Creatine is an organic acid found naturally in the skeletal muscle of humans and plays an important role in the production of energy. We can also get it from foods like fish and beef.
In the body, the kidneys and the liver make Creatine from a combination of non-essential amino acids: l-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine.
The body converts creatine into phosphocreatine (also known as creatine phosphate), which is a form of stored energy within the muscle.
How does Creatine work?
Creatine works by increasing the stores of creatine phosphate within our muscles.
When primary energy source get depleted, creatine phosphate can give up (donate) its phosphate molecule to provide immediate energy (ATP).
With higher levels of creatine phosphate body can overcome fatigue and regain strength. In this way creatine can help improve performance (and has also been shown to increase strength and power).
What benefits do supplements of creatine provide?
Creatine is one of the ergogenic aid which has shown to improve strength performance with supplementation. Supplementation with creatine is needed for those performing athletes or fitness enthusiasts for whom strength and power are the primary essentials.
Creatine supplementation fills the creatine pool of muscles increasing the efficiency of the ATP-CP system to deliver spontaneous energy when triggered. Creatine is also been known to enhance shuttling of water, glucose and aminos into muscle cells improving the anabolic environment of muscle cells and thus aiding in protein synthesis.
Creatine supplementation should be initiated only if the adequate daily protein intake is ensured. Creatine supplementation increases strength performance and hence increases the need for protein.
Is creatine safe?
Yes, the body produces creatine naturally. The human body has 100-115 grams of creatine in the form of creatine phosphate. Creatine supplementation is hence safe and well-accepted.
Does creatine make you retain water?
Please note that creatine increases intra-cellular water retention which is a very wanted effect and should not be confused with edema or extra-cellular water retention that fills up the subcutaneous area under the skin.
Thus it is a myth that creatine supplementation despite being a great ergogenic aid for strength also bloats the body. There is no bloating with creatine supplementation. Since creatine enhances intra-cellular water retention, creatine supplementation in fact will prevent cramps rather than be the cause of cramps as is erroneously, popularly believed.
Creatine will be beneficial to which all fields of sport?
Athletes who need sudden, high intensity bursts of power and strength are ideal candidates for creatine supplements. These athletes include power lifters, bodybuilders and sprinters.
Those who engage in sports with steady aerobic output may not benefit from creatine use. In sports like tennis, football, baseball and basketball, there is involvement of different metabolic systems with in-between bouts of activities requiring high spontaneous energy. That is where creatine is used for ATP generation and hence creatine supplementation benefits these athletes too.
Thus creatine supplementation through its potential to improve performance by providing strength cannot be limited to only weightlifters and football players but is a boost for most of the performing athletes.
Will taking creatine before a workout give me more energy?
No, it won’t. The process of absorbing and converting creatine to creatine phosphate takes time.
The key is already having your muscles saturated with creatine hours before you touch a weight. To accomplish this, it’s essential that you consistently maintain the muscle’s saturation level by never missing a daily serving of creatine.
How does creatine help muscle grow?
Creatine promotes intense lifting by recycling ATP. Creatine also buffers the development of lactic acid allowing for a more enduring workout.
Intensity is necessary to achieve natural strength gains and muscle growth. Muscle growth takes place when the muscle has been overloaded. Without heavy sets, muscle will remain small.
Is Creatine Monohydrate Loading Required?
Earlier it was believed that loading phase merely showed the significant increase in anaerobic strength performance quickly in a matter of 10 days & the same results could be got by being a bit more patient at the 30 day mark if loading was skipped. Starting off with maintained 5 grams per day.
But this thinking was flawed & does not work nearly as well as the loading protocol. The reason for this is simple:
Without Loading the Creatine that is being ingested to the tune of 5 grams per day is also being utilized at nearly the same rate due to intense workouts. This makes reaching Super Saturation/Supra-Physiological levels very difficult.
With the loading phase of 7-10 days we are providing the body a lot more creatine than it can use even if you were to intensely workout 7 days a week. This creates a build-up leading to the much desired Super Saturation/Supra-Physiological levels that lead to ergogenesis.
How to take Creatine monohydrate? Loading and Maintenance
Following is the way:
20 grams a day Loading phase for 7 days:
First Dose of the day: 10 grams of Creatine Monohydrate (CM) with 75 grams of Dextrose, first thing upon waking.
Second Dose of the day: 10 grams of Creatine Monohydrate (CM) with 75 grams of Dextrose immediately post workout. (On Non-Training days ingest the 2nd dose around 5pm on an empty stomach as usually at 5pm most people are relatively empty stomach having taken their lunch at around 2pm)
Loading Phase from 8th Day till the 10th Day: 10 grams of Creatine Monohydrate (CM) with 75 grams of Dextrose only post workout. (On Non-Training days ingest this one dose immediately upon waking.)
Maintenance Phase from the 11th day onwards: 5 grams of Creatine Monohydrate (CM) with 75 grams of Dextrose only post workout. (On Non-Training days ingest this one dose immediately upon waking.)
To get the full benefit of Creatine supplementation TAKE IT EVERYDAY. There is no need to cycle off Creatine, it can be taken year round.
Just in case budget is an issue, one could take a 4 week break after every 12 weeks on it. The super saturation levels will be maintained for a while if therapy is continuous for 12 weeks. Beyond 4 weeks the levels will decline & there will be a significant drop in performance. But if you can afford it then the prudent thing to do would be to take it year round.
On severely carb restricted diets geared towards Fat loss, one can shift to Creatine Ethyl Ester products. It has been seen that Creatine delivery & bio-availability in this form is good and does not require the dextrose mediated insulin spike.
What is Micronized Creatine Monohydrate?
As the name suggests, micronized creatine monohydrate is regular creatine monohydrate powder that has been micronized.
Micronizing is the process of grinding the powder to an ultra-fine form, usually about 20 times finer than regular powder.
Earlier Creatine was resistant to being in solution in water & giving in to sedimentation or settling down of the granules to the bottom of the container. This caused whole granules of Creatine Monohydrate to be swallowed & would then result in Gastric Distress. Gastric Distress would neutralize any ergogenic benefits that Creatine can provide.
This issue is sorted with the introduction of Micronized Creatine which stays beautifully in suspension which in other simple words means dissolved well in water.
I have just joined the gym, can I start taking creatine?
Creatine will improv your performance on the gym floor & you will end up lifting heavier. But that also means more micro-trauma to the muscles thus increasing the need for Protein. DO NOT EVEN THINK OF SPENDING ONCREATINE IF YOUR PROTEIN REQUIREMENT OF AT LEAST a minimum 2 grams per Kg Bodyweight is not met.
Creatine is completely SAFE & has NO ADVERSE SIDE EFFECTS.
But consumption by beginners who are nowhere near comprehensive Motor Unit Recruitment & have sub-optimal Rate coding in their muscle fibers is a complete waste of money. A beginner sees huge increases in performance in the gyms purely on the basis of bettering his form & Technique. At this stage buying Creatine is a criminal waste of money.
Ergogenic Aids must only be taken by advanced strength enthusiasts or athletes who have already explored the limits of their performance. Only then will Creatine Monohydrate work.