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One Supplement Women Should Add To Their Rotation If They Want To Get Stronger In 2024

Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN
Author:
January 10, 2024
Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
By Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Molly Knudsen, M.S., RDN is a Registered Dietician Nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Texas Christian University and a master’s in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from Tufts University. She lives in Newport Beach, California, and enjoys connecting people to the food they eat and how it influences health and wellbeing.
Woman doing a pull up - Stronger Together
Image by sasacvetkovic33
January 10, 2024
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Women are no longer just sticking to the cardio machines at the gym. We're migrating in droves to the weight room—lining up for the squat racks and lifting increasingly heavy free weights and kettlebells. Our focus is no longer to be smaller but to be stronger

If building strength is on your agenda this year, pairing resistance training with adequate protein will be vital for building muscle. From there, one supplement could really give you a physical and mental edge: creatine.* 

You may have seen some men at the gym crush creatine in their post-workout shake. But there is compelling data to show that this popular supplement is just as beneficial for women—if not more so.

What is creatine?

Creatine is one of the most studied supplements out there. Creatine is a compound that the body makes naturally using the amino acids1 methionine, glycine, and arginine. 

This compound piqued the interest of gym goers first because about 95% of creatine is stored in muscles2, where it's used for energy. It's particularly important for energy production during short, high-intensity exercises, like lifting weights or sprints. So, not having enough stores of creatine during a workout may limit the energy or workload the muscle is able to handle. 

There's also a small amount of creatine stored in the brain3

But for women, creatine stores are about 70-80% lower4 than men's, and women eat significantly fewer dietary sources of creatine (like meat, fish, and other animal proteins) on average.

The benefits of creatine for women's health 

A comprehensive review of creatine supplementation and women's health4 published in 2021 stated that supplementation is beneficial at every life stage—with very little risk. "Recent research has shown that supplementation with creatine can be beneficial for women's health during menstruation, postpartum, and peri- and postmenopause," says board-certified sports nutritionist Stevie Lyn Smith, M.S., RDN, CSSD.*

"In premenopausal women, creatine can improve exercise and strength capacity. When it's alongside resistance training, creatine can lead to an increase in muscle mass and can potentially improve bone mineral density, particularly in postmenopausal women,"* Smith notes.

Creatine is still less studied in women than in males, but that gender-based research gap is thankfully narrowing. Smith is particularly excited to see continued research on creatine storage and production around hormonal fluctuations during menstruation5.

Creatine can also help with mental strength

As creatine is also found in the brain, there's emerging evidence that creatine intake is linked to better mood regulation, improved cognitive performance6, and less mental fatigue.*

Women are more likely to experience sleep challenges7 (in part due to pregnancy and menopause) that impact mental capacity, further supporting the important potential of creatine supplementation for women.

While the authors of that 2021 review agree that supplementation may be a particularly effective way to increase creatine stores, eating more animal-rich protein in general also has mental health benefits.

Are there any downsides of creatine?      

Creatine supplements aren't associated with much risk. "The biggest pushback I hear from women is around the potential for some weight gain and bloating when starting creatine," says Smith. "But this is from cellular hydration—or water retention—in the muscles." 

With proper dosing, these effects can be minimized (more on this next), and they're not something everyone will experience. 

"Some clients I have worked with have been able to work through this fear and have seen great results with creatine, including increases in strength and the ability to maintain muscle mass,"* Smith assures.

The stronger together plan

Set a strong base

New to creatine supplements? Set a strong base for yourself by starting with the right daily amount. Too much may lead to unwanted bloating, and too little won't have the effect you want. 

The recommended creatine dose for optimizing strength and muscle health is 3 to 5 grams per day8. Evidence suggests that a creatine intake of at least 3 grams a day is enough to provide significant health benefits, although many clinical trials support a 5-gram daily dose.

It doesn't matter when during the day you fit creatine in, just as long as you are consistent with it. And it's best to take it all at once.  

The level up

Most creatine supplements only come as creatine monohydrate. But you can choose to pair it with other cellular energy or strength-supporting ingredients like taurine. Similar to creatine, taurine is abundant in the muscles and the brain. Supplementing with this amino acid supports strength, power, endurance, and cognition.* 

mindbodygreen's creatine+ combines both of these ingredients in their optimal forms and doses (5 grams creatine and 2 grams taurine) to help you level up your muscle and brain health with one small scoop.* Next stop: your strongest year yet.

If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.

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