Creatine is a substance that naturally occurs in our bodies as a combination of the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. It is used to rapidly replenish depleted energy stores during maximum muscle load and exertion. Creatine supplements add to the 120 grams of creatine normally present in the body.
How Does Creatine Work?
ATP is an energy-carrying molecule found in the cells of all living beings. ATP captures chemical energy obtained from the breakdown of food molecules and releases it to fuel other cellular processes. Relevant to us – it is the energy store of the body, the direct fuel for all muscular activity. Energy is created with the release of a phosporous molecule from ATP, as it becomes ADP.
In a resting vertebrate muscle, the available supply of ATP can sustain maximal muscle work for less than one second. The muscle, therefore, must continuously replenish its ATP store, and this is done in many different ways. One mechanism for the formation of ATP operates so rapidly that for a long time scientists were unable to detect any change in the amount of ATP. That mechanism is the release of a phosphorous molecule from creatine, facilitating the resynthesis of ATP, and the renewal of the muscle’s energy store, effectivly allowing the muscle to operate longer at peak capacity.
As your ATP generation is directly linked to the amount of Creatine you have, the equation is simple – the more creatine you have, the more ADP you will be able to synthesize and thus the longer your muscle will operate at maximum power. Creatine thus isn’t an instant-grow muscle-fix, but rather a supplement which enables an athlete to work out harder and longer, thus reaping greater benefits.
Creatine is normally found in your body, and is thus a natural supplement. An average 80kg person (cca 150lb) has around 120 grams of creatine inside their body, and uses about 2 grams per day. Naturally, athletes will a higher creatine consumption rate.
Creatine is mostly found in meat and fish, with good sources being: beef, pork, cod, tuna and salmon. It is possible to increase your daily creatine uptake by intensifying these meats in your diet, and reap the added benefit of having a high-protein diet, you would also be ingesting a lot of unbeneficial ingredients such as saturated fats and (“bad”) cholesterol. Thus a balanced meat-vegetable diet is preferable, with the added creatine source being a creatine supplement.
How To Take Creatine and Creatine Dosage and Administration
Creatine is taken on a regular basis, 1-2 hours before excercising. The usual method is to spend the first week in a so-called creatine loading phase, which is basically a time when you take more creatine than you would normally need. 20 grams a day makes sure that your system is super-charged with the substance by the time you start increasing the strain on your muscle (in the second week). After the initial week, creatine is usually taken before excercising with the dosage at 10 grams per day.
Some athletes (especially bodybuilders) have noticed that, after the initial stunning gains using creatine, they hit a plateu and the gains become marginally higher than those without creatine. They have developed a theory that the body somehow gets used to the substance and thus isn’t extracting the full effect.
To prevent this, a stop-period is included, usually after 6 weeks of creatine usage. This lasts 2 weeks, and is again followed by a loading phase after which you continue with a normal daily uptake of the supplement.
However, this is just a theory, with little or no research background
Creatine Precautions and Contraindications
First and foremost, remain well hydrated while taking creatine to prevent many of the negative side effects. Also, check if your are alergic to creatine.
Consult your doctor if you:
- Have any chronic health problem.
- Are alergic to any medication, food or other substance.
Do not treat an children under 2 with any supplements. Do not overdose in the loading period.
Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct light. Do not freeze. Store out of reach of children. Do not store in the bathroom medicine cabinet. Heat and moisture may change the action of the supplement.
Creatine Drug Interactions
There is some concern about the use of creatine with ephedra and caffeine. This combination may increase the risk of rare, but serious side effects such as stroke. Caffeine has also shown to lower the effectiveness of creatine.
In high doses, creatine may cause kidney damage. Using creatine in combination with medicines that can cause damage to the kidneys may increase the risk of kidney damage. Consult your doctor before combining creatine with any prescription or over-the-counter medicines.