What is it?
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine (monohydrate) is the most effective ergogenic (performance-enhancing) nutritional supplement currently available to athletes for increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training.
Creatine is a nonessential dietary protein-like compound found in high abundance inmeat and fish. It is synthesized in the body, primarily in the liver, from the three amino acids, arginine, glycine and methionine. Muscle tissue does not produce creatine, and therefore it must take up creatine from the bloodstream. Once inside muscle cells, creatine gets a high-energy phosphate attached to it and is then known as phosphocreatine (PCr) or creatine phosphate. It is this high-energy molecule that is one of the most critical components of creatine’s beneficial effects in the body. That’s because creatine donates its high-energy phosphate to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is used by the muscle for the rapid energy it needs for muscle contraction, such as during weight-lifting. Supplementing with creatine is reported to increase the content of PCr in muscle by approximately 20%. Having more PCr in muscle cells means more ATP can be rapidly produced during exercise, which can lead to gains in strength, power, speed and muscle growth.
What does it do?
Creatine in summary is taken up by tissues with high energy demands, to help provide extra energy (ATP) during intense periods of neuromuscular activity – supplementation can help you to lift more, sprint faster and jump higher.
Supplementation with creatine is also shown to decrease myostatin levels, increase dihydro/testosterone and IGF-1 levels when combined with weight lifting (it is also shown to increase cognitive function when supplemented in vegetarians/vegans).
Is it safe?
Creatine supplementation at normal dosages and with adequate hydration has been shown to have no harmful effects in any population tested. The only observed side effects are stomach cramping if consumed with insufficient water, and diarrhoea if too much is consumed at once. Controlled usage of creatine with adequate water may actually reduce cramping over the long term.
Who should supplement with it?
Athletes on having resistance training as a part of their training. Generally recreational gym goers who are looking to improve their heavy lifting will benefit. Vegetarians and vegans, as their diet is often far lower in creatine comparatively to meat eaters.
What is the most effective way to supplement with it?
The most effective (and cost effective) way to supplement with creatine is to use a creatine monohydrate supplement. There is no need to perform a loading phase as creatine monohydrate achieves 100% saturation when supplemented at 3-5g a day, this is normally achieved by 30 days, (a loading phase of 0.3g per kg split over a day 5-6 doses, achieves this faster, but may lead to bloating and wasted money ). 5-10g pre and post workout on training days has been shown to have the best results, or 3-5g with breakfast on non-training days.
The best way to maximize creatine uptake by muscle cells is to take creatine with high-glycaemic (fast-digesting) carbohydrates, such as a sports drink or gummy bears, and fast-digesting protein, such as whey protein. The major reason for this is that these nutrients boost blood insulin levels. This anabolic hormone is critical for stimulating the transport of creatine into muscle cells.
Which creatine supplements are best?
There are numerous firms of creative on the market today. In fact, there are so many that it’s almost impossible to include them all here. But here are some of the most commonly found forms sold today.
Creatine Monohydrate – The majority of research on creatine has been done with creatine monohydrate. For most people, creatine monohydrate makes a cheap, yet effective way to supplement with creatine. If you go this route, be sure to buy micronized creatine, which is ground down to a smaller size than other creatine monohydrates, which allow it to dissolve better in fluid, cause less stomach upset, and get absorbed better by the body.
Great creatine monohydrate products include: Optimum Nutrition Micronized Creatine Powder, Dymatize Nutrition Micronized Creatine, Universal Nutrition Creatine
Supplement companies may claim their expensive new creatine supplement achieves greater muscle saturation or increases in strength – but the reality is nothing out there beats the effectiveness and value for money creatine monohydrate provide. Other forms you may have heard of are:
Creatine Ethyl Ester – Creatine ethyl ester is creatine with an ester group attached, which is supposed to enhance creatine’s ability to pass across cell membranes to make it easier to be absorbed by the intestines. Two recent studies did report that creatine ethyl ester was not better than creatine monohydrate for increasing muscle creatine levels.
Many of the other form of creatine, such as creatine hydrochloride and Kre-Alkalyn, allow you to take a much lower dose and not bother with the loading phase. Again monohydrate is one of the most researched sports supplements and none of the other forms of creatine have been found to be any other better than monohydrate.
For the other forms of creatine use the dosing amount recommended on the label.
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