Most of you have taken Creatine or know of someone that has a preworkout that contains the most researched supplement on the market (next to protein)...
Creatine in itself comes in different varieties and can produce different results per individual. Throughout this article I’ll give you a very brief overview/science, different types/dosing protocols, athletic impact, and health/precautions.
Why Creatine and how can we benefit from one of the most researched sport supplements on the market?
Creatine is actually a natural occurring amino acid that’s found in red meat and fish, but we’d have to eat a huge amount of food to reach the recommend daily dosage (to be discussed a bit later). Creatine is actually produced in the human body within the kidneys, pancreas, and liver. As you can see, these organs are very critical within the human body for day-to-day functionality. Upon the conversion of creatine within our body it then becomes phosphocreatine. At that point, phosphocreatine (aka creatine phosphate) is deposited in the muscles to be used for energy. You would think at this point, creatine phosphate would be the last step in the process for the muscles to utilize this amino acid… but it’s not. The human body during short duration sports and high-intensity activities such as weight lifting and sprinting, covert the creatine phosphate into ATP (adenosine triphoshate). ATP is a major source of energy that the human body uses to function with movement and there could be a whole other write-up on ATP alone.
Creatine is by far one of the most popular and base products used by the sport supplement industry. Typically you’ll find anyone interested in body building or competitive athletics, benefiting from the use of one of the many different forms of creatine. Not only is it a very attractive product because of the years of research, but depending on what form of the raw ingredient you purchase… the cost is very reasonable. If your body responds to creatine like most, you can experience the following: strength, lean muscle mass, enhanced athletic performance, and water retention in the muscle allowing for an overall muscle fullness, just to name a few. It’s estimated that creatine purchased in America last year in its raw form (not added within a multiple ingredient preworkout) averaged $14 million in 2011.
What type of creatine to purchase?
Google “creatine” and within 0.13 seconds you’ll get a return of about 19,400,000 based around creatine as a raw ingredient to every pre-workout that contains it. So, how do you determine what creatine to purchase when you can select from the following: kre-alkalyn, creatine phosphate, creatine malate, creatine ester, creatine citrate, creatine monohydrate (creapure). Rather than go into to much detail on all of them, let’s just cover Creatine Monohydrate.
Creatine Monohydrate has been the foundation and most researched form of creatine. Creatine Monohydrate has a proven history to give results, has been clinically tested, and is the reason that most sport supplement companies are getting back to carrying it in their product line. Let’s face it, if you want something that has been truly put through the test and gives results at a very reasonable price, then creatine monohydrate is the route to go. This creatine can come in many different forms such as the following: powder, liquids, tablets, capsules, energy bars, fruit flavored chews, pre/post workout, and proprietary blends. To make sure you’re getting the recommended daily dose, I highly recommend purchasing the powder or capsule. This will allow you to gauge the exact amount, should you plan to take part in the “loading phase” (high dose for about 7 days – 4x a day, 5g servings) or keep a consistent 5g (grams) a day. You’ll also see more advanced users of creatine using 5-10 grams per day and achieving better recovery depending on the workload they put their body through. Standard protocol is 5g per day.
According to www.creapure.com these are the dosing recommendations:
“With normal activity, 2 to 4 g of creatine are used per day. Depending how physically and mentally active an individual is, this requirement can increase to 5 g per day. The body produces half of the creatine needed daily, and the rest needs to be ingested through food. Depending on the individual’s lifestyle and diet, a recommendation of 3 g per day could make sense.
Creatine should always be taken with caffeine-free beverages, such as water, fruit juice or warm tea (which improves solubility). Make sure you take the creatine with enough fluids (rule of thumb: 1 g creatine/100 mL fluids).
The creatine drink should always be prepared fresh and consumed on the same day since creatine does not stay stable for long in liquids.”
I’m a firm believer in that you really need to test the dosing, as not everyone will respond to supplements at the suggested dose per person. As for myself, I like to use 5g with my pre-workout drink and 5g post-workout (both containing some form of carbohydrates) only on workout days. My theory behind this is that creatine will assist with pulling other nutrients into the muscles at a higher rate, than just by themselves. I also like to use it for about 6 weeks on and then 4 weeks off, just to give my body a break and not adapt to the use of creatine. You’ll see all over the fitness forums that there’s no need to cycle on or off creatine, but I’ve found it to be a good practice for any supplement that you are consuming. I even use this method with my protein powder products twice a year. The trick to any fitness/supplementation plan is knowing your body and learning what works best for your fitness level.
What are the overall health benefits or possible precautions?
Like any item you may purchase over the counter or that’s passed by the FDA, there are always benefits and precautions. The American life style of eating can have a major impact on heart disease and other conditions that creatine can help reverse.
Heart Disease - In a preliminary clinical study, it was noted that patients supplementing with creatine had lowered their triglycerides (fats in the blood) over a period of time. Patients that have been dealing with heart failure, found an increase in the amount of exercise they could perform before reaching exhaustion. During another clinical study patient suffering from high levels of homocysteine (associated with stroke & heart attacks) took part in using creatine to lower these levels over a period of time. As you can see, creatine assists with helping the main muscle that keeps everything functioning in our body.
Muscular Dystrophy – Scientific studies show that people with muscular dystrophy have lower levels of creatine in their bodies. Supplementing with creatine has shown some increase in muscle development, but this is still an on going process to assist these individuals.
The two areas above are just a scratch of the surface that creatine has an impact on related to critical health related issues. Creatine… even at its very low cost and simplest raw form (Creatine Monohydrate), can impact the human body in many positive ways. There are some precautions that you want to consider with any supplement or drug that you may ingest to counter act a result you desire.
Possible Side Effects:
Muscle cramps, muscle strain/pull, weight gain, upset stomach, bloat, diarrhea, dizziness, high blood pressure, liver dysfunction, possible kidney damage (Rhabdomyolysis), shut down bodies natural creatine storage, irregular heartbeat and skin conditions.
Possible Interactions with other medications/supplements: Be careful when you’re taken NSAIDs & Naproxen pain relievers while on creatine (Motrin, Advil, & Aleve). These items have a huge impact on the kidneys and with ingesting creatine will just put more strain on them.
I never understood why company’s had creatine and caffeine in the same pre-workout. In theory it sounds like a great concept to give you the energy to workout, have the creatine to give you that pull of nutrition into the muscles… but caffeine is a diuretic. Using the two in conjunction with not enough water in your food plan, may increase the risk of dehydration. Same effects hold true for diuretic pills taken by some body builders before shows. Their body is already at a state of depletion and using any form of diuretics and creatine can run the risk of dehydration and kidney damage.
In closing, creatine monohydrate is one of the most researched sport supplements in the industry. Research ranges from its impact on patient recovery within the health system to athletes pursuing the ultimate dream. Like any supplement or FDA approved product, there’s always a list of pro’s and con’s that are associated with whatever that item maybe. If you’re new to using sport supplements, creatine monohydrate should be a staple product to start off with. This is a proven supplement to give results and when following a proper fitness plan, you’ll exceed your expectations.
Be smart about your health, do some research, and always consult with a health care profession before taken part in any sport supplementation and/or fitness plan.