Questions and Answers About Creatine
Creatine is without question the most proven supplement in the fitness nutrition industry. Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid is naturally produced the body from the amino acids L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine. Its efficacy has been proven in hundreds of scientific studies that have been done on the compound over the years as it relates specifically to fitness nutrition.
Creatine Benefits: What Does Creatine Do For the Body?
Creatine increases muscular energy by assisting the body in producing ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Adenosine triphosphate is the chemical compound that allows your muscles to contract and the more ATP you have available to your muscles, the more contractions (repetitions) you can perform in a given movement or exercise.
Natural Creatine Sources:
Creatine is made naturally in the body by the pancreas, kidneys and liver. Creatine is also found in whole food protein sources like:
- When you are eating red meat, chicken, turkey, pork or any other type of animal, you are actually eating the muscle of the animal (where creatine is stored).
If Creatine is Made Naturally, Why Do We Need to Supplement It?
Many athletes and general fitness enthusiasts look to supplement creatine because for many people, it is hard to get the recommended 5 grams per day by diet alone. Only about 2g of creatine are found in a 16 ounce steak. I don’t know about you, but I know I can’t afford to eat at least 40 ounces of steak everyday (nor could I even eat that much). Creatine is one of the cheapest and readily available supplements on the market, and one of the cheapest for how effective it is. You can get as many as 80 days worth of creatine right here on JMFN for only $11.99 or other wildly popular creatine products like this one.
How Effective is Creatine?
Creatine has been so effective in increasing strength and muscle mass gains that many outside of the fitness industry wondered if creatine was a steroid. By definition something that is produced naturally in the body cannot be a steroid.
Types of Creatine:
There are many different types of creatine on the market today. The most commonly used (and cheapest available) is creatine monohydrate. Creatine Monohydrate is the golden standard of creatine and the one all other creatine is measured against. Other types of creatine include:
- Creatine Anhydrous – creatine with the water molecule removed. This provides more creatine per gram and also helps reduce the boating side effect that can be accompanied by creatine.
- Creatine Citrate – creatine combined with a citrate molecule. The citrate molecule helps the creatine dissolve better in water.
- Creatine Ethyl Ester – converts back to usable creatine in the body (the creatine the body produces naturally using the amino acids L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine.
- Creatine HCL (Hydrochloride) – creatine combine with a hydrochloride molecule can also make creatine more water-soluble.
- Creatine Magnesium Chelate – creatine bound with a magnesium molecule. Magnesium aids in creatine metabolism (the breakdown of creatine) so it may make creatine more effective by breaking it down faster. This also aids in reducing the water retention caused by creatine consumption.
- Creatine Malate – creatine combined with Malic acid. Malic acid is an organic acid (made by the body) that helps turn carbohydrates into energy.
- Creatine Nitrate – creatine combined with a group on nitrate molecules. Nitrate molecules, like citrate and hydrochloride help make the creatine more water soluble.
- Creatine Pyruvate – Creatine combined with pyruvic acid. Pyruvic acid my help provide higher plasma levels in the bloodstream.
- Buffered Creatine – creatine with a higher pH level. It thought that creatine with a higher pH level will break down less in water. (See How to take Creatine).
Who Should Take Creatine and When to Use Creatine?
Creatine should be consumed by everyone, and if you eat any type of animal protein you are consuming creatine. Even if you’re a vegan or a vegetarian your body still creates creatine on its own. The real question should be who should supplement with creatine?
That answer is also just as broad, creatine helps the body in so many ways (this is why your body can also produce it naturally). Creatine is not just for professional athletes looking to gain an edge on the playing field, if you are a recreational athlete involved in any kind of strength or “short burst” movements – creatine is for you.
That could be football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, wresting, Olympic weightlifting strong man training, martial arts, basically with any physical activity you can benefit from creatine supplementation. Even endurance runners are now seeing the benefits of using creatine supplements.
It was originally thought that endurance trainers and athletes wouldn’t see the benefits from creatine because it was thought that creatine only enhanced short muscle movements and contractions but adding creatine to an endurance athlete’s diet will also improve his or her glycogen stores (energy stored) in the muscle. Creatine also has a few non fitness related benefits.
- Increase Bone Mineral Density
- Improve Glucose Metabolism
- Improve Brain Performance
How to Take Creatine (Creatine Cycling):
When creatine was first introduced to the fitness nutrition industry in 1993 by EAS, it was originally thought that creatine needed to be “loaded” with 20-25g of creatine for the first 5 days of supplementing with creatine.
The idea of loading creatine stems from making sure that your muscles are fully saturated with creatine.
By taking four or five separate servings of 5 grams per day for the first 5 days you overload your muscles with creatine, and the remainder of your cycle would simply be a continuous 5 grams a day for maintenance.
Some years later (after more research) it was noted that creatine did not need to be loaded at all and that the body can only absorb so much creatine in a given time (remembering that creatine is also naturally produced in the body), if you were loading your creatine you were essentially making your liver and kidneys work harder while creating expensive urine.
The optimal daily serving on creatine is between 3 and 5 grams and can be taken pre- or post-workout; either way will allow you to receive all of its glorious benefits. Taking creatine pre-workout will assist you with the upcoming workout or physical activity whereas a post-workout creatine would replenish your muscles depleted glycogen stores and assist in a faster muscle recovery.
For this reason I like to split up my 5g serving of creatine into (2) 2.5g portions and take it both pre- and post-workout.
Creatine is highly unstable once it interacts with liquid and starts to breakdown in to creatinine (a by-product of creatine that doesn’t yield any benefits) so when you are putting it in your shaker cup or mixing it into your glass it is best to consume right away.
A more unconventional way can even be to put the creatine directly from the spoon into your mouth to prevent as much of the breakdown as possible.
How and whenever you decide to take your creatine, simply take 3-5g daily on a consistent basis and you’ll be sure to reap all of its benefits.
Side Effects of Creatine:
If up to this point it seems like creatine is a “too good to be true” supplement, but it really is the best discovery in modern fitness nutrition to date. As with anything, there are some side effects to creatine supplementation and anything in excess can be harmful as well.
According to WebMD.com creatine can be safe when taken by mouth for up to (5) five years. The most known side effect of creatine is bloating. Creatine stores water in the muscles making them bigger and full over time. In high doses creatine can cause harm to the heart, liver and kidneys.
This is in part because these organs are also producing its own creatine organically in the body, by adding high amounts of creatine in single doses you are causing these organs to work harder and in the long run can cause damage.
My Experiences with Creatine ...
I began using creatine probably around 1996 or 1997. I remember the first create product I ever bough was EAS Betagen. I like that particular product because it had creatine, glutamine, taurine, and HMB in it.
Back then I thought the orange flavor was one of the best tasting products on the market. And even 20 years later, it is still a great supplement!
I have tested every thing from creatine powder, capsules, and even the liquid serum. I no longer use creatine year round, I do remove it from my cycle when I am cutting weight for a powerlifting competition or when I feel I am getting to heavy. For someone confined to a wheelchair where cardio is already difficult, it makes it that much harder to cut the additional water wait, so I cut it out 2-3 times a year for 6-8 weeks at a time.
Overall, I recommend that anyone involved in any type of strenuous activity, supplement with creatine and reap its benefits.