What is creatine?
In medical terms creatine is an organic compound which has a formula of CNCH₂CO₂H. It is found in the vertebrates where it enables recycling of adenosine triphosphate which the energy currency of the cell. Creatine has 95% stored in muscles in the form of phosphocreatine with 5% stored in the brain, kidneys and liver. It assists the muscles produce energy during intense lifting or high-intensity physical activity (exercise).
Taking creatine as a nutraceutical supplement is popular amongst athletes and bodybuilders to increase muscle mass, strength and improve exercise performance. The human body can produce it from the amino acids glycine and arginine. Numerous factors affect bodily creatine stores which include meat intake, exercise, amount of overall muscle mass and levels of anabolic hormones (testosterone, growth hormone and insulin like growth factor).
When utilising creatine as a supplement, this increase bodily stores of phosphocreatine. This is a form of stored energy in the cells, as it improves the body generate more of a high-energy molecule called adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP). ATP is the body’s energy currency; increased ATP stores can allow increased exercise performance. ATP is often called the body’s energy currency. When you have more ATP, your body can perform better during exercise. It also modifies numerous cellular processes that assist muscle mass accretion, strength and recovery.
How does creatine work in the body?
Creatine has the potential to improve health and athletic performance in numerous ways. When performing high-intensity exercise, phosphocreatine stores are increased in the muscles. Surplus stores can then be utilised to manufacture more ATP (primary energy source for heavy lifting and high intensity training. Creatine can assist muscle mass accretion by:
• Superior workload: Facilitates more total work or volume in a singular training session, assisting long-term muscle mass accretion.
• Enhanced cell signalling: Upsurges satellite cell signalling, assisting muscle repair and muscle growth.
• Increased anabolic hormones: Research noticed a rise in insulin like growth factor; post ingestion of creatine.
• Enhanced cell hydration: Increases water content within the muscle cells, initiating a cell volumization effect that can assist muscle growth.
• Lessens protein breakdown: Can improve total muscle mass by decreasing muscle breakdown.
• Reduced myostatin levels: Upsurged levels of the protein myostatin can reduce or halt muscle growth. Creatine supplement can reduce this, increasing growth potential.
Creatine supplementation can increase phosphocreatine stores in the brain, assisting brain health and prevention of neurological conditions.
What are the effects of creatine on muscle gain backed up by scientific research investigations?
Research shows effectiveness for short and long term muscle growth (hypertrophy). Creatine not only assists athletes but additionally sedentary individuals, and elderly adults. A 14-week study in elderly adults determined that adding creatine to a weight stimulus program substantially increased leg strength and muscle mass. In a 12-week research study in weightlifters, creatine ingestion improved muscle fibre growth 2–3 times more than training in isolation. The rise in total body mass also doubled beside one-repetition maximum for bench press. A sizeable review of the most prevalent supplements used for increasing muscle mass (protein powders, branched chain amino acids, beta-alanine, citrulline malate) selected creatine as the single most advantageous nutritional supplement for building muscle mass.
What are the effects of creatine on increasing strength and improving exercise performance backed up by scientific research investigations?
Creatine can improve power, strength and high-intensity exercise performance. A review concluded that adding creatine to a resistance training program increased weightlifting performance by 14%, strength by 8% and bench press one repetition maximum by up to 43%, compared to training in isolation. In elite strength athletes, 4 weeks of creatine supplementation increased bike-sprinting performance by 15% and bench press performance by 6%. Creatine can also assist maintain strength and training performance whilst increasing muscle mass during intense over-training time periods. These are primarily achieved by increasing the body’s capacity to manufacture ATP. Typically, ATP becomes exhausted after 8–10 seconds of high-intensity activity. Creatine supplementation assists produce additional ATP allowing to maintain superior performance for 2-3 seconds longer.
Creatine supplementation effect on brain health, medical conditions management and health benefits
As the human brain requires ATP for optimal function and stores phosphocreatine, creatine supplementation can improve the management of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Ischemic stroke, Epilepsy, Brain or spinal cord injuries and Motor neuron disease. A six-month study in children with traumatic brain injury detected a 70% reduction in fatigue and 50% reduction in dizziness with creatine supplementation. Vegetarians tend to have suboptimal creatine stores due to no red meat consumption (meat primary dietary source of creatine). A study in vegetarians showed supplementation instigated a 50% improvement in a memory test and a 20% improvement in intelligence test scores. Additional research shows additional health benefits with supplementation including improved memory, reduce muscle cramps and dehydration, muscle and brain function, blood glucose management, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease treatment and improving quality of life in elderly adults.
What are the different types of creatine supplements?
There are actually 17 different forms of creatine supplementation! These include Buffered creatine, Creatine citrate, Effervescent creatine, Creatine Ethyl Ester, Glycosylated Creatine, Creatine Hydrochloride, Liquid Creatine, Creatine Magnesium Chelate, Creatine malate, Di-Creatine Malate, Tri-Creatine Malate, Micronized Creatine, Creatine Nitrate, Creatine Orotate, Creatine Phosphate, Creatine Pyruvate and last but not least the most widely used and extensively research Creatine Monohydrate. Although, some other forms of creatine are being promoted as superior, evidence is highly lacking and creatine monohydrate is supported by over a century of studies. Creatine monohydrate being at the moment the most optimal form for ingestion.
What is the optimal dosage regime for creatine monohydrate supplementation?
The dosing regimen incorporates a loading phase by the goal of saturating the muscle stores of creatine. This duration is for a 7 day period, 20g daily with being split into four 5g servings sizes throughout the day. It is recommended to consume with a carbohydrate and protein based meal, snack or liquid to improve absorption with the insulin response. A maintenance phase is then implemented with consuming 3-5g daily to maintain adequate creatine stores. It is hypothesised that there is no benefit from cycling creatine, therefore you can stick with the dosage for an extended period; however as creatine pulls water into the muscle cells it is essential to consume with a glass of water and retain high hydration levels.
Is creatine supplementation safe and can you experience side effects?
Creatine is one of the most rigorously researched supplements available for consumption and studies lasting up to four years reveal no negative effects. A comprehensive study measured 52 blood markers and noted no adverse effects following 21 months of supplementation. No evidence is noted that creatine impairs the liver and kidneys in healthy individuals who consume normal doses. However, it is recommended that individuals with pre-existing liver or kidney problems should consult with their primary physician before supplementing.
As a nutritional medicine practitioner, although my primary involvement is nutritional intervention; as a holistic practitioner, I always want to explore additional options to improve my client’s health and vitality. Research clearly links creatine monohydrate supplementation to performance enhancing effects with also disease management and additional health benefits. On an individual basis, I certainly use this supplement!