What is creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring substance found within the body with around 95% found in skeletal muscle tissue, derived from amino acids glycine, arginine and methionine and found in high quantities in various foods including Beef, salmon, tuna, sea food and pork. Creatine is stored within the muscle and provides energy longevity for high-intensity exercise, such as weight training and sprinting. This is because the energy used during this form of exercise is ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate), however once ATP has been used for energy, it loses a phosphate molecule and become ADP (adenosine di-phosphate).
Supplementing with creatine allows for faster ADP to ATP re-synthesize, therefore allowing you to train at a higher intensity for longer periods of time – the benefits of such an effect on bodybuilding and sports performance are clear; it enables the body to breakthrough previous physiological plateaus and create the stimulus necessary for physical change to sports performance or overall aesthetics of the body.
Who should take this supplement?
This supplement benefits anyone trying to gain size, strength or improve sports performance, including weight lifting, rugby, athletics and boxing. The fundamental benefits of taking this supplement has led to a sharp increase in both recreational and sport performance supplementation.
Studies show that vegan and vegetarians benefit best from creatine in relation to improved sport performance. This is due to their natural diet be a lot lower that their carnivore counter-parts who get high amounts of creatine in their diet through eating aforementioned meats and fish.
Further studies also indicate that supplementing with creatine leads to increased levels of growth hormone production, the hormone referred to as ‘the fountain of youth’ due to it’s positive effects maintaining and supporting the development of muscle tissue and keeping body fat levels low. Such effects suggest supplementation by the elderly populations would also be very advantageous in maintaining health longevity.
How do I supplement with creatine?
It’s recommended that you should ‘pre-load’ with this supplement, essentially meaning consuming 20g per day (in four separate doses of 5g) for the first 5 days, this enable the muscles to reach phosphocreatine saturation point. After this point, aim to get 5g of creatine per day to maintain optimal levels of creatine within the muscle. During the initial loading phase, consume creatine at any point throughout the day.
When you’re in your maintenance phase, I suggest you take creatine post-workout, aiming to replace those recently depleted stores from the training sessions. I’ll usually take both my creatine and protein together with maltodextrin or some other form of fast acting carbohydrate, this helps drive the creatine and amino acids from the protein into the muscle cells a lot faster.
Types Of Creatine
There are various different forms of creatine and people often ask, ‘what is the best form of creatine to take?’ As the purpose of each of these varying forms of creatine is essentially the same, the factor here comes down to their individual ability to be absorbed by the cells of the body and get to work. Here some of the most common forms of creatine:
The most commonly used and popular type of creatine on the market and regarded in its purest form as ‘creature’. This supplement rose to popularity on merit off the back of several sports studies proving the effectiveness of creatine monohydrate for sports performance. Combined with the fact that it is cost effective and sold by most supplement retailers makes it even more appealing for recreational use. The few drawbacks from using this product, from personal experience, include slight water retention, along with the fact it isn’t waters-soluble, making the pill form more convenient. Creatine monohydrate also requires a 4-5 day loading phase of around 20g per day unlike most other forms of creatine.
Creatine Ethyl Ester
Unlike it’s monohydrate counterpart, Ethyl Ester does not require a loading phase and also requires less of a dose per day: 3/4g. The molecular structure of Ethyl Ester also makes its absorption a lot higher – typically around 99% and it doesn’t cause any bloating. You may be thinking this is a ‘no brainer’ and Ethyl Ester is the way to go, however before proceeding it’s worth noting that the taste of Eythl Ester is… memorable. It’s also quite expensive in comparison to other forms of this supplement.
Similar to Ethyl Ester in it’s absorption rate, however requires a high dose to most other forms at almost double the dose requirement than monohydrate.
Kre-Alkalyn is a buffered form of creatine a the perfect PH for effective use, making the dose levels a lot lower for the same desired effect.
Side effects and myths: creatine supplementation?
Creatine and organ damage
There have been numerous reports in various fitness media outlets suggesting that long term creatine supplementation can lead to both kidney and liver damage. The basis which has led to this is due to creatine supplementation elevating creatinine levels, which is typically higher with people who have kidney issues. However no study has ever attributed the use of this supplement to such dramatic health issues as organ damage.
Does creatine lead to weight gain?
The purpose for many who supplement with creatine is to gain additional muscle mass, strength and increase output, therefore for most, weight gain is in fact the aim and often the result. However this additional weight gained is typically from additional muscle mass from the additional ATP stores allowing the body to train at maximal intensity for longer periods of time. Another factor for slight weight gain is an increase in water retention, which quickly goes away after the supplementation cycle has stopped.
There has been a lot of media speculation over recent years about potential side effects of supplementing with this product, including dehydration, liver/kidney damage and gastrointestinal damage. However with over 500+ studies carried out on supplementing with creatine, none have yet reported these aforementioned damaging side effects and more concentrated studies are required before any conclusions can be reached.