Creatine, Beneficial or Waste of $$$$$?
Having finally resolved to work out at the gym, you sweat and toil for weeks on end only to look in the mirror and see little to show for it. It’s the paradox of the New Year’s resolution exerciser. Seeing physical results can help exercisers stay true to their fitness programs, yet for many it takes months to achieve noticeable muscle changes. Creatine Monohydrate has become the most popular supplement in the world among individuals interested in body-building and fitness. As you probably know creatine (usually in the form of creatine monohydrate) is a supplement taken to enhance anaerobic performance. Creatine Monohydrate is a white, odorless crystalline powder, clear and colorless in solution. With its popularity, you may find creatine at any health or sport product retailer. It sells for roughly $35 a bottle, and is distributed by many manufacturers.
Creatine serves as an energy reserve in muscle cells. Muscular contraction is powered by the breakdown of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to ADP (adenosinediphosphate). When all the ATP is broken down, creatine phosphate in the muscle donates a phosphate group to ADP, and further energy reactions can occur. Creatine monohydrate is a precursor to creatine phosphate. By supplementing with CM, CP levels in muscle apparently are maximized, and more muscular work can occur, since there are greater energy reserves to use.
Approximately 95% of the body’s creatine supply is found in the skeletal muscles. The remaining 5% are scattered throughout the rest of the body, with the highest concentrations in the heart, brain and testes. A skeletal muscle itself does not produce creatine, but utilizes the creatine originating in the liver and kidneys.
The human body gets most of the creatine it needs from food or dietary supplements. Creatine is easily absorbed from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream. Rich dietary sources of creatine include red muscle meats (beef) as well as fish. Creatine, however, is sensitive to heat and cooking, and the full amounts available in these food sources may be reduced during normal preparation. When dietary consumption is inadequate to meet the body’s needs, a limited supply can be synthesized from the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine. This creatine production occurs in the liver, pancreas and kidneys.
The bottom line is that your ability to regenerate ATP depends on your supply of creatine. More creatine, more ATP remade, and more ability to train your muscles to their maximum potential. It’s that simple. This greater ATP synthesis also keeps your body from relying on another energy system called glycolysis, which has lactic acid as a byproduct. This lactic acid creates the burning sensation you feel during intense exercise. If the amount of acid becomes too great, muscle movement stops. But if you keep on using ATP because of all the creatine you have, you can minimize the amount of lactic acid produced and actually exercise longer and harder. This helps you gain strength, power and muscle size; and you won’t get fatigued as easily.
Creatine has also been thought to enhance your body’s ability to make proteins, although there is yet no definite proof of this. Creatine, though, is believed to help absorb intracellular water in muscle cells by bloating the muscle with creatine rich fluid. This allows for greater leverage and requires the muscle to move less and lift more weight. While this may seem kind of trivial, some researchers today think that one of the stimulating factors of steroid use is water retention. Anabolic steroids may actually work in part because of cellular fluid retention in the muscles. The swelling action and the related stretching of the cells may in and of itself cause a reaction which stimulates the muscle cells to grow. So in some respects creatine might be as good as steroids.
Whether you’re an accomplished athlete or you’ve just started an exercise program, you need to know about creatine. Many supplements touted over the years as muscle builders have come and gone, but creatine is here to stay. Creatine has many benefits, but also has its shortcomings. You must be well-informed before using this nutrient. Nausea, upset stomach, dizziness or weakness, loose stools or diarrhea are the most common side effects, and generally occur with dosages greater than 5 g a day. Muscle cramping is also commonly reported. Sprains and strains can occur when individuals over enthusiastically and rapidly increase their workout regimen before their tendons and ligaments are adapted to the increase in muscle size. Long-term consequences of daily creatine ingestion, especially in high dosages, are currently unknown. There is a strong possibility that excess creatine can put stress on the kidneys. Individuals with kidney disease should not use creatine.
The most benefit will likely be noticed by body builders or anyone who wishes to have more muscle mass. It is still unclear whether athletes involved in endurance activities such as marathon running or long-distance bicycling will benefit from creatine supplementation. There have been anecdotal reports that people in these sports may benefit, although other studies show that creatine either does not help or may actually hurt. The difficulty in these situations appears to center on the increased muscle mass which creatine provides. While that’s great if you’re a bodybuilder or wrestler, it can be a detriment if you have to carry all that weight around during a marathon or triathlon. It becomes a tradeoff between the increased strength you get from creatine and the increased muscle mass. Further research will provide us with more definitive answers as to what role creatine supplementation can play in endurance-type sports.
Creatine seems to be well-studied in scientific research. Scientific evidence supporting creatine is there, but while some very good results have been reported, like 20 pounds body weight gain in 6 weeks and increase in strength, others have reported no significant gains whatsoever while taking the supplement. Like all supplements, supplementing creatine is useless if your body already has enough of it. Further supplementation is then not needed and just a waste of money. If however, you do not have the optimal levels of creatine in your muscle cells, then supplementation is a good idea which can really enhance your training. Some people get minimal or no effect from creatine. This is probably due to their already high creatine levels due to dietary intake or perhaps the efficiency/inefficiency that they produce ATP. If you take creatine monohydrate and don’t notice any results in about 2 weeks it’s a good bet that you’re one of these people. Once you plateau, your muscle cells will probably be saturated with creatine and since the body loses about 1-2% creatine a day you should be able to get away with cycling on and off creatine to lengthen your results. Once you stop creatine supplementation and your body clears it 100% (about a 2 month process) you’ll probably be back at your old strength and muscle mass levels. Of course the gains in mental ability (I’ve done this before I can do it now) and tendon/skeletal strength increase resulting from these heavier workouts will remain.
You must also be aware of the proper usage of creatine. Usually, the use of creatine is split into a loading and maintenance phase. During the loading phase, large quantities of creatine monohydrate are taken. Because the creatine only slowly disappears from the body, a maintenance phase in which less creatine is taken will still provide the body with adequate levels of creatine. For suggested duration of the phases and quantities see below.
Creatine (creatine monohydrate) dosage derived from works by Pierre Dahl (nutritionist at NSTC in Stockholm, Sweden) and professor Hultman (at Huddinge Hospital in Stockholm, Sweden)
BodyweightPhase 1 (loading)Phase 2 (maintenance)
65-74kg 143-163lbs10g per day (2x5g per day)3g per day
75-84kg 165-185lbs15g per day (2×7.5g per day)4g per day
85-95kg 187-209lbs20g per day (2×10 per day)5g per day
NSTC mentioned above is an abbreviation for Nutrition and Soft Tissue Center.
Note: it is discouraged to use caffeine while on creatine; while creatine makes your muscles hold water, caffeine will do the opposite, thereby reducing the effects of the creatine intake.
* Don’t mix creatine with citrus juice. Orange, grapefruit, cranberry, in fact, most fruit juices have been most recently found to neutralize the activity of creatine monohydrate. The reason is the waste product creatine develops. A lot of you put creatine on your tongue and drink it down with grapefruit juice. If you have taken creatine this way in the past, stop it now! You are not getting creatine, you’re getting waste product.
* Do mix creatine monohydrate with warm water–in a glass. This is the only way to ensure you’re getting the full benefits of creatine in its dry form. Creatine does not have to dissolve to be effective.
* Do be sure to drink a full eight ounce glass of good water 8 times a day. Creatine pulls water from other parts of the body to perform its work in cell volumization of the muscle. This is what makes the muscle larger and firmer. Replenish your H2O!
My opinion is you should not waste your money on creatine or any other supplement product. Your body is the product of millions of years of evolution and everything you need to make it strong and healthy has been provided for you by God and nature in so-called healthy “regular food”. There truly is no need to take supplements of any kind. If you really think creatine is going to give your workouts an extra boost, eat a serving of lean meat every once in a while. You will be getting all the creatine your body needs at 1/100 the price of a jug of powder! There are studies that say all the creatine is destroyed when the manufacturer makes it into a powdered form. Why would anyone pay $35 for a supplement when it might not even be physically there anymore? And tell me the truth, can you afford to pay $35 on a regular basis? Even if the powdered form of creatine were better than the creatine in meat, which it isn’t, you would go broke buying the stuff every week? My advice to you is to take that $35 and buy bananas, potatoes, chicken, fish, rice, pasta, etc. You will be surprised how many bags of groceries $35 will buy you. If you want to get big, stay big and healthy for life, and not go broke buying useless supplements, here is how to do it: get enough sleep every night, make a habit of eating nutritiously, exercise regularly, dont drink alcohol or smoke, and finally be consistent.