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Creatine, all you need to know

Creatine the Best Support for Sports

Creatine is a stored form of energy, ATP, which is released at a much faster rate than glucose, providing support for the cells during high intensity efforts. It may be the supplement that has been more studied and the research has concluded that it has no adverse effects.

The Best Ergogenic Support

Creatine, regarding the studies about the monohydrate form, is an ergogenic support, that is to say, its supplementation improves the physical performance of those athletes who want to enhance their abilities during high intensity efforts and to increase the amount of lean mass. The other forms of creatine that have emerged have been designed to improve the absorption with respect to the first formula, the monohydrate.

Creatine and Collective Sports

In strength and explosive sports, such as rugby, creatine can be a plus in improving the performance.

What is the function of Creatine?

The main function of creatine in the organism is to be stored by means of highly energetic phosphates in the form of phosphocreatine. During periods of physical stress, phosphocreatine releases energy to support the cell function. This phenomenon allows creatine to produce increase the strength, but it does not stop there, since there are other parts of the body that can also benefit from it: brain, bones, muscles, and liver. The benefits of creatine occur due to this release system.

Creatine improves the ability of the body to create muscle tissue, because it increases cell hydration, so the muscle will have more permeability, resulting in a better absorption of the amino acids into the cell.

The athletic performance will be improved, allowing more work under tension which will stimulate a greater number of fibers. In the same way, the accumulation of lactic acid is delayed, prolonging the duration of the intense activity. This allows to delay the production of lactic acid, which is a residue product.

Creatine and Cell Hydration Effect

Right doses of creatine supplementation apart from maintaining a proper hydration are the bases to avoid any stomach upset.

Who can benefit from taking Creatine?

As we have seen before, creatine helps to keep the ATP deposits full, so it can be used for all those activities that use it as the main substrate. It will mainly be activities of an explosive nature where factors like Strength, Reaction, Speed play an important role.

Creatine for Power DisciplinesThose Activities of High Intensity will take more advantage of the use of Creatine

We can name a few sport disciplines as an example::
  • Weightlifting
  • Powerlifting
  • CrossFit
  • Collective Sports

Those who train with weights within the Fitness field can also take advantage of this supplement.

Where can we find Creatine?

Creatine can be found in different natural food sources, such as:

  • Lean beef, about 5g of creatine per kg
  • Chicken meat, about 3.4gr of creatine per kg
  • Rabbit meat, about 3.4gr of creatine per kg
  • Heart tissue, about 2.5g of creatine per kg

Creatine can be broken down to methylamine when we cook the food, which in turn becomes a toxic product. Similarly, creatine can become a biologically inactive substance, called creatinine, the water molecule is removed.

Around a 30% of the creatine contained in food is lost or broken down in the cooking process, or it becomes creatinine.

Characteristics of Creatine

Creatine is a supplement with the following characteristics:

  • Improved sport performance/strong>
  • Nootropic substance, which means that it performs a cognitive function
  • Muscle builder, it allows to obtain more lean mass
  • Pseudovitamin, a term that does not grant it the category of vitamin or mineral, but which exerts certain beneficial functions on the organism
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Creatine for Explosive Movements

Those activities that activate the IIB fibers will depend on the level of stored ATP. Creatine can help to maintain said deposits full

Supplements and Creatine Types

Different forms of creatine supplements.

  • Creatine monohydrate: is the most common and used form. It is the referent that is used to compare the rest.
  • Anhydrous Creatine: it is the monohydrate without the water molecule. It is used to reduce the weight of creatine in a supplement, so that it becomes a creatine monohydrate in aqueous elements.
  • Liquid Creatine: it is less effective than the monohydrate, due to the fact that some time has passed from when it becomes creatinine since it is found in a aqueous element.
  • Kre-Alkalyn Creatine: it is its commercial name, and it is used to improve the effects of the monohydrate due to its higher pH, which increases the absorption when it goes through the cytoplasmatic membrane and reaches the muscle fiber.
  • Creatine Ethyl Ester: it increases the creatine levels less than the monohydrate and suffers more break down into creatinine. Its use is limited to improving those situations where there are less creatine transporters, which can happen in certain subjects. It also does not need a loading phase.
  • Creatine Nitrate: is a creatine form with a nitrate (NO3) bound to the creatine molecule, which improves its solubility in water.
  • Creatine Malate: creatine bound to malic acid. In this way, the benefits of these substances are combined, reinforcing its bioavailability. It avoids the bitter taste of some supplements as well. The dissolution of creatine is also improved, apart from miniziming possible stomach and digestive problems.
  • Creatine Citrate: is a combination of creatine and citric acid. It improves the solubility of the monohydrate.
  • Creatine Piruvate: it produces higher levels of creatine in plasma, the weight of creatine is that of a 60%. We will achieve results that are similar to the monohydrate with less amount of product.

How can we combine Creatine?

HMB

HMB (β-hydroxy β-methylbutyrate) and Creatine form a tandem that improves the recovery and maintenance of the muscle mass. In addition, this combination increases the endurance, improves the strength, helps to lose fat and even prevent the loss of muscle mass during times of caloric restriction or maximum demand and training volume (2, 3, 4).

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Beta Alanine

It works in synergy with creatine, improving the physical resistance, while encouraging muscle growth and development.

The purpose of beta-alanine is to provide higher concentrations of in-muscle carnosine to increase certain qualities: power, endurance, explosiveness, … In addition, the recovery is significantly improved after intense physical exercise.

On the other hand, it also enables muscle growth while losing a higher percentage of fat

The way beta-alanine works is through the creation of a buffer that prevents muscle acidosis caused by the high intensity of a determined exercise.

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Carbohydrates and Alpha Lipoc Acid

Consuming a high amount of carbohydrates triggers the release of insulin by the pancreas. This is the anabolic hormone in charge of transporting substances through the bloodstream to the cell. This is why having creatine available at this time improves the absorption.

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Alpha-lipoic acid can support this task since it works by absorbing the glucose from the muscle tissue, which prevents it from being deposited in the adipocytes.
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Leucine

Leucine is one of the amino acids that belong to the so-called BCAA’s, and it is perhaps the most important one. It is an amino acid activator of the mTOR, which is the mechanism that sets the processes of protein synthesis into motion. On the other hand, it is an insulinotropic amino acid, which increases the insulin levels, without the presence of carbohydrates, thereby ensuring a better absorption of creatine by the cell.

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The monohydrate form is the one that has more reference, so you can purchase a micronized version, which means that the molecules have been subjected to a process to reduce their size, which provides a better dissolution in water and later absorption in the organism. It preserves the same characteristics of the initial molecule.

Creatine to Increase your Physical Strength

Creatine enhances the phospagen system

Creatine Supplementation

Most studies present an initial loading protocol, which consists on an overload phase with around 0.3g of creatine per kg of body weight for 5-7 days, distributing the dose throughout the day. This phase would be followed by the maintenance phase, with 5gr of creatine daily.

Performing the loading phase produces a fast saturation of the cells with creatine, and this can be achieved by taking 5gr from the first day. On the other hand, this would be enough to take 2gr of product for a long period of time in order to maintain the gains.

Cell saturation can also be achieved, in a more sustained way, by ingesting a dose of 3 – 10gr of creatine monohydrate for a long time.

Therefore, it is up to the users whether or not they perform the loading phase, or simply start to take creatine from the very first day, with the standard dose of 1g of creatine for every 10kg of body weight.

Contraindications of Creatine

Compatibility with Caffeine
For some people, the combination with caffeine could partially cancel out the effects of creatine. One of the reasons could be that caffeine causes dehydration since it is a diuretic, which is exactly the opposite of what we are trying to achieve with this supplement. However, it is inconclusive, since there is scientific evidence that supports the compatibility of caffeine and creatine.

Drugs

If the person is taking diuretics, there is a risk of suffering dehydration.

Interaction with night rest

In some subjects, using creatine supplementation close to bedtime causes certain difficulties to fall asleep. To avoid this, you can take creatine in a different moment, such as in the morning or midday.

The Effects of Creatine Supplementation

Side Effects of Creatine

Improved Sport Performance
Let’s say that this would be the “Desired Side Effect”. The purpose of creatine supplementation is to enhance our athletic ability. It is possible to experience an improvement in maximum strength or faster recovery between sets.

Weight Gain

Weight gain happens partly due to the water retention. However, unlike what the vast majority of users think, said fluid accumulation is part of how creatine works in our body, and it also occurs at the intramuscular level, not subcutaneous. In this way, it would not imply an esthetic loss due to the so-called bloated phenomenon or a smooth aspect without a defined muscular mass. Anyway, this weight gain is not excessive at all and is estimated around 500g at most.

Benefits of Creatine

On the other hand, we have to keep in mind that our organism can excrete around 1-2 liters per hour of the workout session (depending on the intensity)

Cramps and Stomach Discomfort

If you do not hydrate yourself properly you can experience muscle cramps, since creatine takes water from internal organs. This is why you can also experience stomach discomfort. This can be easily fixed by increasing our daily consumption of water.

People with Kidney Problems

Those who suffer renal problems may have to give up creatine supplemantation. However, it is possible to retake creatine supplementation once they have been treated and after consulting their doctor as long as they are given favorable results.

Creatine can produce weight gains due to the cell hydration. This disappears after we stop using the product, or we can maintain this state of hydration while performing high intensity exercise.

Caffeine and Creatine, friends or foes?

Many athletes are worried about the possible interactions that can happen when combining 2 of the most currently used supplements: caffeine and creatine.

Combination of Caffeine and Creatine

Are they compatible? This rumor has spread through the fitness community and it claims that combining caffeine with creatine will reduce the effects of the latter. Is there any scientific evidence about said interaction? Unlike what some may believe, yes, there is.

Study that spreads the rumor

This study5 from 1996 involved 9 subjects that were divided in two groups to compare the effect of caffeine and the combination of caffeine + creatine. The subjects were subjected to a workout with three series of 90, 80 and 50 isometric contractions with a break of 2 minutes.

It was observed that the amount of muscle ATP (molecule that provides energy for most processes) was constant. However, the group that consumed only creatine improved in terms of strength, unlike the group that combined creatine with caffeine.

Something that caught my attention from this study is that the caffeine doses were quite high, around 5mg of caffeine/kg of body weight, so a person of 75kg should consume 375mg of caffeine, which is about 11 cans of coca cola

Study to refute the rumor

After this essay, we found another study6 that denies it. Said study observed the effects of caffeine after a creatine load in the absence of this stimulant. The 14 subjects were men with experience training to avoid a questionable result, since the improvement is much remarkable in subjects without experience in training by the simple fact of a physiological adaptation.

These subjects performed short and high-intensity exercises (work at 120VO2max) who were previously given either 5mg of caffeine/kg of body weight (same amount as the previous study) or a placebo. There were four measurements of perceived effort index, one every 30s, during the first 120s of exercise.

The result was totally different from the first study, since it was observed that the increase in mass happened both in the placebo group and in the group that consumed caffeine. Fatigue decreased even in the latter, which allowed a longer training time..

Caffeine Graphic Study

Comparison of caffeine performance in contrast with the placebo. Only one subject out of the 14 had a significantly worse performance.

More studies confirm their compatibility

This was not the only study which showed an improvement resulting from combining creatine + caffeine. Abbie and colleagues8 compared the performance-level effects of trained subjects taking a pre-workout with amino acids + caffeine + creatine or the same amount of maltodextrin. The combination resulted in a higher volume of training and an improvement in the physical composition, while preserving more muscle mass.

Graphic Workout Study

Workout Graphic

The result would have been more pronounced if they had used a real quantity, since they were only given 100mg of caffeine and 1.5g of creatine for the essay.

Conclusion: Caffeine and Creatine can be taken together
As it can be observed, the scientific evidence on the negative effect of caffeine on creatine is too low. It has been proven that the pharmacokinetics7 of both elements are compatible so that the combination of caffeine and creatine will not affect the ADME process. For this reason, it is possible to combine both supplements without compromising our performance or physical composition.

Results of Creatine Supplementation

After several tests we can say that it improves these qualities:

  • Physical power
  • Anaerobic capacity related to running
  • Increased lean mass
  • Weight gain
  • Intramuscular creatine accumulation
  • Increase of VO2 max
  • Delay of fatigue

Expert Opinion

There is no reason why you should not use this supplement, which is backed by a large number of studies. Its effectiveness has been proven and contrasted by many athletes, whose opinion has been very positive. Its consumption is strongly advised because it increases the strength, muscle gains, and recovery. So to speak, it works!

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FAQ

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What is ATP and how does it work?

It is the organic component found in muscle fiber, which is metabolized to produce energy when there is a muscle contraction. ATP is a nucleotide of adenine, an organic molecule formed by the covalent union of a five-carbon monosaccharide (pentose), a nitrogen base (adenine) and a 3-phosphate group (triphosphate). There is a lot of energy stored in the union of these phosphates, and their rupture triggers the deployment of said energy, promoted by the cell itself, which results in: adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and a phosphate-free molecule. If the cell has an excess of energy, it stores it as ATP, from ADP and free phosphate. ATP is necessary for any biomechanical reaction involved in any muscle contraction. If the muscle work is increased, more ATP will be consumed, which in turn will create the need for its recharge. The body uses several mechanisms to synthesize ATP, adapting itself depending on the intensity of the exercise, to the substrate that is used as the basis for the production of ATP.

Will creatine help me to lift more weight?

Strictly speaking, yes. It allows you to increase the intensity of the workout, to use more fiber, thus exerting more strength when facing an stimulus. On the other hand, the recovery processes are shortened, which means that we will be ready for the next training session sooner.

Can creatine be toxic after a long consumption period?

There is no evidence of toxicity as long as we follow the corresponding dose, as well as a proper hydration.

Is creatine safe?

Yes, since it is an amino acid that is present in the body of humans and animals. The body has around 100-115gr available as phosphate.

What is the best moment to use it?

After training, since it is when the energy deposits are recharged, as well as to avoid any possible stomach discomfort during the workout. Nevertheless, the moment you use this product is irrelevant, since you have to take it daily to experience its effects.

Is it necessary to take creatine with sugar?

It is not necessary to create an insulin peak, however, you can add some simple carbohydrate if necessary, as a post-workout. It is said that the creatine transporter in the organism is not insulin-dependent.

Do I need to do a loading phase?

It is not necessary. It should be enough to maintain the doses from the very first day (1g per 10kg of body weight).

Will I lose weight if I stop using it?

There is not reason why you would lose muscle.However, there is a loss of weight that can be due to the water that the creatine no longer carries to the cell.

Does creatine retain water?

Yes, but at an intracellular level, not subcutaneous retention. There is a difference between water retention and cell volumization: while the former produces a smooth aspect of the muscles, the latter produces a bulky aspect of the muscle tissue.

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Bibliography

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5469049/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11007567/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11448573
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11128859/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8929583
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12439084
  7. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-7-10
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9629989

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