an excellent amino acid profile and can be digested and absorbed into muscles very quickly.

Even within the category of whey protein, there are different types.

Whey protein concentrate (WPC) is generally the cheapest option. It contains around 70-80% protein.

Whey protein isolate (WPI) is generally a little more expensive as it has undergone an additional step of purification and so contains around 90% (and up to 97% in some cases!) protein. WPI is also slightly lower in lactose than WPC.

Hydrolysed whey protein (HWP) is another option. HWP has undergone the process of enzymatic hydrolysis to break down long protein chains into small chain peptides making it quicker and easier for your body to absorb. This is a good option for people with digestive issues, however, not necessary for other people as whey is already very digestible. HWP is more expensive.

Casein Protein

Like whey, casein is derived from milk. However, unlike whey, casein is a very slow releasing protein. The slower digestion of this kind of protein means that there is a sustained release of amino acids for up to 7 hours.

Micellar casein digests very slowly and is a more expensive form of casein.

Calcium caseinate is the cheaper form of casein. It is inferior to micellar casein as it has undergone further processing to make it more soluble. While this means that the consistency of the shake is less sludgy, the treatment affects the quality of the product.

The term milk protein tends to indicate a mixture of casein and whey.

Soy protein

Soy is the most well-researched vegetable protein. In terms of absorption time, soy is the intermediate bridge between the two dairy proteins. Soy protein also contains a good amino acid profile. However, soy is a heavily genetically modified crop that tends to be treated with a lot of pesticides.

Egg protein and Beef Protein

Egg protein and beef protein are also available as non-dairy protein alternatives, and are often posed as ‘paleo’ protein options. They tend to be a little more expensive and not as tasty.

Vegan protein

Besides soy, there are plenty of other protein supplement options for vegans. Pea and rice proteins are both fairly good options, whereas hemp protein has a low protein content and is not as digestible as the other options.

With vegan proteins, it is best to opt for a blend to ensure that you benefit from a better amino acid profile, as their amino acid ratios are not as good as proteins from animal sources.

Protein Blends

Often, as mentioned with vegan protein, protein supplements will be a blend of two or more of the above forms of protein.

For example, a blend that contains whey, soy and casein may be formulated to create a product where amino acid availability is high but also sustained. In this scenario, whey protein would ensure that amino acids reached the muscles quickly, while the soy and casein would ensure prolonged release and protein synthesis.

One example of a brand that does this is MaxiNutrition, who include whey, casein and soy in their protein powders.

However, be aware that companies may also blend proteins in this way in order to make the formulation cheaper to manufacture. Therefore, if you feel that you would benefit from a blend of whey and casein protein (before bed, for example), consider mixing this yourself rather than buying a protein blend.

Added ingredients

Many protein powders have added ingredients, from vitamins and minerals, to weight loss aids.

For example, some post-workout formulas for people looking to gain muscle and strength may include carbohydrates and creatine (find my guide to creatine here). Other products contain enzymes to aid digestion, although these probably aren’t necessary for most people.

This is also the part where the idea of protein for women should be addressed. Protein supplements aimed at women tend to have added ingredients, such as green tea extract, that claim to be fat burners. In other words, protein supplements marketed to women are actually protein supplements that may (or indeed may not) aid weightloss.

I personally like to take a basic protein powder and add other powders and take other supplements as and when I need them, and in the doses that are best for me.

Protein-Supplements-Womens-Guide

When to take protein supplements

There are several times at which you would benefit from an intake of protein.

Firstly, in the morning, after your body has essential fasted for many hours. Having protein in the morning can also assist with satiety and weight management.

Most commonly, protein supplements are taken post-workout to support recovery. Here, fast-acting whey protein is beneficial.

It is also beneficial to take protein before bed. In this case, a slow-releasing protein such as casein is best for sustained release of protein throughout the night.

How to take protein supplements

Protein supplements are really easy to consume. They can be mixed into a shake with water or milk (I tend to opt for water for fewer calories and quicker digestion), blended into a smoothie.

Mixing protein powder with water will generally digest more quickly, so this is a good option post-workout. Mixing protein powder with milk will generally mean it is absorbed more slowly, making this a good bedtime option.

Alternatively, you can improve the protein content of your foods by mixing protein powder into porridge, or using it in recipes for pancakes or waffles. Protein powder can in this way improve the macronutrient profile of foods that are generally lacking in protein.

Where to buy protein supplements

I always recommend buying online. Supermarkets, pharmacies and health food stores tend to sell protein supplements for very high prices compared to online. My go-to for protein supplement shopping is MyProtein, where I buy Impact Whey Isolate. Remember to use the code BLONDEETHOS for 10% off your order1 There are also lots of protein supplements on amazon.

Sometimes I vary what brands I use products from depending on samples I pick up and what other people in my household are using. I enjoy experimenting and I sometimes use different products at different times of day for optimal nutrition.

Need a hand?

The type of protein supplement that you choose will vary depending on the time of day that you take it, your lifestyle situation, your budget, and digestive tendencies.

Get in touch if you’d like any help picking out the right protein product for you. I’d love to help!

Protein for Women: The Essential Guide

Protein-Guide-Women

It’s Essential to Understand + Consume Protein, Whether You’re into Fitness or Not

I’ve found that the role of protein is misunderstood by a range of both women and men. From my parents, to friends, to people I’ve met while working out, I’ve experienced resistance from people in understanding the role of protein, and it is having a detrimental impact on their health.

Since I upped my protein intake to an optimal level, my weight has been more stable, I’ve had more energy, and I’ve been thrilled at the improvements that I’ve made in my training and body composition.

Protein occurs naturally and you will consume it (hopefully!) every day, several times a day, for your entire life, so it is worth understanding what it is and what affect it has on your body. Please take the time to educate yourself on the importance of protein so that you can see some benefits too...

Why is Protein Important? What Does Protein Do?

Like carbohydrates and fats, protein is an essential macronutrient (‘macro’), that you cannot live without. Proteins are made up of amino acids of which there are 20 in total. Some of these amino acids are ‘essential’ as they can’t be made by the body and so must be consumed as food.

I’ve found that the word ‘protein’ tends to be immediately associated with supplementation by many people, thinking that it’s only something that only athletes and bodybuilders require. It’s true that active individuals require a larger quantity of protein, but only to aid recovery.

Protein Helps to Repair Muscles + Other Tissue

When training, muscle tissue is broken down. This muscle tissue (along with many other tissues in your body, from skin and hair, to vital organs) then needs protein to repair itself.

Protein Safeguards Against Muscle Loss

Especially if you’re on any kind of weight loss plan, or recovery from an injury or illness, it’s crucial to know that protein stops you losing muscle.

Ensuring that you are consuming enough protein, stops your body from breaking down your muscles instead of fat and, in turn, helps to maintain a healthy metabolism.

When you’re ‘dieting’, a calorie is not a calorie. The nutritional content of those calories matters.

Protein Helps you Feel Fuller + Burn Calories More Effectively

On the topic of weight maintenance, protein helps in other ways, too.

Firstly, compared to carbohydrates and fats, proteins take longer to digest, keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

Secondly, protein has the highest thermogenic effect of food (TEF), which means that it requires more energy to process it in the body. Where carbohydrates and fats have a TEF of around 5-15%, protein can be from 20-35%! In theory this means that for every 100 calories of protein that you ingest, between 20 and 35 are burned in the digestion process.

Protein-Sources-Guide

Sources of protein

Eggs

Eggs are the king of protein as they have a high biological value and are complete with all 20 amino acids. They’re also very affordable and super versatile!

Meat

Meat is also a great protein source. It’s best to opt for lean meats such as chicken and turkey, or a lean cut of beef.

Fish + Seafood

Fish and other seafood also provide a good amounts of protein. Oily fish such as salmon are great sources of super-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Dairy Products

Dairy products provide protein in smaller amounts than the above, but they’re still great to include in a balanced diet. The best dairy products are greek yogurt and cottage cheese, which is relatively low in fat and high in casein, so make a great snack before bed.

Nuts

Nuts, especially almonds and cashews, make a great addition to stir-fries and are the perfect snack. They contain good levels of healthy fats and are perfect to keep in your handbag or gymbag for when you’re feeling peckish.

Beans + Pulses

Beans and pulses aren’t as high in protein as animal sources, but are a good vegetarian/vegan option. They’re also relatively inexpensive and are great for bulking out dishes.

Protein Powders

Protein supplements are becoming more commonplace, but are still largely misunderstood. They are essentially just refined versions of the protein from food sources.

Whey protein shakes are derived from milk, pea protein is from peas and egg protein shakes are from egg! It really is as simple as that. They offer a more convenient way to top up your protein intake.

Protein Intake Amounts

People should typically be consuming between 1-2g of protein per kg bodyweight every day. Obviously, the more you weigh, the more you should consume. Also, the more active you are, the more you should consume.

A typical serving of protein should contain between 20-40g protein. For example, a 100g chicken breast would contain around 20g protein.

When you need more protein

There are certain times that your body will benefit from a protein intake above that which you should normally consume.

When you are starting to exercise more frequently, or training in a more demanding way, you will benefit from upping your protein intake to aid muscle recovery.

If you are recovering from injury or any kind of illness, protein will also aid recovery, as well as minimise muscle loss.

As you age, you will need more protein to stimulate protein synthesis in order to grow, repair and maintain your muscle.

You may also require additional protein (which may be in the form of protein supplements) if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.

At any time that you increase your protein intake, be sure to also consume more water as excess protein has a diuretic effect. Always keep well hydrated.

Protein Doesn’t Make Women Look Bulky

Hopefully this article has given a good overview of why protein is important for overall health. It isn’t something that is only required when leading an active lifestyle, but an active lifestyle will more than likely require a higher protein intake.

By understanding what protein is and how it affects your body, you can hopefully appreciate that the myth that protein can make women ‘bulk up’ is false. If you are looking to increase muscle size, you will need to train hard with heavy weights, and in that case, protein will help your muscles to repair and grow. Still, your muscles are only physically capable of growing to a certain extent, and will never develop in the way that men’s do because women only have a fraction of the testosterone that men do.

If you still have any queries about the role of protein, please feel free to send them my way!

Food Intolerance Guide + Food Intolerance Testing

Food-Intolerance-Guide-Testing

Improve your Health by Personalising your Diet

When people tell me various symptoms that they are suffering from, I nearly always recommended that they assess their diet. Now, I also recommend that they consider taking a food intolerance test.

I think that most people dealing with conditions, ranging from mild to chronic, are too willing to blindly accept (or prescribe!) medication when a dietary solution could remove the need for medication entirely, or at the very least complement it.

I’ve read a lot about the importance of gut health and food intolerance, and for a long time have been tempted to do an elimination diet so that I can tweak my diet to achieve optimum health. Elimination diets, however, are very costly, both in time and energy, as well as difficult to determine triggers. Food intolerance testing has been a massive help in eliminating the guess-work and giving me reassurance where my health and diet is concerned.

Gut Health and Intolerance

The gut is the epicentre of your mental and physical health, so much so that it is often referred to as the ‘second brain’. For example, as well as playing a huge role in your immune health, 90% of serotonin, the brain’s ‘happy hormone’ is produced in the gut!

There are more bacteria in your gut than cells in your entire body, so when the bacteria are out of balance, it can have a massive impact on your wellbeing.

Things that can cause an imbalance of the bacteria include illness, medication, stress, and the food and drink that you consume.

Like these other triggers, food intolerance is essentially an inflammatory response in your body. So, while food intolerances are generally associated with digestive issues, they can affect many other aspects of health too.

Inflammation itself is frequently referred to at ‘The Silent Killer’, as chronic inflammation, the consistent low-grade inflammatory state that is caused when your immune system is constantly responding to substances like certain foods that your body treats as a threat.

Chronic inflammation is the catalyst for most, if not all disease including: diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, Alzheimer’s, lung conditions, arthritis, autoimmune diseases (e.g. multiple sclerosis) and many cancers.

Symptoms of Food Intolerance

It’s true that food intolerances are inextricably linked to gut health, but symptoms are not restricted to your gut.

Digestive Issues

People commonly report feeling bloated after eating certain foods, with symptoms of a tight, uncomfortable tummy and excess gas. Other well-known digestive symptoms include IBS, constipation and diarrhoea.

Skin issues

Conditions such as eczema are atopic (may occur in a part of the body not in contact with the allergen) and caused by skin prone to inflammation. Other dermatological issues associated with food intolerance include acne and itchy skin.

Respiratory issues

Asthma, also an atopic inflammatory condition, can be worsened by food intolerance. The inflammation caused by intolerance can also cause sinusitis, rhinitis, and frequent colds and infections.

Joint Pain

Joint pain symptoms can include aching, stiff or swollen joints. Arthritis suffers frequently report that cutting out trigger foods can reduce their symptoms.

Migraines

People who suffer from migraines may all experience different triggers for their symptoms. A link between food intolerance and migraines has long been suspected, so knowing your personal ‘food fingerprint’ can be highly beneficial.

Fatigue + Mood issues

From feeling sleepy, irritable, and lacking concentration, food intolerance can cause signs of fatigue. The gut is also linked to mental health conditions, such as depression, and mood is incredibly frequently cited as a symptom of intolerance.

Food-Intolerance-Reaction

Types of Food Intolerance + Allergy

Food allergies and most food intolerances are caused by the body’s immune system producing antibodies that ‘attack' certain foods as ‘foreign'.

However, there is no one definitive test for food intolerance because it takes on many different forms, which are all tested in different ways:

Food Intolerance

The kind of food intolerances that this guide primarily refers to involve an antibody, called IgG, which causes a delayed hypersensitivity reaction that is usually not immediate or severe. Often a person will develop symptoms hours or days after consuming the problem food, making the source hard to identify.

It is the IgG antibodies specific to antigenic food proteins that are monitored in food intolerance tests.

Food Allergy

Conventional food allergies involve an IgE antibody that tends to cause immediate and severe reactions.

Coeliac Disease

This is a lifelong autoimmune reaction to gluten proteins that damages the gut wall and prevents nutrients being properly absorbed.

Enzyme Deficiencies

Lactose and fructose are both sugars and intolerance to these is caused by a lack of enzymes to break them down in the body. A hydrogen breath test can diagnose lactose or fructose intolerance.

Intolerance can also be caused by a elevated histamine level due to a deficiency of diamine oxidase (DAO), an enzyme that breaks down histamine, which is a chemical that triggers an inflammatory response.

Chemical Sensitivities

This can include reactions to food additives like tartrazine (E102), caffeine and sunset yellow (E110).

Resolving Food Intolerance

Thankfully, in some cases, IgG food intolerances can be resolved. This is because the IgG antibodies in the blood only live for a couple of months. If the problematic foods are avoided for 3-4 months, by the time the food is reintroduced into the diet all the IgG antibodies programmed to attack the food should have left the bloodstream.

However, a lot of people develop intolerances because the gut wall, which separates food ingested from the blood stream, gets damaged by antibiotics, painkillers, alcohol and too much wheat gluten.

This may cause incompletely digested food proteins to get into the bloodstream (this condition is referred to as ‘leaky gut’) and trigger your immune system to attack.

Therefore, as well as avoiding problematic foods, it’s also important to take actions to repair the gut to resolve any issues with food intolerance.

Food-Intolerance-Testing-Kit-Review-Guide

Food Intolerance Testing

Food intolerance testing is a fairly simple process.

The companies that offer food intolerance testing will provide you with a kit which will include lancets and a sample tube. All that is required of you is a finger prick (to draw a tiny amount of blood to sample) and that you then send your sample to the company.

Once it reaches the laboratories, experts carry out an enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA) test for food-specific IgG antibodies.

The Benefit of Food Intolerance Testing

It’s such a smooth and effortless process to achieve potentially life changing results. While it obviously requires parting with your pennies, you learn invaluable, life-changing information about your body and gain the power to improve your health.

I also believe that the process of deciding to invest in food intolerance testing is likely to suggest that you have an increasing awareness of your body and the things that affect is, which is always a good thing!

Food intolerance testing provides the perfect starting point and serves as a structural guide to conduct an elimination diet.

The Downsides To Food Intolerance Testing

Food intolerance tests have been criticised as being inaccurate and unreliable. Some reasons for this are outlined below. Nevertheless, they still provide guidance that might be very useful, at least in giving you a starting point for further investigation.

As with all form of blood testing, the levels of any substance detected are likely to fluctuate. Changes can be by the hour or day, over the period of weeks or months, or over a lifetime.

In the case of food intolerance testing, the IgG antibody levels are subject to change. This can depend on a number of factors, including how recently or frequently you have eaten a certain food, and explains why results may be different if you were to have subsequent tests done.

There is also the possibility that you may experience false positives being reported. This could be due to something called cross-reaction. This is where a reaction occurs because the ingredient has a very similar protein structure to an ingredient that you actually are reactive to.

You may require the help of a nutritionist for you to action your results. Food intolerance testing has been criticised due to some people cutting out foods without replacing them with others from the same food group. This can result in a less-varied diet (which can increase the likelihood of you developing further intolerances) and nutrient deficiencies. Seeking the help of a specialist can avoid this.

What To Look For In Food Intolerance Test Services

In order to ensure that your food intolerance test is as useful as possible, I recommend opting for a test that provides a comprehensive breakdown of food ingredients.

For example, rather than just testing for a reaction to ‘milk’, find a test that will test for different types of milk (cow, sheep, goat, buffalo) and even the different milk proteins (casein, whey).

It's also important to select a food intolerance testing service that will report your results in the most comprehensive way. Tests that include the numerical value of your reaction are more useful than those that just state a 'yes' or 'no' reaction to each food.

The test that I found most helpful was the CNS Food Print 200+, whereas my York Test results were too vague (as per the points above), leaving me with more unanswered questions.

Have you taken a food intolerance test at any point? Share your experience in the comments section or tweet me @_nataliejohanna.

Creatine For Women: The Essential Guide

Creatine-Women-Supplement-Nutrition-Guide

Creatine for women

I know that for women especially, discovering and introducing supplements to your regime can be pretty daunting. Particularly where creatine is concerned, there are lots of misconceptions. But, if you put aside connotations of huge bodybuilders, suspend any fears you may have of ‘looking bulky’, and know that creatine simply contributes to energy production in your body, it doesn’t sound quite so scary, does it? In fact, it sounds pretty good to me!

Creatine is the most widely researched sports supplement in existence and is used by a huge number of athletes, as well as a large proportion of gym-goers; both male and female. However, creatine also contributes to lots of other functions within your body, meaning that there are very few people who wouldn’t benefit from taking it.

What is creatine + where can you find it?

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound. It is formed of three different amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine. That’s all. 

Without supplementation, creatine is produced in the body by the liver, with a little help from the pancreas and kidneys. It’s also found in animal produce - meat and fish - in the same areas that creatine would be found in human tissue; the muscles. 

Since vegetarians and vegans lack the main source of dietary creatine intake, they are have been reported to have lower levels. The same is likely the case with other amino acids too.

Creatine is widely available from sports supplement companies and is also really inexpensive to purchase in its most common (and most researched) form, creatine monohydrate. I’ve been using creatine monohydrate from MyProtein.

I’ve also come across creatine in supplements such as Inner Me Energise Me capsules, although the dose of creatine is so minuscule that I wouldn’t recommend it for that purpose.

What does creatine do?

Energy drives the processes in your body, and creatine ultimately plays a role in energy production. Creatine supplementation can lead to improved exercise performance during high intensity (anaerobic) exercise, from sprinting to weight training to HIIT. It can help you to lift heavier, go for one more rep, jump higher, or win a race.

What you’ve probably heard, and where the association with huge body builders comes from, is that creatine supplementation can lead to increased muscle mass. However, this relationship is mostly indirect; by allowing you to work with heavier weights or to get more reps with a given weight, gains in muscle mass might be increased.

One particular piece of research that I looked at, which used female subjects, showed creatine supplementation to increase strength and fat-free mass, leading to a more desirable body composition. 

Now for the geeky bit that I love (I’ve tried to make it as simple as possible)...

The Science Behind Creatine

Firstly, know that creatine is stored in muscles in the form of phosphocreatine (creatine bound with a phosphate molecule).

ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is an energy-rich compound that powers the energy-requiring processes of the cells in your body. It’s for this reason that ATP is often referred to as “energy currency” for cells. ATP plays a role in processes from digestion to circulatory function and, within your muscles, ATP contributes to the muscular contractions that enable you to move.

Physical activity provides the greatest demand for energy transfer. Intense physical activity of short duration, such as sprinting or weight lifting, relies on ATP. However, ATP depletes, breaking down into ADP (adenosine diphosphate) as it loses a phosphate molecule.

It’s at this point that phosphocreatine comes into play, donating it’s phosphate group to ADP to resynthesise ATP. It’s this quick regeneration of ATP that enhances exercise performance by allowing you to work at peak performance for a longer period of time.

Weight-Gain + Water

Another way that creatine can increase muscle size is through cell volumisation. Essentially, creatine causes water retention; it draws in water from outside of the muscle cells through the process of osmosis.

Because of this, a concern issue that women may have when supplementing with creatine is potential weight gain from water. Of course, weight gain may also be down to increased muscle mass.

To me, my weight is an arbitrary number. What I’m really interested in is what that weight is comprised of; the numbers that I’m interested in are fat mass, and fat-free mass. So long as it’s not because my fat mass is increasing drastically, weight gain doesn’t bother me. 

On the subject of water, creatine can have a dehydrating effect, so remember to stay hydrated!

Creatine-Supplement-Women-Review

How should women take creatine?

Ultimately there is no difference between how women and men should supplement with creatine, although dosages for men will likely be at the higher end of the recommended ranges as they generally have a greater muscle mass, and thus the potential to store more creatine.

Here are some tips for how to supplement with creatine:

Timing

Research suggests that creatine is best consumed post-workout. I always take creatine post-workout with a scoop of whey isolate and some simple carbohydrates (a great excuse for gummy bears, no?) to elicit the insulin response that will maximise its uptake into the muscles.

Some people like to take creatine pre-workout, but note that the creatine your body will use during the workout will come from the creatine phosphate stores already in your muscles, not from the creatine you just ingested.

On rest days, simply take creatine at whatever time is most convenient for you.

Loading

Where creatine is concerned, there is often talk of loading phases, which means taking higher doses of the supplement for a period of time, before continuing with a maintenance dose. A loading phase will boost muscle creatine levels more quickly and allow you experience the benefits sooner, but it is not essential. I personally didn’t introduce creatine with a loading phase.

Dosage

A dose of 3-5g daily is recommended. If you decide to have a loading phase, aim for 15-20g per day for 5 days before returning to a smaller daily dose.

Summary

Hopefully, you now understand that creatine plays a really important role in your body. While you ingest some creatine though dietary sources, you may benefit from supplementing with creatine, especially if you are very active, or have a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Creatine is completely safe for healthy individuals to supplement with. However, if you have a history of kidney or liver disease, I recommend you consult a doctor if you’re considering supplementation.

Finally, like any other supplement, to get the best results, be sure to follow a suitable training programme and diet.

Do you already supplement with creatine? Have you found improvements in exercise or sporting performance?