Athletes could possibly gain benefits by being able to train longer at a higher exercise intensity when using creatine supplements. Creatine is a powerful ergogenic aid that plays an important role in energizing the muscle and may be of greatest benefit to individuals involved in repeated short burst sprints. A deficiency of phosphocreatine in the muscle is likely to limit the athletes performance.
Creatine is currently not listed as a banned substances by any international sporting federation and, because it is a naturally occurring constituent of a normal diet, it is unlikely to become a banned substance.
What is creatine?
It is incorrect to classify it as a drug. Creatine, or methylguanidine-acetic acid, is an amino acid made in your body and stored in your muscles. It is made from arginine and glycine by the liver and the pancreas. It is also found in meat, milk and fish. For a 154 pound man, the total body creatine content is approximately 120 grams, 98 % of which is found in skeletal muscle in the form of creatine phosphate. Vegetarians seem to have a lower level of body creatine.
What does creatine do?
The energy that you burn is called Adenosine Triphosphate, ATP. ATP is stored in the mitochondria of muscle cells and produces energy when your body changes the molecule to ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate). Therefore, muscle fatigue occurs when the supply of ATP runs low. Since the body has a relatively low supply of ATP, it needs to convert the ADP back into ATP. Creatine Monohydrate helps the body to convert ADP to ATP thus providing more energy to the muscles. Using that fuel more efficiently speeds up the muscle recovery rate and delays fatigue.
How much creatine do you need?
Studies have demonstrated a positive effect on performance with an intake of 20 grams of creatine daily for 5 days (5 grams fed four times daily). This has been proven to be effective in increasing creatine levels in the muscle and the amount of work that can be performed by healthy individuals during repeated bouts of exercise. Most of the creatine supplement products recommend taking ten times that amount for the first week or so to saturate your muscles. However, human muscle appears to have an upper limit of creatine storage. Individuals with low creatine stores prior to creatine ingestion appear to achieve the most pronounced increases of muscle creatine following creatine intake. Creatine will be of little benefit to someone with an already high concentration of muscle creatine or to an individual taking high doses of creatine for many weeks. Creatine ingestion will not increase muscle stores of this compound beyond the normal natural limit. Ingestion of larger doses will without question be a waste of money.
How is creatine taken?
Creatine is available commercially in powder and tablet forms. Although it is now being added to drinks, energy bars and chewing gum. It is recommend to dissolve 5 grams of creatine in approximately 250 milliliters of a beverage 4 times daily (early morning, noon, afternoon, and evening) for a period of 5 days (i.e., 20 grams/day). Taking the creatine with 100 grams of carbohydrate, such as juice, can enhance uptake by the muscles due to the insulin release.
How do you maintain creatine levels?
Recent evidence shows that muscle creatine stores can be maintained at a high level if the regimen of 20 grams/day for 5 days is followed by continued supplementation at the lower dose of 2 grams/day. Ingestion of 3 grams/day for 14 days without a prior 5 day regimen of 20 grams daily seems to be less effective at raising muscle creatine stores.
Can you take too much creatine?
The available literature indicates that once creatine is taken up by muscle, it is “trapped” within the muscle tissue. It is estimated that muscle creatine stores will decline very slowly following creatine intake and will still be elevated 2-3 months after the intake of 20 grams/day for 5 days. These estimates are based on measurements of muscle creatinine excretion, which is known to be increased following creatine ingestion.
What are other side effects of creatine?
Weight gain and the possibility of dehydration is an issue when taking creatine. Some athletic trainers see an increase in muscle cramping and muscle injury.
Is creatine safe?
It is unknown what long term effects the extra creatine will have since studies on creatine supplementation have only been going on for less than a decade. It appears this far that ingestion of 20 grams of creatine/day for 5 days is of minimal risk to normal healthy individuals.
It is always important to remember that purity is always an issue with any dietary supplements.