Creatine - What is it?
Creatine is a combination of three different amino acids, glycine, arginine, and methionine. That’s it, it is nothing more than a combination of amino acids. I don’t know how many people I hear talk about creatine and call it a steroid! I almost flip my lid when I hear it. Steroid? If that were the case it there would be a lot more 200+ pound people out there. No creatine is not a steroid, it is totally different and works in a different manner.
Creatine is also produced by the body and found in high protein sources of meat such as fish and red meat. It is NOT a lab synthesized compound, it is natural.
How Does it Work?
After creatine enters the body (or after it is produced by the body) it firsts binds with a phosphate molecule to form Creatine phosphate. Now here is where I’m going to lay a bit of biochemistry on you so I’ll do my best to keep it simple. ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) IS the body’s energy source. When your body oxidizes carbs, protein, or fat it is doing this process in order to produce ATP. ATP is responsible for driving almost every body process there is. Hell ATP is even involved in creating ATP. ATP works like this… Energy is needed to drive bodily process. ATP provides this energy by hydrolyzing a phosphate group.
When a phosphate group is hydrolyzed, energy in the form of heat is given off and this energy is used to drive whatever process is being performed, for example muscle contraction. Because one phosphate has been lost from the ATP it is now called ADP (Adenosine Di-phosphate). The reaction is as follows ATP (hydrolysis)=ADP + Energy. Now you have free ADP as a product from the ATP hydrolysis. ADP is pretty much useless in the body unless it is converted back into ATP. Now this is where creatine comes into play. The phosphate bound creatine donates it’s phosphate group to the ADP to re-form ATP! I assume you see where this is going now.
By allowing you to return ADP to ATP creatine will increase your ATP stores, thus allowing you to train harder and longer. Creatine is a combination of three different amino acids, glycine, arginine, and methionine.
Another benefit of creatine is that creatine itself is a fuel source. In fact your body’s first choice of energy when performing anaerobic activity (such as weightlifting) is your creatine phosphate stores. By supplementing with creatine phosphate you will increase these stores, thus giving you more energy for your workouts. There is another anabolic property that creatine holds and this is it’s ability to hydrate muscle cells. When muscle cells are hydrated a few things happen. The most notable being an increase in protein synthesis. The second being an increase of ions into the cell. Since the cell is holding more water, it can also hold more ions since the ions will follow water into the cell in order to keep the concentration the same.
How Safe is Creatine?
It must be noted that to date there is not one, I repeat not one reputable study that shows creatine has any dangerous side-effects. After many years with no severe side effects I believe that one can begin to assume that creatine is relatively safe.
I find it funny that most people I meet that are concerned about creatine’s safety are also people who like to go out and drink and smoke on weekends… try to find the irony in that.
Is it Necessary to Load on Creatine?
No it is not necessary to load but it can help you see results faster. You see to get the full benefit of creating you must saturate your muscle cells with it. Using a small dose (5g), this will take up to thirty days depending on the individual’s lean body mass.
However using a loading dosage of 15-25g per day for 5 days, one can quickly saturate the muscle cells in this time period and then use a maintenance dosage (3-5g) for the remainder of their time taking creatine.
What is the Best Time to Take Creatine?
There has been much discussion on this but I believe taking creatine post workout is the most beneficial time for several reasons. Insulin helps drive more creatine into muscle cells, if you are a smart bodybuilder then in your post workout meal you should be eating foods that help spike your insulin, if this is the case, then taking creatine with this meal will help it’s uptake into muscle cells. The body absorbs many nutrients better after a workout.
Creatine will help refuel your body’s low creatine phosphate stores.
To sum it up...yes, creatine is something that any serious athlete should be taking. It can only help your performance.