What it is
First discovered in 1832, creatine is a compound (methyl guanidine-acetic acid) that is made inside our bodies. It is made inside our liver by combining three amino acids together – arginine, glycine, and methionine, hence, giving us the chemical name methyl guanidine-acetic acid. A few tries at pronouncing it and it has already got into my head, but imagine telling the supplement store owner that you are looking for methyl guanidine-acetic acid. Thus, the name ‘creatine’ was given to it.
Creatine is NOT a drug nor steroid. Creatine is categorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food supplement, and can be easily obtained through your local supplements store legally.
Over the years, creatine has become one of the most popular supplements on the market, heavily demanded by atheletes and bodybuilders for the strength and muscle gain benefits it provides.
A Must Know – Biology Crash Course
Our body contains a compound called Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP). Think of ATP as the energy currency of our body. Whenever you need to energy, you have to pay some cash in the form of ATP. The more ATP you ‘pay’, the more energy you get. The body basically converts ATP into energy. Sure, we do have other energy sources like carbohydrates and fats, however, when you are doing your 100m sprints or benching 300lbs, these sources will not be able to provide your muscles with energy fast enough – only ATP can be converted quickly enough.
I hope you are still following me. Take a five minutes break if you need.
When our muscles use ATP for energy, a phosphate molecule is removed from an ATP molecule. This removal of a phosphate molecule is precisely what releases the energy. This situation is similar to you breaking a stick into two pieces. When the stick breaks, potential energy stored inside the stick is converted into sound energy, which is why we hear the ‘snap’. In our case, energy released by the removal of phosphate from ATP is used by our muscles to contract.
The resulting molecule is adenosine diphosphate (ADP) – meaning two phosphates.
How Creatine works
Unforunately, our body does not have an endless supply of ATP. The muscles of an average person has only enough ATP to last about 10-15 seconds of maximum exertion. In case you are wondering, though ADP has two phosphates, ADP cannot be utilized by our body for energy production.
This is where creatine comes in. Creatine, in its phosphate form (Creatine Phosphate) then reacts with ADP to reform back ATP. The ADP is thus recycled back into ATP so that more energy can be produced. I hope you can see the importance of creatine now, for without creatine, going over 4 reps during your workouts will be impossible!
Benefits of Creatine
For the lazier people who do not wish to read through all the biological babble, supplementing with creatine will increase our strengths! You probably can see how this will work. More creatine = more ATP = longer time before muscles give out. This ultimately means that the number of reps we can do for a specific weight will definitely increase.
Creatine also serves to pull water into our muscle cells in a process called cell volumization. The result of this is a fuller look! The beneficial effects of cell volumization is not just limited to the extra centimeter of your biceps measurement though! As creatine pulls water into your cells, other essential nutrients also enter your muscle cells. The end result? An anabolic environment where your muscles keep growing, and growing.
Note that this is NOT to be confused with water retention! Water retention is when water gets stored subcutaneously and this is definitely NOT the case of creatine. This has been pointed out too by our forum member, imranaliia. As said, the hydration from creatine is intracellular. If anything, your muscles will look fuller and feel harder. For more information, you can view the thread here.
It is widely recommended that 5-10g of creatine be consumed daily. For the best effects, it is advised that creatine be consumed once in the morning, and another time after your workout, together with your post-workout shake.
For new users, it is also common protocol to go through a ‘loading phase’ first. During this phase, the new creatine user will take in 25g of creatine a day for over a period of 5 days. Each day, creatine is taken in 5 times a day with 5g each time. This is quite simple to remember, just 5x5x5… 😉
However, you should also take note that some studies have questioned the need for a loading phase. It has been shown that the levels of creatine between a loader and a non-loader reached the same levels after 28 days.
The need for a loading phase could then boil down to whether you are in a rush or not. Creatine users who go through a loading phase are noted to reach saturation point earlier as compared to those who did not load.
As reported by countless studies, creatine is a totally safe health supplement with no adverse side effects. Although there are no current risks of using creatine, the long term effects of creatine is still unknown yet as the record of research is relatively recent.
Although no adverse side effects has been noted in research, individual persons have reported side effects such as itching, swelling, diarrhea or stomach problems.
Before you put that spoonful of creatine into your mouth, let us remind you that while supplementing with creatine, make sure that you have ENOUGH water! Water is very important to our bodies, more so when we are under creatine supplementation.
Benny is a bodybuilding writer and is also part of Anabolic Instinct, a bodybuilding supplements reviews [http://supplements.anabolicinstinct.com] website.