What Is Creatine?
The compound creatine is a naturally occurring organic acid; it’s found in red meat and fish. This fact alone doesn’t mean it’s safe; but, it is reassuring to know that it’s not a wild concoction of a mad scientist.
Besides what we eat, creatine is synthesized (i.e., built by combining the raw materials) in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys; but, the 1-2 grams made daily in our bodies may be lessened if the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine are in short supply or if the demand for them to form proteins is high.
Supplements can be made from creatine extracted from natural sources or synthesized in a laboratory. Creatine sells in a variety of forms, including creatine monohydrate, creatine ethyl ester, and creatine malate. All of them serve the same purpose but differ in price, dosage, and ease of absorption. “Creatine,” for example, is essentially the same as “creatine monohydrate” (creatine plus a water molecule) for the person consuming. Your digestive tract will discard the water molecule.
What Does Creatine Do?
Many people properly training with weights have experienced significant body-weight gain after just a few weeks when supplementing their dietary creatine intake.
Creatine increases muscle cell volume by drawing water into those cells, making them larger. So, part of the weight gain comes from your body holding water although, strictly speaking, it’s not “bloating” because creatine’s water-retentive action is intracellular (i.e., water within cells) not intercellular (i.e., water between cells).
When creatine enters muscle, it combines with phosphorus to make creatine phosphate (CP), also known as phosphocreatine. CP can be stored in the muscle until it’s used to help in cellular energy production by rebuilding the ultimate energy source for fast-twitch muscle fiber, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) from adenosine diphosphate (ADP). Since it’s really only helping out your fast-twitch muscle, creatine is not going to make a difference for those endurance-oriented folks in the world of fitness – like a marathon runner. While CP does help with the transfer of energy in the muscle cells, enhancing aerobic performance a little, creatine’s main benefit is in supporting brief, high-intensity activity.
Simply put, you go into the gym, move more weight, and don’t get as tired. And, as you may already understand, this is the other part of weight gain associated with creatine: it’s contributing to a state of affairs in which you’re stimulating muscle to grow in terms of contractile proteins.
Is Creatine Safe?
Valid, rigorous studies following scientific methodology, in addition to the experience of professional and amateur users alike, for the past 20 years or so, have proven creatine to be effective and relatively safe in promoting strength, power, and muscle mass while simultaneously decreasing the time it take to recover from a strenuous workout.
The only drawback seems to be increased muscle cramping due to the water retention changes.
Currently, there’s no proof that excess creatine stresses the kidneys, although a future, independent, large scale, scientific study may reveal otherwise.[stextbox id=”grey” caption=”About the Author”]Michael Chapdelaine is a professional writer and a drug free, health-conscious athlete. He is both an equipped and a raw powerlifter who has competed in the American Powerlifting Federation (APF), United States Powerlifting Federation (USPF), and with USA Powerlifting (USAPL). Michael has qualified for and competed in national and international events such as the 2010 Raw Nationals, the 2011 Arnold Raw Challenge, and the 2011 State Games of America.[/stextbox]