Creatine is scientifically proven to increase strength, endurance, and muscle mass and hence is one of the most popular sports supplements used by athletes and weightlifters. Creatine has proven to be most effective in high-intensity training and other explosive activities such as weight training and endurance sports such as sprinting, football, and baseball.
It is also known to increase leg power during cycling and provide greater strength on the bench press and squat press. However, despite the many benefits of creatine it is often misunderstood as being unsafe and dangerous. But the most it can actually do is give you a bad case of the cramps! Read on to know more about this incredible supplement.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a nitrogen-containing organic compound, that is naturally produced in the human body. It is present predominantly in the liver but can also be found in smaller amounts in the kidneys and pancreas.
1-2 g of creatine is produced in the body on a daily basis using glycine, arginine and methionine, which are amino acids-the building blocks of energy. Almost 98% of it is stored in the skeletal muscle, and the remaining 2% can be found in the heart, brain, and testes.
Creatine can also be obtained through diet, with the average person consuming a measly 1 g through animal sources such as fish and meat. But you will need quite a lot of herring and beef to meet your body’s requirements of creatine when you are on intensive training.
How does it work?
Creatine is used to regenerate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which are your body’s main source of energy. When the creatine reserves in your body are less or completely depleted, your energy levels will drastically fall, decreasing the amount of reps you perform. Using a creatine supplement increase the fuel to power up the ATP, which will thereby increase muscle strength, size and output.
Simply put, if you can lift more than your regular lifting capacity in terms of an extra 2 reps or 5 more pounds, then obviously your muscles will get bigger and stronger. Weight gain using creatine is assured, without any doubts. Since it is an osmotically active substance, it has the ability to pull water into your muscle cells, which speeds up the protein synthesis and increase in muscle fibres.
However a word of caution to those who are looking at creatine as a shortcut to fitness, the supplement only works when you combine it with intensive training because otherwise it will simply add up as water weight.
How to take it?
The quantity of consuming creatine is a point of debate amongst many athletes and trainers. Many use the technique of ‘loading’; whereby you start taking 20 g of creatine in split doses during the initial 5-7 days. After this loading phase you cut down your creatine intake to 3-5 g per day.The idea of loading creatine is to saturate the muscle cells with creatine resulting in faster results.
The second method is simply supplementing starting with 3-5 g of creatine without the initial loading phase. Choosing this method will give you the same results as the first technique, but it will take longer to experience the full benefits.
However, many trainers suggest a third method altogether.‘Cycling’ creatine is a method that is suggested by many trainers and requires one to go on and off the creatine every few weeks. They claim that this will maximize your results and allows your body to take a break from regular creatine use. But the truth is, cycling creatine will not give you any added benefits over not cycling it at all.
When to take it?
The best time to take creatine is before your workout. As we know, the main purpose of using creatine is to boost your body’s energy levels. This additional energy activates more muscle fibers and increases your ability to lift more weights and eventually gain muscle mass.
It is recommended to take creatine in its powdered form and not in any liquid state, as it breaks down in your blood system and doesn’t get utilized to it’s fullest. Mix it with a glass of fruit juice, as the sugar in the juice raises insulin levels, while helps to increase creatine uptake into the muscles.
What is the downside?
While many believe that creatine use leads to kidney issues, it has been widely proven that creatine supplementation has no-side effects within research. However there have been many reports about users experiencing gastrointestinal discomfort and cramps.
Some of these conditions could be attributed to the synonymous use of vitamin and mineral supplements along with the creatine. Though the usage of creatine has not proven to be linked to kidney problems, it is recommended to use creatine only if you have a healthy set of kidneys; as like all proteins creatine too is excreted through the kidneys in the form of byproduct, creatinine.
At the end of the day, creatine works! Bodybuilders swear by it and so do athletes. It is nothing more than a nutritional supplement that shows significant results and is a must if you are going to put your body through strenuous training. But in the end, creatine alone will not make you a bigger man or woman. Only when combined with exercise and a clean diet, will you see creatine working to give you muscle gain and a stronger body.