Creatine is a natural constituent of meat (mostly red meat) that was discovered in 1835. Creatine is produced naturally in the body from the amino acids: Glycine, Arginine & Methionine.
This process takes place in the kidneys, pancreas & liver. Around 60% of the body’s creatine stores are stored in the form of Creatine Phosphate (CP), with the remaining 40% being stored as Free Creatine (Cr). The average male adult processes approximately 2 grams of creatine per day, & replenishes this store again through dietary intake.
Creatine is used primarily for the resynthesis of ATP. Adenosine Triphosphate is the force that drives muscular energetics. When a muscle is required to contract, the bonds in the ATP molecule are split, yielding ADP (adenosine-diphosphate). The energy released by breaking this bond powers the contraction of the muscle. When ATP is depleted within the cell, the cell can no longer contract. There are several methods by which the body rebuilds ATP.
Creatine supplementation increases levels of Free Creatine, Creatine Phosphate within the muscle, allowing further capacity to regenerate ATP. Essentially, the creatine enhances the ability of the muscle to maintain power output during brief periods of high-intensity exercise. So this means the muscle is able to contract more efficiently & tolerate workloads faster, as ATP is replenished much quicker.
Creatine supplementation directly increase intramuscular creatine stores in the body. It is known that CP is used to replenish ATP, & that the amount of CP naturally present is well below the maximum amount of CP that the body can store. Increasing dietary creatine allows the maximum amount of CP storage to be reached, which in turn provides more capacity to regenerate ATP. An interesting effect of creatine supplementation appears to be enhanced ability for the muscle to store glycogen.
If creatine does indeed increase the amount of glycogen storage achievable through super compensation it stands to reason that a well-timed creatine cycle in conjunction with carb-loading will not only create incredible muscle fullness, but also potentially create an environment suited to optimal muscle growth. It should be noted that the super compensation was most pronounced when performed following a period of creatine supplementation, not during the initial period of supplementation itself.
Creatine has a very specific effect with very specific training protocols. Arbitrarily adding creatine supplementation without considering training is a huge mistake. Most studies show that a single bout of maximal or sub-maximal effort is not sufficient to elicit a response from creatine supplementation. Creatine has been shown to delay the onset of muscular fatigue during repeated bouts of work A single bout of work appears to have no improvement with creatine supplementation.
This is more than likely due to the role that creatine plays with ATP resynthesis. A single bout of work will deplete ATP stores, yet it is the regeneration of ATP that creatine supplementation affects. Creatine also increases the amount of time that maximal output can be performed for example, it may increase the duration of a heavy lift, which means more repetitions at the same weight.
How Much Should I Take?
Your creatine dosage should be divided into 3 phases namely loading phase,maintenance phase & wash out phase.
Loading Phase: Most of the manufacture’s & health practitioners recommend a loading dose till at least 5 days before you start to take creatine so that your muscles completely saturate with creatine. This loading dose ranges no more than 20 to 30 grams per day, or you can also calculate the dose otherwise – according to your body weight (you should take around 0.3 grams of creatine/kilogram of your body weight). This dosage should be divided into 3 to 4 daily dosages.
During the loading phase, it is very important to eat lots of carbohydrates because this will help you to utilize most of the creatine that you eat, otherwise much of creatine will be just wasted & just expelled out during excretion & urine.
If you are preparing yourself for an athletic event then you should start taking creatine several weeks before that athletic event has to occur.
Maintenance Phase: After the initial loading phase, here comes the maintenance phase. A maintenance dose of 2 – 5 grams of creatine per day is recommended which is required for the maintenance of the level of saturation within the muscles. The maintenance dosage is just needed to replace the amount of creatine that has degraded the whole day.
Most of the doctors recommend that the maintenance phase should last for no more than 1 month. Normally, for most of the weight lifters after 1 month there are no extra benefits of taking creatine. After 1 month all the creatine you eat just goes waste. The weight & muscle benefits which you have gained in that 1 month can be easily maintained through training. Many people do cycling i.e. they creatine for 1 month, then going off for several months, & then again start taking it back. Right now, nobody is sure how long is it safe to take it.
Wash Out Phase: After the loading & maintenance phases are over, wash out phase is recommended. Wash out phase is recommended so that your body recovers from the abnormally high creatine levels often associated with creatine supplementation. Most sport practitioners advice a wash out phase of 1 month.
Is Creatine Safe?
The majority of studies indicate that supplementation with creatine for prolonged periods of time using large doses are safe. One study concluded that supplementation from nine (9) weeks up to five (5) years did not adversely affect renal function . Yet another study examined muscle damage, hepatic (liver) & renal (kidney) function, & found no adverse effects from creatine supplementation.
There is potential cause for concern, however. The by-product of creatine use in the muscle is creatinine. Creatinine is typically harmless, & is flushed by the kidneys. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, however, any type of excess strain can cause problems. Creatinine levels are typically used to monitor kidney function, & creatine supplementation will raise these levels. A study done on animals with existing kidney problems showed that creatine supplementation aggravated & increased the acuteness of these conditions. Therefore, creatine supplementation may not be wise for individuals with renal disease or dysfunction.
The largest safety concern with creatine is most likely the quality of the product. Creatine is manufactured from sarcosine & cyanamide. During the production of creatine, contaminants such as dicyandiamide, dihydrotriazines, creatinine, & various ions are produced. Supplementation with large doses for prolonged periods of time with a product that has not been sufficiently screened for contaminants could be cause for concern. Finding a reputable company that provides quality creatine product is very important when considering creatine supplementation.
[box style=”note”]Women who are pregnant or nursing, individuals with kidney disease, individuals with any known kidney condition, people with liver complications, and diabetics should consult their doctor before taking creatine.[/box]