What is Creatine and Should You Take It?
Creatine is a ergogenic supplement that is naturally produced in the protein cells located in our muscles and organs. Aside from this, we also receive a large portion of our creatine supply from animal products we eat, such as meat and fish. Creatine consumption from food alone is not enough to generate significant performance change, which has lead to the creatine supplement. This supplement comes in several different forms, such as creatine citrate, creatine malate, creatine taurinate, creatine phosphate, creatine orotate, creatine pyroglutamate, creatine gluconate, and creatine ethyl ester to name a few. The most popular form of creatine, as well as the one that will be focused on in this article, is Creatine Monohydrate.
The role that creatine plays in the human body is simple. Creatine is a protein-like compound that aids in the conversion of adenosine diphosphate (ADP) to Adenosine triphoshpate (ATP). The conversion takes place in the mitochondria of protein cells through a process known as oxidative phosphorylation. Our bodies then uses ATP to help organs and tissues, such as the skeletal muscle, brain and heart, metabolize energy and convert ADP to ATP at a quicker rate.
Efficiency is a crucial part of the ADP to ATP conversion process. During periods of high-intensity exercise our muscles require ATP to transport oxygen throughout the body and increase the rate of our overall physical performance. ATP is carried throughout our cells and organs via the creatine compound, hence why the greater amount of a creatine supply we have readily available in our bodies, the faster our bodies are able to transport oxygen to our muscles and organs. The greater your oxygen supply, the greater your endurance. The greater your endurance, the more powerful you can make your individual movements. Do you see where I’m going with this?
What Creatine Does to Your Body
As mentioned briefly above, creatine helps with the conversion of ADP to ATP, a process that takes place in order for cells to transport oxygen to high-demand muscles during times of high-intensity exercise. The more creatine you have in your system, the more oxygen is able to travel between your cells, tissues and organs, which results in an increase in overall physical performance and endurance. To put this more simply: when you supplement your body with creatine, it can help you pump out those few extra reps at the end of every set or sprint for those few extra seconds. It won’t make you a superhuman by any means, but it can help your muscles perform with greater force for a longer period of time before becoming depleted.
The effects of Creatine have been studied among both younger and older populations, yielding similar results across both age spectrums. Incorporating a creatine supplement into a consistent weight training and diet regime has been proven to enhance overall muscle strength and endurance in young adults to those over the age of 55.
In its’ most glamorous form, creatine can help increase the size, strength and power of your muscles. Unfortunately, using creatine as a supplement also comes with potential risks and side effects. The most common side effect of creatine is water retention— it is important to not get this confused with actual weight gain. Although water retention is not necessarily dangerous, it can be severely uncomfortable. Creatine use has also been linked to causing gastrointestinal discomfort and renal dysfunction, although there is no specific scientific research supporting these claims.
How to Take Creatine
Supplementing your body with creatine can be done in two different ways—one which includes a loading phase, and one which does not. There are claims that including a loading phase can help you experience the results of creatine faster, although it has not been proven to be necessary. During the loading phase, creatine is taken 4-5 times a day at a dose of 5g, amounting to a total of 20g a day. The loading phase generally lasts anywhere from 5 to 7 days, and is immediately followed by the maintenance phase. While maintaining, you take one 5g dose of creatine everyday. This phase lasts anywhere from 28 days to 10 weeks. Remember, you can either begin by first completing a loading phase and then transition into the maintenance phase, or begin by just taking the maintenance phase dosages immediately.
Is Creatine right for you?
When taken correctly and safely, creatine can yield several benefits. It can help you pump out those few extra reps you can never manage to grip, or allow you to spend those extra 3 seconds sprinting when you’d normally stop. The question of whether or not creatine is the right supplement for you is dependent on your dedication to working out, your current exercise regime, and your long-term training goals. If you are someone who tries their best to hit the gym as often as they can, but doesn’t focus very much on their diet or long-term training goals, there is not a point in investing your time or money into a creatine supplement. On the other hand, if you are someone who is dedicated to your diet and your workouts, but are finding yourself stuck in a plateau, creatine may be a beneficial supplement for you. Creatine can help improve your endurance, recovery time and overall muscle power and performance.
By Julia Solimine