CREATINE: THE MOST EXTENSIVELY STUDIED NUTRITIONAL SPORTS SUPPLEMENT TO DATE!
What does Creatine do and why is there so much talk about it?
To fully understand creatine, we must begin with adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
ATP is the fuel used by the body for muscle contraction and is responsible for all the muscle action we take for granted. But our muscles have limited ATP stores available and therefore our bodies must continually synthesize it.
The body utilizes three different mechanisms to manufacture ATP:
– Creatine kinase (anaerobic)
– Glycolysis (anaerobic)
– Oxidative phosphorylation (aerobic)
The first and most effective method is creatine kinase, which utilizes a non-oxygen dependent process that is responsible for all maximal or near-maximal muscle contractions. Creatine kinase rapidly converts the initial stores of ATP to energy, and is responsible for any high-intensity, short-duration activity such as sprinting, jumping or lifting weights. In short, anaerobic exercise is enhanced with creatine supplementation, which in turn provides the increased supply of creatine phosphate to molecules needed to convert ADP back into ATP.
Creatine is naturally synthesized in the liver, pancreas and kidneys from the precursor amino acids- arginine, glycine and methionone. Dietary creatine is available in meats and fish, but creatine content rapidly depletes when foods are cooked. One pound of raw, red meat offers approximately 2 grams of creatine whereas creatine monohydrate supplements offer 5 grams of creatine in one teaspoon. The additional creatine gives the body the necessary ingredients to reproduce more ATP during the creatine kinase process and to ultimately generate more work; more work equals more muscle stimulation and more muscle stimulation equals greater muscle size.
The key to proper creatine usage is to find the lowest dosage that supplies the maximum benefit. One of the most popular ways to go about creatine taking is to complete a loading phase, which consists of approximately 5 grams of creatine, three to four times a day, for a period of five to seven days. This is followed by a maintenance phase, which consists of taking 2-5 grams per day thereafter. Some (including myself) suggest that the loading phase is unnecessary. An individual who starts supplementing with only the maintenance phase (2-5 grams/day) will have the same muscle saturation in three weeks as the individual who loads. Creatine absorption is enhanced when combined with a substance such as dextrose, which increases insulin levels. You can take creatine with juice (grape being most popular) or any other high simple-sugar beverage. Ingesting creatine with a meal will provide the same effect, as food causes increased insulin production. Studies have also shown that worked muscles will absorb more creatine than non-worked muscles making post-workout an optimal time to consume creatine.
Is Creatine Safe?
Creatine has a lot of mixed reviews and some bad press, although much of this stems from creatine’s rapid rise in popularity and the public’s lack of knowledge leading to many myths and misunderstandings about its effectiveness and safety. As stated earlier, creatine is naturally synthesized in the body. Therefore, as long as creatine is taken in proper dosages of 2-5grams per day, it is completely safe and is known with relative certainty to help improve muscular strength and size in a variety of different athletes. Be sure to take creatine in proper amounts and drink plenty of water as creatine aids in hydrating the muscles of the body and thus depletes some of the body’s additional water stores.
If there are any further questions please leave a comment and I will respond with my best answer or follow-up the question with a full post if I believe it to be of value to others as well!