One of the most popular supplements and most researched, tested, and explored substances is creatine. Creatine comes from most animal products like meat and fish. Like other animals, it is synthesized in our own bodies in the liver and the kidneys. It is then stored in the muscle. About 95% of creatine is stored in skeletal muscle. Creatine is not listed as a banned substance according to the World Anti Doping Agency. Creatine is not a stimulant, or hormone that enhances performance, although it is a staple in most pre workout mixes and can be found at every supplement store on the planet.
Jose Antonio, PhD, a professor at Nova Southeastern University, states that, “Creatine serves as a fuel source for rapid exercise through increased phosphocreatine (PCr) stores.” In aerobic activity like jogging, walking, light biking, the main source of fuel that will be used is glycogen. Glycogen comes from glucose which comes from carbohydrates. Anaerobic activity like sprinting, powerlifting, etc. rely on ATP and phosphocreatine to fuel activity. The more creatine you have available, the more potential energy you have available to be used during exercise. For example, if you can sprint at max capacity for 15 seconds without creatine, supplementation of creatine in your diet will allow you to have more energy for anaerobic activities like sprinting. After you have been supplementing creatine in your diet for several weeks, next time you sprint you might be able to sprint for a total of 18 seconds, because of the extra energy creatine provides in the muscle. It may sound like only a slight improvement, but if you hit these types of workouts once a week for an entire year, that is a total of 156 more seconds of sprint training your body can adapt to.
Athletes from all types of disciplines take creatine for a wide array of purposes. Research has not only shown for creatine to assist in providing energy in anaerobic sprinting activities, but also in sports like powerlifting and bodybuilding. Research has shown bodybuilders using creatine supplementation to increase muscle mass with limited fat gain, increased strength gains, and hydration in extreme heat conditions. Similar to the example given above, a bodybuilder would use creatine to help him/her to get one or two more reps. One or two more reps provides extra stress on the muscle for it to adapt to. There is a big misconception among athletes just beginning to take creatine supplements that they will feel energized similar to the buzz of caffeine. Many pre workout supplements often mix creatine and caffeine together, and athletes assume it is a one and done supplement. For best results, it is suggested to take creatine separately from pre workout. A small dose of only 5g is sufficient for daily use. The effects of creatine do not present themselves a half hour after consuming like the active ingredients in pre workout blends, but upwards of two weeks.
The research does support the theoretical uses of creatine. Richard B. Kreider states that results of short term creatine supplementation for 5-7 days resulted in an 10-30% increase in total creatine content and increased phosphocreatine content as high as 40% (Kreider, 2003). Kreider also mentions how in another short term creatine study strength gains were analyzed. The subjects of the study experienced as great as a 15% increase in maximal strength and power output.
Maria Lourdes Guerrero-Ontiveros and Theo Wallimann conducted a study looking at the effects of creatine loading in patients. In the abstract of their study, they noted how, “… so far there are no reports of harmful side effects of Cr loading in humans.” (Guerrero-Ontiveros & Willimann, 1998). From a bodybuilding perspective, creatine does tend to hold on to water. Many times bodybuilders will take creatine up until one to two weeks out from the show when they really start to drop water and dry out. This can be potentially dangerous when athletes do not cut water in healthy ways.
There’s a quick breakdown of creatine. I currently take 5g of creatine every morning with a big glass of water. As long as I keep my creatine consumption at 5g or less on a daily basis, I do not get bloated or put on extra water weight.
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