Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally within the body. It is used primarily to help supply energy to all cells, most especially muscle cells (and primarily those which are engaged in work activity). This supplement is produced in the liver from three amino acids: L-Arginine, Glycine, and L-Methionine.
Creatine is transported throughout the body in a very efficient manner. Muscles that have high energy demands such as the brain and skeletal muscles primarily use it (especially if they happen to be working at the moment).
Researchers and scientists estimate that as much as 95 percent of the Creatine in the human body is stored within the skeletal muscles. The remainder is kept in the brain, heart, and testes. This means Creatine can potentially boost your cognitive functions as well as promote heart health and maybe even boost your testosterone.
First identified by the French chemist Michel Eugene Chevreul in 1832, this supplement is now one of the most widely researched sports and performance enhancing supplements in the world.
Athletes of all types as well as every day people simply looking to increase their energy and fitness level supplement with Creatine. Both the International Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association allow the use of Creatine for their athletes and in competition.
Creatine Supplementation vs. Dietary Intake
The average human body does contain some levels of Creatine. It is thought to be around 3.5 grams per kilogram of muscle. However, the body is capable of storing more, up to 5 grams of Creatine per kilogram of muscle.
Supplementation is meant to saturate your body with Creatine, thereby augmenting its benefits. Of course, there are a number of food sources that can be used for this purpose including beef and fish (containing 2 to 5 grams per pound).
The problem with trying to obtain extra Creatine from ones diet is that it can really be difficult to get enough. Most of the research and studies focusing on the benefits of this supplement use dosages in the range of 5 grams per day (with loading doses as high as 20 grams).
Obtaining this amount of extra Creatine from the diet can be largely impractical. If you wish to receive the benefits attributed to Creatine, then supplementation is needed.
How Creatine Can Benefit You
Most people generally begin using Creatine in an effort either to improve athletic performance or to increase their muscle size. It is known to be particularly effective in high intensity training.
As the Creatine allows your body to produce more energy, you will find yourself being able to lift one or two more reps, or add more weight, which builds new muscle. A recent study published its findings in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, suggesting that Creatine can increase maximum power and performance in high intensity anaerobic repetitive work (i.e. weight training) by up to 15 percent.
The natural continuation to these initial benefits is increased muscle protein synthesis. By lifting more weight, the muscles should produce more protein. Of course, this is also considered to be an secondary effect, since Creatine simply increases the available energy supply (ATP) for muscle contraction.
There is also some growing evidence suggesting that Creatine may be able to help slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Several studies (conducted on mice) have shown Creatine was able to prevent the loss of cells that are typically affected by the disease.
Another recent study, according to the Journal of Neurochemistry, suggests that this supplement along with CoQ10 can be useful in the treatment of degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.
Other evidence indicates that Creatine has a number of additional effects upon the mind. Several studies have shown that when Creatine is combined with existing treatments for depression, people are often able to respond much faster (twice as fast) and experience remission at twice the normal rate of those simply taking their normal treatments. It is also possible, according to some Australian researchers, that Creatine can boost both memory and intelligence.
Creatine and Water Retention
One of the initial effects of Creatine supplementation will likely be water retention in the muscles. While this will certainly make them appear larger and fuller, this is not a real gain in size of muscle fibers.
Research has also shown that despite this effect, Creatine does not influence fluid distribution throughout the body. Additionally, over time this excess water retention will decline and fat free muscle mass will increase due to the strength and power boosting properties of Creatine allow for higher quality training.
Different Types of Creatine Supplement
There are also several different forms of Creatine products that users and potential users should be aware of before making their decision regarding supplementation. These includeCreatine HCL, Creatine Monohydrate, and even Magnesium Creatine Chelate. Each formulation has their pros and cons, so be sure to check these other pages out to learn more.
There are generally two ways to approach using Creatine. Many users begin with a loading phase, where they will take 5 grams, up to three or four times a day. This would certainly include both before and after a workout or athletic training or competition.
The idea here is that it will help to saturate your muscles with Creatine faster than taking a normal dose. If you decide upon this approach, do so for between 5 and 7 days.
After this, reduce your total intake to 2-5 grams per day. You can take this either with or without food and both before and after your workout.