What is Creatine?
Creatine is present in everyone’s body in the form of Creatine Phosphate. It is an organic chemical that replenishes energy, particularly during high intensity energy bursts. The average person has roughly 120g of Creatine Phosphate in their system. Creatine is consumed regularly via your diet in foods such as beef and fatty fish. In order to benefit from enhanced performance in your workouts or active periods, you must supplement your body’s natural reserves.
How does creatine work?
How creatine works in your body is a complex process, here is the simplified explanation:
During periods of intense physical activity or anaerobic workouts, your body uses its stored ATP (adenosine triphosphate) as a fuel source for your muscles. As ATP stores in your muscles are depleted, they are transformed into ADP (adenosine diphosphate). It’s at this point that creatine comes into the picture. Since ADP cannot be used by your body as a fuel source for your muscles, it enlists the help of creatine to convert ADP back to ATP which can once again be used as a fuel source.
How will my workouts be different?
During anaerobic exercise your ATP levels are depleted and your creatine levels drop. Supplementing your bodies natural creatine with creatine powder will give you the feeling of sustained energy. As most people find, fatigue sets in very quickly during anaerobic workouts (30-45 seconds), but with proper creatine supplementation, it is not unusual for a person to perform 20-30% more and not feel the full effects of fatigue. In fact, creatine will help you recover faster and make you feel stronger. Now, we are describing this as a feeling, but research and clinical studies now show the claims are in fact reality.
The bottom line?
Creatine powder in itself isn’t a potion that will magically add lean muscle mass to your body. However, scientific research has proven that it will increase the speed and efficiency at which your body can replenish ATP stores. This means substantially increased performance levels thus maximizing your lean muscle mass building potential.
Is creatine safe?
As with any supplement, debate is inevitable. Study after study confirms creatine is safe. Most users report no side effects whatsoever. Any reported side effects are minor in nature and usually the result of external factors not related to creatine…i.e. mild cramps, bloating, headaches, things more easily explained by dehydration or any number of other factors.
Should women use Creatine or is it just for men?
Women can benefit greatly from creatine supplementation. It’s not just for men. The benefits for women are the same as they are for men; increased energy during workouts, increasing lean muscle and more. Women typically have a harder time increasing their muscle and strength. Creatine will help you increase your strength faster. Creatine has had the reputation for causing water retention and bloating. Not entirely true. Of course you will gain fluid, your muscles are predominantly fluid. This increase in fluid promotes gains in lean muscle and strength. It is a well documented fact that the more muscle you have the more calories your body burns, even during resting periods. Muscle eats fat. Therefore; an increase in your lean muscle means a reduction in body fat!
How Do I Take Creatine?
The old standby of a loading phase followed by a 4-6 week cycle has been labeled as obsolete in the most recent studies. Creatine does however need a “vehicle” in order to transport it efficiently to you muscles. That’s not to say you couldn’t simply mix it with water. Many scientific case studies involve ingesting creatine with water. However, 5 grams of creatine monohydrate, creatine phosphate or creatine citrate (which ever one you choose), combined with 35 grams of dextrose (corn sugar) still seems to have the best degree of effectiveness. A good alternative to dextrose is a sport drink such as Gatorade or Powerade. That way you get the flavor of your choice and the carbohydrates needed to transport the creatine.
Creatine ethyl ester comes in a variety of pre-mixed formulations. Many of these have nitric oxide for an even greater feeling of fullness and energy. Pre-workout and post-workout mixes are available on the market and are a great easy way to get your creatine by just adding water.
How long you use creatine is really up to you. Clinical studies have shown no adverse effects on renal function in short term(5 days), medium term(9 weeks), and long term(up to 5 years).
How does creatine affect aging and growth hormone?
Creatine is more than just an energy replenisher. Studies now suggest that creatine has the ability to raise your growth hormone levels. This is great news. In these studies, scientists have concluded that blood level GH was raised solely due to creatine intake. The subjects were not exercising or consuming any other supplement that could have raised GH levels.
Medicine and science have proven to us that as we age, GH levels diminish resulting in frail bones, loss of muscle mass, reduced energy levels just to name a few. Creatine has the ability to enhance GH levels and therefore youthful vigor, health and vitality can be experienced by creatine users who are not as young as their minds feel they are.
Creatine as brain food?
Recently, scientists studied the effectiveness of creatine with respects to memory performance in 45 young adults. Test cases were given 5 grams of creatine daily for 6 weeks. The results? Creatine had a profound effect on both working memory (backward digit span) and intelligence (Raven’s Advance Progressive Matrices). Both of these tasks require speed of processing. Creatine has shown to increase brain function.