What is creatine?

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Creatine

Image source: Zerbor
What is creatine?

Creatine is an amino acid found in the human body and in many foods, particularly meats.

It is not an essential amino acid as the body can manufacture it. However when in the body, creatine is converted into phosphocreatine and stored by the muscles. In this form, it is readily available for quick energy during intense exercise, which helps re-synthesize adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a vital source of energy for your muscles.

ATP is absolutely essential for proper muscle contraction. When lifting weights, ATP is depleted with every repetition, and this is why many people turn to supplements that can increase ATP levels.

If ATP levels remain as high as possible, training sessions can sustain a harder and longer intensity. This is especially important for those interested in increasing lean muscle mass, while losing weight.

What do creatine supplements do?

Creatine provides instant energy for “quick burst” explosive types of exercise. This is why it is recommended for athletes in sports such as weightlifting, powerlifting and sprinting.

Many people take creatine supplements to improve performance and most athletic organizations allow its use.

Some professional athletes take the supplement and claim good results. Besides professional sports organizations, creatine is also allowed by the National Collegiate Atheltic Association (NCAA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). No athletic association has any future plans for banning the substance, as it does not represent any major health concerns.

Studies show that young people may benefit from taking creatine supplements, as they assist the muscle building process. However, older adults do not fare as well in testing. In fact, it may not be of great use to people over the age of sixty.

Due to the success of creatine, more and more variations of this muscle building supplement are becoming available. These now include; creatine monohydrate powder and pills, creatine ethyl ester, creatine AKG, Kre-Alkalyn, and even chewable creatine!

Other effects on health

Creatine has uses besides sport due to its positive effect on skeletal muscle tissue. For instance, it has been used to treat Parkinson’s disease and other muscle related diseases. Creatine is used to treat emotional disorders like depression and bipolar disorder.

It has also been tested in clinical trials for congestive heart failure. These studies used two groups of people, one group receives nothing but a placebo and the other supplemented with creatine.

Along with the usual medical care, patients taking creatine were able to perform more exercise with less fatigue and had more muscular strength overall. This is an important result as fatigue is a major problem for those with heart failure.

Creatine users may have lower levels of homocysteine. This is an amino acid that is found in high levels in people with heart attacks and strokes. Reducing homocysteine may help to lower the risk of cardiovascular events in some patients.

Not everyone will have the same effects from taking creatine supplements. This is possibly due to the difference in natural levels of the amino acid. For example, if one already has high levels, they may not notice a great deal of improvement from the supplement.

Possible side effects

No supplement is perfect or completely risk-free. From a health concern viewpoint, there are no known problems with creatine supplements. Of course, this assumes that one does not take excessive doses for long periods of time.

If you take creatine without performing the right kind of exercise you will experience water weight gain.

Some users report muscle cramping, but this may be due to increased exercise and not the creatine itself. There may be some side effects with this supplement but this will depend on the individual, it may cause headaches or diarrhoea in sensitive people. A few users may experience nausea or increased anxiety, however these side effects are not common and not considered to be serious.

If you have a health condition check with a medical professional before taking any kind of supplement. This is especially important for those taking diabetic medication and diuretics.

One must be cautious about mixing other supplements with creatine. For example, many performance enhancing supplements contain caffeine and other stimulants. These can be dangerous if you are taking anything that contains ephedrine. These supplements can have serious side effects and mixing them can increase the health risks.

Loading phases

If one is taking creatine supplements for muscle gain, it is best to know the proper procedure. Many bodybuilders start with what is called a ‘loading phase’.

A normal ‘loading phase’ involves consuming up to twenty grams of creatine per day for the first five days. However others prefer to use a loading dose of ten grams for two weeks.

Loading periods are always followed by a much lower dose of around 5g per day during the ‘maintenance’ period.

Some users claim that a loading dose is not necessary but will deliver quicker results. A typical dosage cycle may be one week of loading followed by four weeks or maintenance. That will be followed by another loading week and then three weeks of no creatine. After that you may start the cycle again.

Dosage needs will vary according to your body type. It is best to start with the lower doses and raise them if results are not seen in eight weeks. Taking carbohydrates with this supplement may help to increase its effectiveness. One may add carbs through a quality sports drink or simply mixing the creatine with fruit juice.

Our take

Creatine supplements are one of the most effective supplements you can buy.

They have a proven track record of improving physical performance and building muscle mass. Which type of creatine works best for you is purely down to individual preference.

We believe there is a creatine supplement for everyone, take your time to try the different forms and find the one that works best for you.

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