Creatine is one of the most effective dietary supplements currently available to improve the performance of athletes and sportspeople.
It promotes the increase of muscle mass, and provides strength, power and visible and rapid weight gain.
Bodybuilders, powerlifters, athletes, skiers, footballers and sprinters are usually consumers of creatine supplements, which helps them to beat their own records in competitions and training.
The ultimate fuel for athletes
There are a lot of athletes in the world whose goal is to run faster, jump higher, lift more weight, or build more muscle mass.
Currently there is no natural substance more effective than creatine for achieving this goal. This is the reason why creatine has become one of the most popular sports dietary supplements today.
What is creatine?
Creatine is a nitrogenous substance that the body itself produces through the union of 3 amino acids: Methionine, Glycine and Arginine.
Creatine has a fundamental role in the production of energy. More than 95% of the creatine in the body is located in the muscles.
In the body of an adult that weighs 70 kg, the quantity of stored creatine is 120 grammes, where 40% is in free form and 60% in the form of phosphate. Even so, very intense but short exercise (such as a sprint) can reduce the reserves of creatine by more than 70%. Approximately 1.6% (2 grammes) of the total consumed creatine reserve must be replaced every day.
This supplementation assures us an energy input during muscle contraction or high energy demands, allowing us to increase the intensity of our workouts without harming our recovery.
Creatine is transported to various tissues of the body through the bloodstream. Approximately 95% is deposited in muscles and the rest in the heart, the brain and testes.
Half of the necessary daily creatine is formed in the body, the rest must be ingested daily through food or food supplements. You should take around 1 gramme of creatine daily on average. However this amount is not enough for high-performance sports.
The foods with the highest proportion of creatine are raw meat (e.g. beef and pork) and fish. However, when meat or fish are cooked the creatine content is reduced.
Vegetarians and vegans have a lower level of creatine in the blood due to the lack of meat. Creatine is vital for the human body and totally safe, as is shown by the fact that even breast milk contains creatine.
Levels of creatine in food (in grammes per kilogramme)
- Pork.............5.0 grammes
- Beef.............4.5 grammes
- Salmon........4.5 grammes
- Tuna.............4.0 grammes
- Cod...............3.0 grammes
- Sole..............2.0 grammes
- Herring...6,5-10 grammes
- Milk...............0.1 grammes
How many types of creatine are there?
Creatine can be found in 3 forms:
- Creatine monohydrate, the basic molecule of creatine. This form is the most well-studied and widely-consumed
- Alkaline creatine, also known as Kre - Alkalyn®. It is a "buffered" creatine whose structure has been modified to have a different pH to the aforementioned version. This structural change is due to the fact that gastric juices can degrade part of creatine, causing it to have an acidic pH, a problem which this formulation can avoid.
- Creatine ethyl ester, a structure that occurs as a result of the union of the creatine monohydrate molecule and an ester group (RCOOR'). The object of this union is to make the creatine more lipophilic so it can cross the cell membrane more easily and therefore increase levels of muscle creatine with greater ease.
What do athletes say about creatine?
In his book "Creatine: Nature´s Muscle Builder", authors Dr. Ray Sahelian and Dave Tuttle regularly interviewed a great many athletes, male and female and came to the following conclusions:
- All athletes surveyed agreed to assess the enormous advantages that they had observed in their performance by taking a creatine supplement.
- The most significant advantage was associated with increased muscle mass and increase strength and energy, as well as rapid recovery after workouts and decrease in body fat.
- Male athletes were especially impressed with the increase of muscle mass due to creatine. 82% of them increased lean muscle mass, and 77% said that they had also been able to increase their strength.
What properties does creatine have?
ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is regarded as a 'super fuel' because it helps one attain a complete performance. However, the muscles need sufficient amounts of creatine for the production of ATP. The more creatine that is stored in the body, the larger will be the quantity of ATP (the super fuel) produced.
The result of using this type of supplement is that you can train with more power and intensity, obtaining muscle growth that would not be possible without the influence of the creatine.
All the studies show the positive effects of creatine in muscle building and sports performance.
Benefits of taking creatine
One of the main benefits is the improvement in the body's ability to do high-intensity training. For this reason, creatine phosphate (the form in which it is stored at the cellular level), acts as a support for type IIB fibres (fast fibres), where they are at their greatest concentration, thereby providing immediate energy. Through this energy input, the athlete may increase the number of repetitions in a set, sprint faster or perform more effectively in sports where the primary component is strength.
Creatine supplementation allows muscles to store more of this high energy molecule to help provide greater strength and lean mass gain.
Creatine supplementation can reduce cell damage and muscle inflammation after exhausting exercise. This is not only particular to strength and power training, since these benefits can even be seen with endurance athletes, as indicated in the study.
Anaerobic capacity is defined as the ability of the organism to maintain an effort in the absence of oxygen, unlike the aerobic system that requires it as fuel over a certain period of time. There are two substrates that feed the anaerobic system: adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and creatine (PC) phosphate. In this case, the amount of ATP we have can be increased via creatine supplementation.
When performing high intensity effort where the anaerobic system will come into play, ATP will first be put to use and will then be exhausted after a few seconds (around 10). In other words, it will last for a certain period of time after which the intensity will begin to decrease, coinciding with an overlap with the next energy substrates to be activated. None of these can rapidly deliver ATP, so the effort should be paused until more ATP is synthesised, or the activity continued at a much lower intensity than at the start. The type of training that we can do (anaerobic threshold) will depend on our highest ATP resynthesis rate, combined of course with the presence of creatine in our diet. In this study you can see that the inclusion of creatine improves anaerobic capacity and high-intensity effort.
Another important benefit, especially for strength athletes or bodybuilders, is the cell volumizing effect that creatine has. This is because of its innate properties that allow it to achieve an optimal hydration at a cellular level, in addition to generating a powerful stimulus for the synthesis of proteins.
Creatine also increases intellectual performance
The positive properties of creatine upon physical and muscular performance have long been known. But now, recent studies have shown that creatine also has positive effects on cognitive performance. This is because the brain, as well as muscle and nerve cells also use ATP as their source of energy. This energy, among other things, is supplied by creatine and regenerates itself constantly.
A study conducted in Australia showed that subjects who ingested creatine significantly exceeded expectations in short-term memory-related intelligence tests.
Another study by Japanese researchers showed that the participants were able to solve intelligence tests over a long period of time after the ingestion of creatine. This is attributed to the fact that creatine improves the supply of oxygen to the brain.
How to take creatine
Unlike other supplements, creatine has more than one protocol for its consumption.
It can be take in two ways: with or without a loading phase. Both will produce the same result, but if we choose the first option, the effects may appear earlier.
Therefore, we will often see a loading phase be recommend, consuming 20g/day for 5-7 days followed by a maintenance intake of 3-5g/kg, or otherwise an intake of around 5-7g/day with no loading phase.
Creatine loading phase
- For the loading phase we recommend distributing the doses throughout the day, around 4 servings of approximately 5g, for a period of 5 to 7 days.
- If you prefer not to do the loading phase, an approximate dose of 0,1g of creatine per Xkg of body weight can be taken directly from the first day.
This will continue for around 3-4 weeks, where we will reduce the quantity to between 5-10g, taking the doses throughout the day, or only once, if in this case there is no stomach discomfort or similar problems. If this option works well, it can be combined perfectly with a post training protein shake.
When should you do a loading phase?
A loading phase can be done if we are not currently taking creatine but are planning a competitive event in a relatively short period of time and are looking to be in peak condition.
Glutamine and Creatine
Creatine can be taken together with glutamine, if you are already using it post-workout, or at any other time (this can be added to the maintenance dose).
BCAAs and Creatine
Creatine can be taken at the same time as BCAAs.
Can creatine and protein be taken simultaneously?
Creatine is mainly found in red meat and some types of fish. This means that creatine is always found in combination with protein in nature. Therefore the theory that creatine has no effect if taken together with protein is therefore completely unsustainable.
On the contrary: creatine needs a high quality protein in order to better build muscle. This is due to the fact that creatine acts exclusively as a spark, while protein on the other hand, provides the material needed for the construction of the muscle. The simultaneous intake of creatine and protein increases the effects of the two and produces a rapid development of muscle, as well as the hardness and strength of the same.
Does creatine cause liquid retention under the skin?
Muscle is mainly composed of water and protein. Therefore, muscle growth is only possible through an increase in the retention of water and protein. Sometimes, when there is rapid muscle growth, muscle cells only "swell".
However creatine increases the muscles' ability to store more water in its cells. The great advantage of this is that, in addition to the liquid, more protein will also be stored, thereby increasing muscle mass.
Unfortunately, the misconception that creatine also stores water outside of the muscle itself still persists, but this is not correct. On the contrary, it collects more water inside the muscle cells, which gives an appearance of greater hardness and volume.
Anyone who notices that their muscles have become soft and watery should look for other reasons, such as diet, since the cause will not be due to the consumption of creatine. It may be that by training this individual has a greater appetite and is eating more carbohydrates without realising it. In this case carrying a diet journal to check the reasons for fluid retention is recommended.
Can I lose muscle mass if I stop taking creatine?
Creatine absorbs more water while at the same time transporting proteins (amino acids) to the muscle cells. Therefore, it stimulates protein synthesis and muscle development. If one stops consuming creatine, the muscle may lose protein and stored water over time.
But in no case would you lose all the acquired muscle mass, which remains in place as a result of the intensive training that you have been doing.
The only requirement is that you continue eating properly and training on a regular basis. This way you can continue increasing and/or maintaining your muscle mass, despite the fact that you may have interrupted the consumption of creatine.
Where can I buy creatine online?
It is usually purchased in sports nutrition stores. Or you can but it at HSNstore.com, where we have a wide range of quality and prices.
This is the best online store there is when it comes to creatine monohydrate*, alkaline, ethyl ester malate, gluconate, etc.
* If you want a quality creatine monohydrate, make sure that the product has the Creapure® seal. This seal certifies the quality, purity and pharmaceutical grade of the product, ensuring that it has been manufactured under pharmaceutical quality standards, such as the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) procedure.
As can be seen in this study, provided we are not suffering from any kidney-related pathology, and only with high-quantity applications (3-5 g). However always consult your doctor if there is any doubt.
During the supplementation period increasing the intake of fluids is recommended.
Who can take creatine?
Creatine can help athletes who are looking for maximum explosiveness in their sport and who require a continuous supply of phosphocreatine energy substrate.
These activities may include weight training, skiing, football, sprinting, CrossFit, team sports, athletics and various contact sports.
After just one week of taking creatine one feels an impressive effect on muscle, as well as an increase in strength and athletic performance.
Also, anyone who is training and looking for an improvement in their physical capacities can enjoy the benefits of creatine, which is a safe product.