Our liver has the ability to combine these three amino acids, forming creatine. We also get creatine from our diet. Below are the four things creatine does in your body.
- Provides additional energy for your muscles.
- Volumization of your muscles.
- Buffers lactic acid build-up.
- Enhances protein synthesis.
A human, on average, has 3.5 to 4 grams of creatine per kilogram of muscle. Once you use up the creatine in your muscle you have to rest your muscles and wait a while before you can exercise the muscle again.
Studies show that the human muscle can store up to 5 grams of creatine per kilogram. So, by taking a creatine supplement you can raise your levels from 3.5 to 5 grams of creatine - and enjoy more of the benefits.
Creatine is the best-selling sports supplement of all time. In 1998, over $200 million of creatine products were sold. This is because of great marketing and the fact that the supplement actually has some benefits! Creatine can come in powder, liquid (serum), pill, gum or effervescent powder form.
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Forms Of Creatine Supplements
Creatine Powder (Including Micronized)
The powdered form is by far the most popular form of creatine supplements. You mix the powder in some juice and drink it. While this is the most popular, and cheapest form of creatine, it does have problems.
For starters, many people find creatine powder has a gritty taste/texture. This can be helped by using "micronized creatine powder". This is just finely ground powder that dissolves better in liquid.
The other problem is that creatine powder is not very effective when you look at absorption rates. The powder passes through the stomach and the acids in the stomach start to digest the creatine. This is not what you want, since you want the creatine to reach your muscles.
Studies have shown that as much as 40-50% of the creatine powder you take is lost before it reaches your muscles. The powder tends to absorb more water, which can lead to an upset stomach and possible dehydration. If you drink enough water, however, these should not be major problems. That being said, creatine powder still remains the most popular form for supplements.
Creatine Liquid (Or Serum)
Creatine can also be taken in liquid or serum form. In theory, there are numerous advantages to liquid creatine over powder. It's a more effective delivery mechanism, so more creatine is absorbed. This means that you can take less creatine in liquid form and still get the same results. In addition, you don't need to leave as much time between when you take your creatine and when you can start working out.
The major downside to liquid creatine is that it is very hard to make. If creatine is just mixed in a liquid, it starts to breakdown into a waste product (creatinine) after about 20 minutes. So to make liquid creatine effective, the creatine must be stabilized. (If the creatine is stabilized, then it will not break down into a waste product.)
Creatine pills (capsules) really just work the same way as the powders. They are easier to take because you don't have to mix anything up.
The idea behind the creatine gum is that as you chew the gum the creatine is released. The fact that it is absorbed in your mouth should yield better absorption rates.
This is the stuff that drops into a glass of water and it fizzes up (like Alka Seltzer). It works on the same principle as liquid, namely trying to increase absorption rates. There have been some preliminary studies that show that effervescent powder may be an effective delivery mechanism.
Q & A
How Much Creatine Should I Take?
Take the smallest amount that results in a positive gain, meaning that if you find that 5 grams works - that is what you should take. (Taking 10 grams will not produce twice the effect.) What you are trying to do is saturate the muscles with creatine. You are looking to boost your levels by about 30 percent. Taking addition creatine once you have reached saturation is a waste.
Creatine that you can't use is excreted as the waste product creatinine. For the average person, 5 grams of powder is the right amount. If you are using serum, you will only need to take 2.5 grams of creatine because of the better absorption rate.
Should I Do A Loading Phase?
Probably not. Everyone who sells creatine wants you to do a loading phase where you take 20 grams a day for the first 5 days. From their standpoint, the more you take - the more they sell. However, unless you are in a hurry to gain muscle mass, loading is not necessary.
Studies have shown that people who load have greater gains than people who take just 5 grams a day after the first 2 weeks. However, after 4 weeks both groups are at an equal level.
Do I Need To Cycle Creatine?
Maybe. The fact is that people have not been supplementing with creatine long enough to know if cycling is required. "Better safe than sorry." You have nothing to lose by cycling, and a few years from now you may find that it was a good idea. It is always good to give your body a rest from any supplement. A "2 month on, 1 month off" cycle works well.
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