There are plenty of supplements on the market, some which are more effective or dangerous than others. Creatine is by far the most used and effective supplement that we have available. It comes in diverse forms and it usually does not have the bad taste associated with many other supplements. Wondering why this supplement works so well? Then continue reading …
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a substance that is naturally found in all living organisms, including humans. It is composed of three amino acids: arginine, glycine and methionine. Its scientific title is methyl guanidine-acetic acid, which is just a pompous name for a well-functioning substance. One of the main sources of creatine is meat, especially red meat. The three amino acids are combined in liver and kidney in order to give you the desired effects.
How much creatine exists in the human body?
The amount varies from person to person, but generally an adult produces about 2 grams of creatine daily. Of the total amount, 40% is in the free state and 60% is found in the form of creatine phosphate. Over 90% of this substance is stored in the muscles, with the remaining one being scatter through the brain, blood, heart and even testicles.
How does creatine work? What is its role in the human body?
The main role of creatine is to produce energy and muscle volumization (due to extra water retention). We'll get into a little chemistry to explain how it works and how it can help you boost your energy levels.
First of all, this molecule absorbed into the body and attaches a phosphate group to form a molecule of CP (creatine phosphate). Human body's adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the source that provides the energy for any activity or function. Therefore, when we need energy, the AFP molecule quickly releases the phosphate group by breaking the bond and giving our bodies a boost. Unfortunately, it is not found in large quantities as it gets consumed very quickly. Other energy sources like carbohydrates or fats are also effective but they need more time to be used, so the primary source of energy is ATP.
An ATP molecule, after losing phosphate group becomes ADP, which really has no other function than to wait and reattach to a new phosphate to form ATP, and this is happening much faster in the presence of high concentrations of CP. In this way, CP donates its phosphate group, ATP is restored and energy is again available, and the most important thing for us is that these processes occur under anaerobic conditions. Once CP reserves in the body are depleted, the body needs to resort to other less facile and effective methods for restoring the ATP molecule.
Which are the benefits of using creatine?
Due mainly to the anaerobic effort you exert when working with weights, creatine supplements are able to give you an energy boost. You'll feel less tired after your workouts and recovery will take place quicker than before.
Another important role of this substance is related to increasing muscles' volume. We all know the story: creatine helps retain water in your muscles, therefore making them appear bigger. Specifically, it hydrates muscle cells. When the concentration of creatine in the muscle cell increases, it draws more water into the cell. Consequentially volume volume increases causing it attract more nutrients into muscle cells, especially glucose (which will be stored as glycogen) and amino acids (which a higher concentration will increase the rate of protein synthesis). More glycogen stored means a higher energy reserve for the body, which becomes able to withstand strainous activities for longer.
What types of creatine are available?
On the commerce market there are several types of creatine available. The most common one is creatine monohydrate, but even this is found in various forms. To mention just a few, we have creatine powder, liquid creatine, pills and capsules. By far the most common of them is creatine powder. Note that no matter what type of it consume, water consumption should always be more than generous in order to aid muscles' retention.
Like I said a little earlier, there are several types of creatine which you can choose from:
1. Creatine monohydrate
This is the most popular form of creatine, being used for more than 10 years in the bodybuilding industry and benefiting from the backup of numerous clinical and scientific studies. Besides the advantages that reputable studies have brought to the surface, this supplement form also has a very low price.
Effects of such supplementation are increased muscle mass, better developed physical performance, increase strength, improved recovery, strength and endurance during exercises. When you want to buy creatine monohydrate, purity is very important. Usually it's best not to buy the cheapest form of it available, but to look for the mark of quality and purity inscription: “Creapure ™”.
Creatine monohydrate can be administered in equal doses every day or you can use it for a certain period followed by one of the maintenance. Few of its disadvantages are low solubility in water, lower absorption than with other forms, and also the intestinal discomfort associated with high doses.
2. Micronized Creatine
It's actually all creatine powder that was ground but extremely fine, which improves its absorption level with up to 20 times. Thus, fewer digestive problems are created and the price difference is not significant either.
3. Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE)
This type of creatine has an ester attached to it, which is resulting in a significantly improved absorption rate, no digestive disorders and no “recharging” time. Its main disadvantage, however, is related to the very unpleasant taste of powder, which can be taken only by administering it in the form of capsules. And there remains the downside of a much higher price.
4. Alkaline Creatine (Kre-Alkalyn)
This is in fact the same creatine monohydrate but protected with a pH buffer in order to reduce creatinine's conversion. Does not cause stomach discomfort and requires no regeneration. Its price is quite high, though, but if you can afford it then you should not hesitate.
5. Creatine Phosphate
Since we know that our body needs to convert creatine into ATP in order to supply us the much needed energy, people previously thought that creatine phosphate was the best choice to be made. However, this acceptance proved to be false. Creatine monohydrate is abosrbed easier by the body when compared to creatine phosphate. And if we think about the much higher price of this version, there are really not many many reasons to go with it.
6. Liquid Creatine (serum)
Creatine is dissolved in a liquid but as we all know, the substance is not stable in liquid medium as it easily gets converted into creatinine. As opposed to liquid aminoacids, this substance form does not work so well.
Myths about creatine. It is harmful? Are there any side effects?
Experts kept talking for a while about the side effects of creatine on persons suffering from kidneys and liver disorders. However, there have been plenty of studies which shown that a healthy person consuming creatine has no problems, on the contrary he benefits from a slight performance improvement and a reduction in bad cholesterol levels. It is true that consuming this supplement in excess leads to it being converted to creatinine which is extremely eliminated through urine, so it is now clear that people with kidney problems are advised not use creatine.
If you consume this supplement on the short or medium term without making excesses, you will definitely not encounter any problems. As you do an excess of any nature, side effects will not cease to occur.
People also talked about the fact that when you consume creatine, you are not allowed to consume caffeine, as the first one loses its effect. This statement is false. The only problem would be with the diuretic effect of coffee, but anyway when you consume such supplement is advisable to take more water so that the effect is cancelled.
Mixing creatine with juice is contraindicated because they have PH acid and then you will not notice any effects.
Do you lose pounds when you stop the creatine consumption? Partially true. Like I said, creatine leads to the retention of water in muscles. During a creatine cure you'll consume more fluids, specifically water. You'll be training harder because you will have more energy and strength. When you stop the consumption of it, you will have to tone down, but this is the effect of eliminating excess water from the body. If you will train as hard as you previously did, you will not lose any muscle mass or strength.
This is pretty much everything we could say about this supplement. A personal conclusion: I've always recommended “clean” sports. Dietary supplements are, as their name say, just supplements. So if you want performance, if you feel stagnant, then you may consider using creatine, but you must consume it wisely and avoid making any excesses. Among all types of creatine on the market, the most recommended one is creatine monohydrate. It has a good ratio quality / price, in either capsules or powder form.