What is Creatine?
…Only the big daddy of all supplements! Creatine caused quite a stir when it came bursting onto the supplement scene. Simply because it works and surprisingly for a supplement surrounded by hype, it works well!
Creatine is a compound that can be found naturally in our bodies, ingested from food such as red meat or taken as a supplement. It’s main use is to help produce more ATP within our body.
ATP is the bodies energy source for fast, explosive movements (such as sprinting or weight lifting) and our muscles only contain enough ATP to last us around 10-15 seconds. Creatine reacts in our body to produce more ATP! (more detail on this reaction below)
How Does Creatine Work?
We have a certain amount of Creatine stored in our body (around 95% of which are stored in our muscles). This amount differs depending on individual mass.
In our body we also have something called ATP – Adenosine tri-phosphate (if you’re interested!). ATP contains energy that is available to the body for explosive movements as mentioned above. (Other sources like carbohydrates take longer to convert and be used as energy)
Without getting too technical, one thing to remember is that it is the process of ATP breaking down into a simpler chemical called ADP (adenosine di-phosphate) that releases the energy for your muscles to work and contract under explosive circumstances.
Here is where Creatine comes in – Creatine reacts with the broken down ADP and turn it back into the usable energy source, ATP!
Of course, this then prolongs the action of this energy system meaning that we can exercise for slightly longer at this higher intensity.
Higher intensity = Progress! (generally)
Another thing that makes creatine a crowd favorite, is that it also acts as a cell volumizer. Creatine pulls water into your muscle cells giving them a bigger, fuller look!
Research has also shown that it may help delay the onset of lactic acid and possibly increase protein synthesis, therefore increasing muscular gains.
Who Would Benefit Most From Creatine?
Generally people who take part in sports that need a short, sharp, all out burst of energy. Weightlifters, bodybuilders, contact sports competitors, athletes etc.
Creatine can greatly improve your performance if you are involved in any of the sports above.
As well as sports performance, users will also see increased muscular size along with strength gains. Hence why Creatine is a favourite amongst bodybuilders and anyone who practices muscle building.
What Are the Recommended Doses?
Perhaps the most popular Creatine dosage protocol is the ‘loading’ type.
This is when, at the beginning of your Creatine cycle, you would take 4x the recommended maintenance dosage for the first 5-7 days. This normally means taking around 20-30 grams of Creatine spread throughout the day.
This has the effect of saturating your muscles with Creatine and seeing immediate results. After this 5-7 day period you would just use the maintenance dose.
Maintenance dosing is normally around 5-10 grams of Creatine. Best taken before and after a workout when it is better utilised by the body.
It is also essential to take Creatine with a high GI carb drink to shuttle as much Creatine into the muscles as possible. (50-75 grams of carbs is generally recommended for optimum uptake of Creatine). Grape Juice, Gatorade or similar glucose/dextrose based sports drinks are commonly used.
Creatine cycles can last 6-12 weeks with a short break in between. Some people stay on Creatine year round but cycling is the most popular protocol.
Any Side Effects?
Creatine is regarded as a very safe supplement.
The most common side effect of Creatine is stomach discomfort but this can be solved by going for a ‘micronized’ Creatine product. This side effect doesn’t effect many people.
It was speculated that taking too much Creatine overworks the kidneys as excess Creatine is converted into a waste product called creatinine and excreted from the body.
However, you’d have to be seriously overdosing for this to become a problem. If you are worried, cycling your Creatine usage will put your mind at ease.