Creatine for Muscle, Strength, Fat Loss & Performance
Naturally manufactured by the body, creatine is an amino acid produced by your liver and kidneys. However, your liver does most of the work because it uses three important amino acids—arginine, glycine and methionine—and synthesizes them in order to make creatine.
The main purpose of creatine is to energize our muscles, which allows them to successfully adjust to whatever kind of physical stress we choose to force on them. Besides galvanizing the muscles, creatine also super-hydrates muscle tissue, meaning that creatine increases the volume of cells by inflating them with water. This is what “pumps” up your muscles and gives them that bulk you work hard to maintain during a workout session.
However, you will need to drink a lot of water in order for creatine to work its magic so if you are not sufficiently hydrated, you won’t receive the optimal effect that creatine is able to give. And you may end up feeling the effects of dehydration.
Creatine as a Supplement
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements taken by athletes and bodybuilders today who want to develop muscle mass and stamina. It is available as a caplet, capsule, or as a powder which you can either mix in a drink or sprinkle on food.
It works in your skeletal muscles and highly contributes to those complex muscle contractions important in the repetitive exercises you do when working out. ATP, or adenosine triphosphate, is the essential fuel driving proper muscle contraction and this is where creatine lends a very important helping hand by generating additional ATP which gives you more muscle energy and leads to more productive sessions. While normal amounts of ATP will let you experience a few seconds of high-intensity energy, creatine and the boost it gives to ATP will enable you to sustain a much higher energy level and a much longer period of that energy.
For most bodybuilders and athletes, creatine works as a great supplement that benefits energy and muscle bulk. However, there have been incidences of certain individuals called “non-responders” who have taken creatine and not experienced any changes in their body or energy levels.
An explanation for this occurrence is that these people happen to produce an above average amount of creatine in their body which literally cancels out the excess of creatine caused by the ingestion of a supplement. Another reason for this “non-response” to creatine is that they may also be heavy red meat eaters, which is a natural source of food-bound creatine. However, the lack of creatine stimulation may be due to both conditions.
Are Creatine Supplements Safe?
Are creatine supplements safe? Yes, they are very safe for the healthy adult who has no pre-existing kidney or liver disease.
Creatine has been available to purchase since the mid 1990’s and also has been involved in many research studies, with the results indicating no bad side effects were experienced by those taking creatine supplements. However, occasional mild side effects have been reported due to creatine’s water-retention ability, such as muscle cramps and nausea. The two main reasons for these problems can easily be avoided by drinking plenty of water (1/2 gallon up to one gallon is recommended) before taking creatine and watching how much creatine you take.
Too many supplement capsules can also result in these same two physical ailments. The typical bodybuilder, however, will ingest five grams of creatine each day, unless they are “loading” up with creatine, which means they are taking twenty grams each day during the first week, and five to ten grams per day following the first week.
Creatine supplements have been shown to significantly contribute to lean muscle mass is as little as two weeks.
Creatine’s Impact on Muscle Mass, Fat Loss and Strength
Creatine supplements have been shown to significantly contribute to lean muscle mass is as little as two weeks. Its capacity to stimulate energy reserves in muscles comes from being able to synthesize muscle proteins and boost them into a high energy state conducive to workout sessions and faster recovery rates.
Many studies involving creatine have been clinically executed, with results indicating that creatine does in fact biochemically benefit energy reserves, while also influencing fat loss amounts. Since the 1900’s creatine’s beneficial influence on muscle strength and endurance has been studied and reported but this information did not become well-known until the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.
A New York Times article stated that Linford Christie, the gold medal winner of the 100 meter dash, had supplemented with creatine prior to participating in the Olympic. In addition, Sally Gunnell, the gold medal winner of the 400-meter hurdles, made it public that she was also a creatine user, along with several British rowers who had won medals in the Olympic games.
Shortly after, a pharmaceutical manufacturer called Experimental and Applied Sciences produced a creatine compound and sold it as a muscle and energy enhancement supplement. Tests were done on this new product which revealed that high glycemic carbohydrate use in conjunction with creatine accelerated the production of creatine in the muscles and boosted athletic performance significantly.
A few years later in 1998, Cell-Tech became the first company to manufacture a creatine-carbohydrate alpha lipoic acid supplement. Alpha lipoic acid stimulates the levels of muscle phosphocreatine levels and total amounts of muscle creatine.
Creatine Intake: Loading and Cycling
Creatine comes in food such as meats and fish but the best kind of creatine is creatine monohydrate because it has more creatine per specified quantity than any other source. You can experience great results from consuming creatine monohydrate by utilizing two different methods.
One is called “loading”, where you literally flood your muscles with creatine by taking twenty to thirty grams of creatine a day for the first month, either in capsule form or by mixing powder with grape juice or water. When the “loading” period is over, you can begin taking the usual amount of five to fifteen grams each day in order to maintain a sufficient level of creatine in your muscles that will benefit your workout sessions.
Another way to integrate creatine into your diet is to use a more gradual approach by foregoing the loading phase and simply supplement with the regular five to fifteen grams per day. Weight trainers have reported receiving the optimum results from mixing creatine with a high carbohydrate base and taking this supplement combination about thirty minutes before exercising.
There is also something called “creatine cycling”, which is a method that has you taking creatine all the time but “reloading” once every six weeks for one week, then maintaining the regular amount of creatine for six weeks. Once this cycle is complete, you then are supposed to discontinue using creatine for two weeks. Then you just start the entire cycle over again.
Although not a requirement while using creatine, there have been several studies that have indicated that the loading phase facilitates attaining that maximum muscle/creatine amount faster than if you began by taking a regular dose of creatine supplement (five to fifteen grams). However, you could reach this same point by consuming one serving of creatine for one month as you would by “loading” for five straight days, but most bodybuilders do not want to wait that long before seeing a significant increase in muscle bulk, especially when they could have it in just under a week!
Creatine’s Impact on and Growth Hormone
Studies have indicated that besides enhancing muscle strength, creatine can elevate levels of growth hormone in your blood. Growth hormone is a protein-based peptide hormone which is vitally important in generating cell reproduction and regeneration.
Subjects in research studies involving creatine showed a significant increase in growth hormone after consuming creatine and did not participate in any type of physical activity or ingest anything that might naturally elevate growth hormone. GH is also implicated in accumulation of body fat, maintenance of the immune system, promotion of muscle and bone mass and many other important functions.
In addition, our production of growth hormone tends to slow down as we age, which results in easily breakable bones, less muscle mass, and loss of energy. For bodybuilders who are entering their forties, creatine can inhibit the onset of age-related reduction in growth hormone by maintaining the appropriate level necessary to sustain energy levels and bone and immune system health.
Since growth hormone is expensive and extremely regulated (prescription only), you can stimulate its production by creatine supplements, but also with anaerobic exercise like weightlifting, or concentrated and sustained exercise like long-distance running. Be aware, however, that creatine is considered to be a dietary supplement and not a drug, which means it is not regulated by the FDA of the United States.
As a consequence, some creatine supplements may vary in quality and ability to produced desired results. Always do some background research on a company outside of the US before purchasing and using the creatine they advertise.
For most bodybuilders and athletes, creatine works as a great supplement that benefits energy and muscle bulk.
Creatine Consumption Through Meat
The reason why creatine supplements are so popular is because even though a variety of meats such as tuna, pork, beef, and salmon contain rich amounts of creatine, this is potentially lost in the preparation of the meat since creatine is extremely sensitive to heat and it is necessary to properly cook meat in order to destroy harmful bacteria.
However, milk and cranberries contain a modest amount of creatine, with milk having .05 grams of creatine per pound of milk; and cranberries containing .001 grams of creatine per pound. But taking a creatine supplement is simply a much more convenient and efficient way for the athlete in training to supplement his body with the much-needed boost creatine gives to energy and muscle.
Various Popular Forms of Creatine
Creatine ethyl ester (CEE) is a fairly recent form of basic creatine and is rapidly becoming popular among bodybuilders. It has been modified by assigning an ester molecule to the creatine which accelerates its passage through cell membranes, causing creatine ethyl-ester to be absorbed quickly into the muscle tissue.
Other forms of creatine include creatine anhydrous, (creatine monohydrate minus a water molecule) which gives you around 6% more pure creatine per serving than creatine monohydrate. Another creatine compound is called creatine glutamine taurine, which applies the added cell-volumizing abilities of glutamine and taurine to creatine’s similar effects on muscle cells. In addition, this type of creatine has been shown to increase strength.
Effervescent creatine has been on the market for several years now and is proving to be a very effective form of creatine. This kind is comprised of either creatine monohydrate or creatine citrate, and is combined with citric acid and bicarbonate. Water and effervescent creatine creates a chemical reaction which results in creatine that carries a neutral charge which enables it to be absorbed more quickly during digestion. It also maintains its effectiveness longer than creatine monohydrate when mixed with