Your Complete Guide to Creatine
Just a few years ago, creatine was something that was talked about as a "secret weapon" that was really only for bodybuilders, weightlifters, and other strength athletes. Today, the secret is definitely over! Athletes of all types take creatine as a way to get more results out of their training, and to help them recover between sessions.
Make no mistake: Creatine is not a shortcut for results. If your training and nutrition are not right, the benefits it provides will be much less than if they were. But the research is clear that for many athletes, this is one supplement that comes with a huge boost in results
“There are a lot of supplements out there where people report great results by anecdotal, but the science is either weak, or simply non-existent,” explains Douglas Kallman, Ph.D. “With creatine, not only has we built a solid reputation among bodybuilders and many other types of athletes, but the science that supports it as a legitimate performance enhancer is strong and largely consistent. With over 2,000 studies to date
Did you like it? you are not alone. Here's everything you need to know.
What is creatine?
“Creatine is a blend of three different amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine. That’s it — nothing more than a blend of amino acids,” global energy lifter Line Norton, PhD, wrote in the article “Creatine: What It Is and How It Works.”
However, this simple compound is involved in a large number of processes in the body. It's a key component of how your body creates its primary form of energy in muscle cells, adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. When muscles contract explosively, or for a short, intense work lasting no more than 8-12 seconds, creatine (bound to phosphoric acid as creatine phosphate) is how muscles create the energy needed to do so.
Most of the creatine in the body is produced in the liver and kidneys, but most of it is stored in muscle tissue. Creatine is not considered an "essential" nutrient, as a healthy human body is able to create it, and it can also be easily obtained through a diet containing animal products.
However, dietary creatine only comes from animal products. So vegetarian athletes don't get as much creatine in their diet as those who eat dairy, eggs, and/or meat. This is one reason why creatine is recommended as an important supplement for vegetarians.
Creatine monohydrate, the most common form of creatine supplementation, is simply creatine with one molecule of water attached to it - hence the name monohydrate. It is usually about 88-90 percent creatine by weight. You may occasionally see people claiming that creatine is a steroid. Norton says this could be further from the truth.
He writes "No, creatine is not a steroid, it is completely different and works in a different way." “It is also not a stimulant, although it is sometimes combined with stimulant ingredients like caffeine in pre-workout formulations.
What is the role of creatine?
As Dr. Lane explains in the article "Creatine: What It Is and How It Works," "Creatine in and of itself is a source of fuel." More specifically, the phosphate-bound form of creatine is your body's "first choice for energy when performing anaerobic activity, such as weightlifting."
When your body tries to synthesize the compound that strengthens rapid muscle contractions, it does so by "borrowing" a phosphate molecule from phosphocreatine and combining it with another compound. Only after muscles have significantly used up their stores of phosphocreatine does it begin to be produced from other sources, such as glucose or fat.
“Supplementation with creatine increases creatine stores and the availability of phosphocreatine in the body, resulting in faster formation,” writes exercise physiologist Ciaran, in his article “6 Side Effects of Creatine.” "The bottom line: the more phosphocreatine you have, the more work you can get done before fatigue sets it back."
The secondary function of creatine is to draw water into muscle cells, which keeps them more hydrated.
"When muscle cells are hydrated, a few things happen, most notably an increase in protein synthesis," Norton explains.
As many lifters can attest, the action of drawing water into the hive can make their muscles appear larger or fuller.
What are the benefits of creatine?
Creatine's reputation among athletes is largely built around strength and muscle gains. And according to strength coach and researcher Brad Schoenefeld, Ph.D., that reputation is well-earned.
Schoenefeld explains in the article Ask the Muscles: How Creatine Helps Muscles: 'If you asked me for one supplement recommendation when muscle growth is the goal, I would tell you: creatine. gain? “Gains of several pounds of muscle are routinely reported when athletes supplement creatine, in addition to performing resistance exercise alone.
There are hundreds of studies showing improvements in strength, power, muscle size, fatigue resistance, and overall body composition when people who do strength training regularly take creatine. No, magic will not only make you stronger through magic, but it may help you do some repetitions with a heavier weight. And that, over time, can definitely make you stronger.
But if you think the benefits end once you're out of the weight room, think again.
"Contrary to what most people think, you don't have to be a strong or strong athlete to reap the benefits of this wonderful supplement," explains researcher Chrissy Kendall, Ph.D. Specifically, Kendall says, creatine has been shown to help endurance athletes store more glycogen to use during training or competition. It has also been shown to reduce inflammation and cell damage after prolonged and intense exercise. From the average person's perspective, that means less pain after training, and less time before you feel like exercising again.
The sports benefits of this supplement may be more pronounced in vegetarians. For example, one study comparing creatine use by vegetarians and non-vegetarians found that vegetarians experienced a greater increase in lean tissue and the ability to perform high-volume leg exercises compared to a non-vegetarian group. This is likely because vegetarians have lower amounts of stored muscle creatine prior to the experiment.
How creatine works
Creatine is one of the most studied sports supplements, with over 2,000 studies to date. And this research is pretty consistent in showing that creatine offers some benefits for most people who take it.
However, it's not clear exactly how creatine monohydrate achieves these benefits, as Brad Schoenefeld, Ph.D., explains in the article "Ask Muscles: How Does Creatine Help With Muscle Gain?" One explanation is that since creatine promotes strength gains, it allows lifters to move more total weight and generate more of what's called "mechanical tension." It is well known that mechanical tension is one of the primary factors for muscle growth.
However, it is also possible that because creatine draws water into muscle cells, it contributes to one of the triggers for muscle growth, cellular swelling. The third major mechanism of muscle growth is muscle damage.
"It is entirely possible that creatine may positively affect two, or even all three, of these mechanisms," Schoenefeld wrote.
Is creatine safe?
There is no shortage of rumors about the bad things that can accompany creatine use. For example, you can hear people swear that it causes kidney or liver damage, cramping or dehydration, or even rhabdomyolysis. You may have heard that it is unsafe for teens or that it is not good for women, or that it leads people to get angry or act out of anger.
However, none of these concerns appear to substantiate in the current research. Exercise physiologist Kiaran Ferman looks at six of the most common medical concerns in the article "6 Creatine Side Effects: Myths Debunked" and concludes, "Creatine's safety has been demonstrated time and time again, with some for five years."
Bottom line: Creatine does no harm to the liver, kidneys, or any other organ for that matter. Doug Kallman, PhD, co-founder of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, says creatine's bad reputation is just a lack of understanding.