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Articles > Bodybuilding Supplements > Creatine Monohydrate
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What Is Creatine Monohydrate? Creatine is a metabolite of the ATP-CP energy system of your body. It serves as an energy reserve in muscle cells. Creatine is found in the body and is synthesized in the liver and the pancreas by the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine. It is also found in red meat, but in low concentrations. Two pounds of uncooked red meat contains only four grams of creatine and cooking the meat lowers the creatine level even more.

Creatine monohydrate is a supplement used by many exercise enthusiasts such as bodybuilders, weight lifters and sprinters. Numerous studies and research have suggested that creatine monohydrate (CM) supplementation has had positive effects on the subjects using it. Its use as an ergogenic aid is very promising. In the following paragraphs, you will learn what the current research is saying and what the recommendations for its use as an ergogenic aid are.

How Does Creatine Monohydrate Work? CM is a precursor to creatine phosphate (CP). Creatine phosphate does not work as a supplement (unless injected intramuscularly) because it would be broken down into amino acids long before it reaches muscle tissue. Thus, by taking CM, CP levels in muscle tissue is maximized, and more work can be performed.

In order to understand how creatine monohydrate works, we must first have an understanding on how the energy systems of the body work. When you need to perform work, the three different energy systems of your body assist each other in the production of energy (ATP). This interaction ensures that the systems are efficient in providing a continued supply of energy for your body. The energy system that your body will primarily use will be determined by the type, intensity and duration of the activity.

Immediate energy (Anaerobic): The ATP-CP energy system of the body is responsible for providing immediate energy for the body. Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) is the usable form of energy created by the body. When ATP loses a high energy phosphate molecule, energy is produced so you can perform work and Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP) is formed as a result. The phosphate molecule joins together with creatine to form CP, and restores the missing phosphate molecule on ADP allowing the muscle to form more ATP and continue working. This cycle continually repeats itself as long as the work performed is of short duration and high intensity. When CM is taken as a supplement, it is stored in the muscle tissue where it can be used to bond with phosphate molecules and form CP. CP in turn, is used to provide explosive energy for the muscles: {ADP+CP-->ATP}.

Short Term Energy (Anaerobic): The breakdown of muscle glycogen is known as anaerobic glycolysis. The Lactic Acid system will start to replenish ATP once the performance by the ATP-CP system can no longer provide energy due to an increase in the duration of the activity. Glycolysis allows the muscle to continue to perform work, but there are limitations. Lactic acid is produced as an end product of this process which slows down the rate at which muscle glycogen can be broken down and interferes with muscular contractions.

Long Term Energy (Aerobic): The Aerobic System takes over and produces ATP when activities last approximately three minutes or longer. A variety of fuels are used to produce ATP which include muscle glycogen and body fat. Body fat will only oxidize (burn) in the presence of oxygen. So don't forget to do your cardio if you want to decrease your body fat!

Benefits Of CM Supplementation

Increases storage of anaerobic energy: Creatine monohydrate increases the amount of CP which helps the body to convert ADP into ATP so your muscles can perform more work. It also increases your muscular strength and power.

Increases muscle protein synthesis: This is very important if muscular gains are one of your goals. I recommend stacking a "cross flow micro-filtered" whey protein in addition to free form amino acids while taking CM to maximize your growth potential. Natural bodybuilders have to supply their bodies with the right kind of raw materials if they expect it to grow. I suggest taking one to two grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight in addition to one 500 mg. capsule of free form amino acids per 20 pounds of bodyweight to facilitate growth. Protein requirements for individuals vary dependent on the training intensity, frequency, duration and type of activity. For example, a 200 pound person would have to ingest approximately 91- 182 grams of protein and 10 free form amino acid capsules throughout the day. This will ensure you are getting enough protein to build muscle, maintain a positive nitrogen balance and stay anabolic.

Increases cellular hydration: When CM is transported into the muscle cells, it requires water if you want it to perform maximally. The fluid retention in the muscles is what gives them that "pumped" look and feel. You should drink 10 to 12 eight ounce glasses of water every day while on creatine monohydrate (it's a good idea to drink that much even when you are not on CM).

Accelerates CP resynthesis during recovery: By increasing your muscles recovery time, they will be able to grow at an accelerated rate given you are providing them with the proper nutrients.

Reduces the amount of ammonia, lactic acid & hydrogen ions formed in the blood: By reducing the amount of by-products formed in your body, you can train longer and harder thereby maximizing your growth potential.

What Type Of Creatine Should I Be Using? You should purchase the creatine that was used in the scientific studies; pure CREATINE MONOHYDRATE in powder form. Some companies add certain ingredients to CM (sugars, vitamins, amino acids, etc.) and claim it makes it work "better". This is totally false and purely a marketing strategy to make you buy their product! Don't waste your money on fancy packaging and terminology! Buy the cheapest you can find - as long as the purity is good. You should be paying about 10 cents per gram for creatine monohydrate (take the price that you bought it for and divide it by the number of grams in the bottle).

What Should I Take With CM To Maximize Results? CM should be taken with high glycemic index foods and/or drinks (baked potato, carrot or grape juice) to "spike" insulin levels. This has shown to be an effective way of getting CM to penetrate the muscle cells faster. Avoid taking creatine monohydrate with citrus juices as they will convert CM into an unusable by-product called creatinine. Caffeine consumption should be avoided while taking the cycle of CM as it inhibits the absorption of this metabolite. You should drink 10 to 12 eight ounce glasses of water every day to allow for maximum performance of CM. Protein intake should be one to two grams per kilogram of body weight.

Dosage and Administration (For Best Results, Follow These Guidelines)

Creatine Loading Phase: Take 5 grams of creatine monohydrate four times a day (every three hours) for five days (20 gms./day).
Creatine Maintenance Phase: Take 2 grams of creatine monohydrate thereafter for a total cycle of eight weeks. After the eight week period, you can stop taking it for two weeks or you can re-start the loading phase again.
Note: Any additional amounts of CM that is taken during the cycle will not be absorbed by your muscles, so do not waste your money!
Miscellaneous: Always check with your physician before taking any supplements or starting an exercise program. No negative side effects or toxicity levels have been associated with CM supplementation. Many people have reported gains of six to ten pounds while using CM correctly. Creatine is converted by the kidneys into a by-product called creatinine which is then removed from the body. Blood and other medical tests may show elevated levels of creatinine which normally indicates a kidney problem. Elevated creatinine levels is a harmless side effect of CM supplementation.

In Conclusion

Current research shows that CM supplementation can provide immediate significant performance improvements to athletes involved in high intensity, short duration activities (weight training, shot put, sprinting, etc.). CM has shown to delay the onset of fatigue which in turn can provide higher intensity workouts. I feel this supplement can be used effectively by every athlete to increase their sport performance.

Weight training is an integral part of an athletes success in his/her sport. All competitive athletes should be lifting weights to complement their sport of choice. For most athletes, the gym is where their strength and power gains will be attained and this is where CM proves to be most practical and effective as an ergogenic aid. If you are looking for added strength, power and performance, CM is for you! Good luck, train hard, and stay drug free!

By Dave Fero, Exercise Physiologist, C.P.T., C.F.C.


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