Creatine is a nutrient naturally found in all our bodies. It is a combination of 3 amino acids; arginine, glycine and methionine. Creatine helps provide the energy our muscles need to move, particularly quick and explosive movements. Muscle contraction is initially fuelled by ATP (adenosine-triphosphate).
There is only enough ATP to provide energy for approximately 10 seconds. For this energy system to continue, more ATP is required. Creatine phosphate gives up its phosphate molecule to ADP (adenosine-diphosphate), thus recreating ATP. Increasing the muscle's supply of creatine phosphate helps increase the rate in which the body can supply ATP.
This increases the muscles capacity to do work and improves the energy efficiency of the muscle. Research shows creatine to be effective in improving training intensity and recovery. It is able to pass through the gut wall (stomach) and into the bloodstream intact and upon entering the muscle cells, is converted into Creatine Phosphate (CP).
What Is Creatine Phosphate?
Creatine Phosphate is an organic compound in muscle fibres that is fractured enzymatically for the production of ATP.
What Is Adenosine TriPhosphate (ATP)?
ATP is the organic compound found in muscle which, upon being broken down enzymatically, yields energy for muscle contraction. Creatine enhances your body's ability to make protein within the muscle fibres, which also increases your muscle mass (Creatine increases cellular hydration.
The hydrated muscle has increased permeability, which allows more amino acids into the muscle cell). Building up a supply of these contractile proteins (actin and myosin) increases your muscles ability to perform physical work. The bottom line here, is that creatine will allow you to to perform more repetitions with a given weight.
This will increase the time under tension, thus increasing the recruitment of muscle fibres, which will in turn increase the number of fibres stimulated. It also prevents your body from relying on another energy system called glycolysis, which has lactic acid as a byproduct. Lactic acid creates the burning sensation you feel during intense exercise.
Does This Mean I Will Be Able To Lift More Or Run Faster?
Indirectly, YES! Directly, POSSIBLY! Creatine does not make YOU stronger or faster, YOU make YOU faster or stronger. Creatine allows you to train at a higher intensity level and to recover faster.
If your recovery is better then you are in a fresher more rested state before you commence your next session and as a result you will derive more benefit from this session than would otherwise have been possible. Let's use the Bench Press as an example: Prior to Creatine our subject, let's call him "Maximus" (mac-zim-us) was doing 4 sets on the Bench Press.
His goal was to do 4 sets of 8 repetitions with 225lbs, he usually got 8,8,6 and 4. By sets 3 and 4 he was fatigued and as a result he could not reach his goal. When Maximus takes Creatine he is likely to see an improvement in recovery significant enough to enable him to achieve his goal of 4 sets of 8 repetitions.
Now if Maximus continues to use Creatine, eat sensibly, train with intensity and passion over a 12-16 week period it would be possible for him to increase his Bench Press to @ 250lbs for 4 sets of 8 repetitions. Finally - remember you have to do the work! Use Creatine to progress not to standstill.
Where Is Creatine Found Naturally?
You may be asking, "Why do I need it if it is found naturally in my body". Well, the reason is that most people only ingest about one gram of creatine from food sources per day.
That, coupled with average endogenous production of another gram, totals a relatively paltry 2 grams of creatine per day. If you are a heavy consumer of red meat, don't expect dramatic results from creatine supplementation (1 pound of beef equals approximately 2 grams of creatine, and 4.6 grams in every pound of herring. Over 2 grams per pound in most fish).
Those likely to experience the best results are vegetarians. Vegetarians synthesize the supplement just as their carnivorous brethren do; they seldom top off their muscle stores of creatine since they avoid the rich food sources such as beef.
As a consequence, they react well to creatine. Creatine supplements are suitable for even hard-core vegans, since the product is synthetic and not derived from animal sources.
Can Creatine Become Toxic With Long Term Use?
In truth, nobody knows. Although the body makes only 1-2 grams per day, the odds are good that your body can handle an intake of 5 or more grams per day. Anybody over 200 pounds can take 10 grams quite safely provided that they drink sufficient fluids (to avoid cramping). Some people have been taking as much as 20-30 grams a day since it was first available in 1990.
Is Creatine Safe?
Yes, Creatine is a natural amino acid present in the body of humans and animals. The human body has 100-115 grams of creatine in the form of creatine phosphate. No negative side effects have been noted in the research with the recommended levels of supplementation.
Are There Any Noted Side Effects?
Creatine is so efficient at shuttling water into the intramuscular compartment, that an emergent side effect associated with it is that of muscle cramping. This most often occurs when too little fluid is consumed whilst supplementing with creatine.
Muscle cramping, strains and tears are all anecdotal evidence that are not supported by scientific fact. Creatine draws water away from the internal working organs and therefore if you take a lot with no water then a mild stomach cramp will occur.
How to avoid this? Simple: drink 1 pint of water with every dose! Water makes sense for an athlete and most of us are guilty of consuming way too little. In an ideal world we should drink 4-5 pints of water a day. It will benefit us and also benefit the CM we are taking. The extra water will help maximise the effects of the CM.
* Ratings as of article's date of publication
When Is The Best Time To Take Creatine?
For best results, on training days, take creatine after your workout. It will not make you nauseous and is best taken at this time in order to replenish lost stores. If you wish to take more on a training day (i.e 10 grams),then take half pre-workout and remaining half post-workout.
How Much Should I Take?
Recommended dosages are as follows:
- Less than or equal to 140lbs = 5-6grams per day is maintenance
- 141lbs to 168lbs = 6-7.5 grams per day is maintenance
- 169lbs to 199lbs = 8 grams per day is maintenance
- 200lbs to 242lbs = 8-10 grams per day is maintenance
- 242lb+ = 10-12 grams per day
Ways To Take Creatine
You will find many different recommendations on how to take creatine. Studies have shown that you get a 60% greater cell uptake of creatine if you combine it with a simple sugar base, such as grape juice (naturally rich in glucose).
A big insulin spike will push the creatine into the muscle. Do not ever take creatine with orange juice! Very simply it negates the positive effects due to it's acidity.
This is presently a matter for open debate, but possibly the best way to take CM is with warm water; you can add simple carbohydrates if required. Cranberry juice is recommended if you are prone to upset stomachs, it can help alleviate the upset.
- Creatine shuttles
Theory is that in order to maximise the effects of Creatine consumption it is necessary to take it with a simple carbohydrate The idea is that this will promote an insulin spike which will "shuttle" CM into your muscles. The basic ingredient in all shuttles is Creatine and Dextrose. In a 1000 gram container most will have 200 grams of creatine and 800 grams of dextrose. Some will throw in extras like glutamine etc. but in all honesty not enough to make a difference.
- Why use a shuttle?
In today's fast paced world it is really only for convenience. They are more expensive but every convenience food/drink always is!
- How much are they?
1kg containers are on sale in stores for between $28 - $40. $40.00 is really taking the piss. You will get at best 1 month from a 1kg container.
Advisory note: Buy it if you want but only use it on your training days. On non-training days only take regular CM (Creatine Monohydrate). If the idea is to shuttle CM into your system then possibly the only time this should be taken is either before or during a workout.
Do I Need To Initially Go Through The Loading Phase?
No, this is not necessary. A mere 3 grams of creatine per day for 28 days results in the same muscle content of creatine as that of a six day load program. Thus, if you wanted to get off creatine, it would take about a month to reach normal muscle stores.
Taking even large amounts of creatine as in the load phase doesn't appear to inhibit the body's creatine synthesis after you cease using it.
Will I Lose Weight Or Muscle Mass If I Stop Using It?
There is no reason to expect muscle loss. You will, however, drop a few pounds, since creatine causes water volumisation in the intracellular tissues as opposed to bloating caused by sodium ingestion.
Does Creatine Make You Retain Water?
No. Creatine draws water from the body to do its work. There is a difference between cell volumization and water retention. Cell volumization leads to more water inside the cells, making the muscle bigger and firmer. Water retention, the process that makes the muscles look smooth, happens outside the muscle cells.
How Does Creatine Help Muscle Grow?
Intensity is necessary to achieve natural strength gains and muscle growth or increased athletic performance. Muscle growth takes place when the muscle has been overloaded. Without heavy sets, your muscle will remain small.
Creatine promotes intense lifting by recycling the necessary energy molecule ATP. Creatine also buffers the development of lactic acid allowing for a more enduring workout. As you know, lactic acid buildup is one of the main causes of exercise-related muscle fatigue.