Creatine: The Ins and Outs by Gavin Van De Walle

What is it?

Creatine is nitrogenous organic acid that is produced by the body from three amino acids: L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine.  In the body, creatine is manufactured in our liver and kidneys and stored mostly in our skeletal muscles. Through our dietary intake of red meat and fish, and more commonly creatine powder, creatine can also be obtained.

How does it work?

In order for cells to utilize the energy received from dietary foods, the body cells must first convert the energy in foods to adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP can be considered as your body’s source of energy. ATP consist of three strongly bonded phosphates. When your body uses energy, one phosphate in ATP is then cleaved off, which releases usable energy for your body. Adenosine diphosphate (ADP) is the remaining product once a phosphate has been cleaved off.

The issue is you cannot use ADP for energy and you only have so much stored ATP. Well, how do you keep this process going? ADP then takes a single phosphate from your body’s stores of creatine phosphate, which in turn forms more ATP. How does creatine contribute to this process? Well, once a phosphate is broken off for energy release, the job of creatine is to replenish the phosphate keeping the process going. When you supplement with creatine, this creates the volume of available fuel to power ATP.

Who can benefit from it?

For short-term, maximum exercises like weight lifting or a 100m sprint, creatine supplies most of the energy. Exercise activities that last more than 90 seconds, studies suggest creatine is ineffective for the athlete. However, creatine supplementation during performance exercises such as high interval intensity training (HIIT) has shown to demonstrate performance which can promote fitness similar to endurance training routines (Graef et al., 2009).

Many studies have demonstrated for some athletes, creatine supplementation improves strength performance and even increase lean body mass. Researchers in The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine suggested creatine supplementation can increase maximum power and performance in high-intensity anaerobic repetitive work by 15 percent (Stephen P. Bird, 2003)! There are no gender-specific responses to creatine administration. Yes, ladies you can benefit from creatine supplementation too! Both men and women experience the same expected benefits. People that follow vegetarian diets, often have low levels of intramuscular creatine. With that being said, vegetarians will generally respond better to creatine supplementation.

 How much do I take?

When taken up by the muscles, creatine is essentially trapped within the muscle tissue. On estimate, creatine stores will slowly decline and will be elevated two to three months following ingestion of 20g of creatine total over 5 days. So how much do you take? Well the current thought is to consume two to five grams of creatine daily. Because human muscles appear to have a limit of creatine storage, excess of five grams per day will be of little benefit other than creating expensive urine. Insulin seems to stimulate creatine absorption, so ingesting creatine supplements may be better consumed with carbohydrate or protein for increased muscle creatine concentrations (Buford TW, 2007)

Creatine Myths

Myth 1: You need different types of creatine. (Creatine citrate, ethyl ester)

Truth: No other form of creatine has been shown to be more effective than creatine monohydrate. Stick with monohydrate, it’s cheaper and is the most intensively studied form.

Myth 2: Creatine Will Cause Kidney Damage.

Truth: If you have a pre-existing medical condition, consult your doctor prior to beginning any supplement regimen. If you are otherwise a healthy individual, studies demonstrate no adverse kidney function with proper dosage.

Myth 3: Creatine Is An Anabolic Steroid.

Truth: Legal (creatine) vs. illegal (anabolic steroids). Without diving into the chemistry, anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of male hormones. Creatine is a natural occurring tripeptide compound.

Myth 4: You Need to Cycle Creatine.

Truth: There is no current evidence showing cycling creatine is better than continuously supplementing with creatine.

Myth 5: You Need To “Load” Creatine.

Truth: Loading creatine usually means ingesting 20-30 g a day for 5 days. Research has suggested creatine loading is not necessary. 2-5 g daily is plenty.

 

References

Buford TW, et al: International Society of Sports Nutrition Position stand: creatine supplementation and               exercise. Int Soc Sports Nutr 30:4, 2007.

Graef JL, et al: The effects of four weeks of creatine supplementation and high-intensity interval training             on cardiorespiratory fitness: a randomized controlled trial, Int So Sports Nutr 6:18, 2009.

Mahan, L. Kathleen., Sylvia Escott-Stump, Janice L. Raymond, and Marie V. Krause.Krause’s Food & the                 Nutrition Care Process. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier/Saunders, 2012. Print.

Stephen P. Bird: Creatine Supplementation and Exercise Performance: A Brief Review. Journal of Sports              Science and Medicine (2003) 2, 123-132, 2003.

Voet, Donald, Judith G. Voet, and Charlotte W. Pratt. Fundamentals of Biochemistry: Life at the                Molecular Level. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008. Print.

  Researched and written by  Gavin Van De Walle