Creatine

Last updated on September 25th, 2018
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What is Creatine?

Creatine is a nitrogen-containing carboxylic acid, responsible for energy metabolism in muscle and nervous cells. Creatine is a very popular sports supplement, as it increases muscle strength and anaerobic endurance. This sports supplement is widely used in modern bodybuilding all over the world.

When scientists first discovered creatine, they thought that creatinine (substance found in urine) was excreted due to accumulation of creatine in the muscles. Later, they conducted some studies, during which creatine was used as a dietary supplement. According the results, some part of creatine was delayed in muscle, the other – excreted with urine.

In 1993, scientist found out that creatine might cause a significant weight gain and muscle strength. They recorded that namely creatine caused an improvement in athletic performance, especially during high-intensity exercises. The most exciting part of it was that creatine had increased the body mass due to building up lean muscle mass, but not due to fat tissue gain.

After these amazing results were published in sports magazines, people began using creatine nearly in all kinds of sports. The first official producer of pure creatine was Experimental and Applied Sciences (EAS).

Later, another popular sports nutrition company (Muscle Tech Research and Development) produced Cell-Tech, containing creatine, alpha-lipoic acid and carbs. Many other companies tried to develop new forms of creatine since then.

Only in 2004, a new type of creatine was synthesized called – Creatine Ethyl Ester or simply CEE. Nowadays, almost everybody is familiar with CEE. Although this type of creatine is widely used in sports, there is no proof that CEE is better and more effective than creatine monohydrate.

Recently, Tri-Creatine Malate and many other forms of creatine have appeared on market of sports nutrition. However, they were not very effective, so have never gained much popularity.

Why do we need Creatine?

Generally, creatine is a natural component our muscles need for energy metabolism. We move because of creatine in our muscles. It was established that human body contains about 140 g of this substance and supplies approximately 2 g of it every day to get the energy for muscles. Creatine, in fact, is as important as fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals for bodies of men and women.

Creatine is produced by several organs: liver, kidneys and pancreas. It is usually synthesized from Arginine, Methionine and Glycine (amino acids). Once these organs produce creatine, it is further delivered to the blood and accumulated in muscles.

Naturally, when we move more or expose our muscles to higher loads, much more creatine is used than usually. Therefore, special diet or sports supplements are required to increase creatine levels in the body, because great sports results depend on the body’s ability to produce more energy within a short period of time.

Who should use Creatine?

Frankly speaking, everybody needs creatine. Athletes, bodybuilders, vegetarians, overweight people, trying to lose extra pounds, or simply people who want to keep their bodies in a good and slim shape.

Sportsmen need creatine because they want to improve their athletic performance and their body needs to get large amount of extra energy all the time due to high physical loads. Creatine is mostly used in sports where athletes need to show greatest results immediately, for instance running, weight lifting, long jump, etc. These kinds of sports require shoots and jerks, followed by relaxation phase. Overall, we may assume that creatine serves as energy booster in a short time.

For bodybuilders, creatine is almost a number one sports supplement, since it helps them exercise within a long time without feeling tired. Those, who do bodybuilding professionally, need to build muscles much faster than those who just want to keep their body in a good shape. Creatine delays the production of lactic acid in the muscles. That is why, bodybuilders can increase their lean muscle mass much faster.

People, who struggle with extra pounds or vegetarians, are at great danger of muscle atrophy. The first ones because they usually do not exercise much and keep a low-calorie diet, the second ones – because they do not consume enough proteins from food. The truth is that our bodies need animal protein (meat) to build up muscles, vegetables cannot provide it. So, vegetarians can use creatine sports supplement to keep their bodies healthy.

Creatine effects

It is known that creatine provides several effects in our body:

  1. Increases energy and strength. When we exercise, our body needs much more ATP (adenosine triphosphate – so-called “energy molecule”) than at rest, especially those groups of muscles that participate in certain exercise. It is clear that our muscles need more ATP, i.e. creatine to be able to continue moving. We can replenish ATP supply by using creatine monohydrate and thus increase the muscles power.
  2. Provides the secretion of anabolic hormones. Two hormones – testosterone and somatotropin are responsible for body recovery and muscle building after heavy workouts. Creatine may increase the secretion of these hormones. Please note that level of somatotropin is increased in an hour or two after you use creatine supplement.
  3. Increases muscle mass. The good thing about creatine is that it helps to build up lean muscles. However, man should exercise and diet regularly. According to data, creatine monohydrate can increase your muscle mass by 10 kg per week. This is just an example, showing maximum efficiency of creatine. Different athletes may have different results, depending on their individual sensitivity to creatine.
  4. Improves the quality of muscles. It has been proven that creatine can improve the muscles sculpting shape. Creatine is bind with molecules of water (hydrating muscles), thereby delivering more water to the muscle cells. Bodybuilders admit: the more water in muscles, the fuller and tighter they look. Moreover, when muscles are well hydrated, our body synthesizes more protein, improving the muscle building.
  5. Suppresses lactic acid. Everybody knows that during an intense workout (anaerobic loads), his muscles produce lactic acid. You know that feeling when muscles become itchy and it seems they cannot make a move anymore. That is lactic acid effect. According to a research made in Louisiana University, creatine can suppress the secretion of lactic acid in muscles.

Other positive effects of creatine on an athlete’s body:

  1. Anti-inflammatory effect.
  2. Is an essential spots supplement for vegetarians.
  3. Reduces levels of very low-density lipoproteins, triglycerides and blood cholesterol.
  4. Protects the central nervous system.
  5. Helps to cure muscle atrophy and neuromuscular disorders.
  6. Improves physical endurance in patients with chronic heart failure.
  7. Suppression of tumors development. Studies show that Creatine can even minimize the risk of cancer tumors.

Creatine and children

As mentioned above, creatine is safe for everybody. However, one question requires an answer: is creatine safe for children?

Firstly, scientists conducted studies of creatine effect on adult men mostly. There is no clear data how creatine affects women, children and elderly people. There are several reasons to assume creatine acts in these three groups of people differently.

Since a child’s body is still developing, doctors and nutritionists recommend them to avoid using creatine sports supplement until the end of their puberty. Not mentioning that there are no obvious reasons for children to take creatine, since they are not recommended to do intense sports, lose weight or any other physical activity that may affect their growing musculoskeletal system, organs, etc.

So, if you don’t want your child to suffer from various disorders when he or she grows up, then protect them from heavy physical exercises and any dietary or sports supplements. Boys and girls have different puberty period. An average age of puberty period in girls is 8 to 17 years; in boys – 10 to 20 years. Because of individual characteristics of the body, it is best to start using creatine when secondary sexual characteristics are fully developed.

The results of studies have shown that the energy boost effect of creatine in women is much lower than in men. The only explanation of that is a high level of testosterone in the male body. However, this does not mean that creatine is useless for women. In fact, creatine helps women to increase their stamina during intensive workouts. If women are able to increase the intensity of physical workouts, they will be able to lose more fat tissue than without creatine. Moreover, if women keep a diet to lose extra weight, creatine will protect their muscle tissue that is affected in starvation mode. This way creatine helps to build up a beautiful body shape.

Elderly people also need creatine. It is no secret that with age, all biological processes slow down, and the amount of essential elements in the body decreases, leading to various disorders. But creatine can delay these undesirable changes. Several studies were conducted, showing great improvement of health and strength in people over 50 years old, who used creatine. But in people of 70 years old and older, creatine was no longer effective for some reason. Perhaps because of the lack of anabolic hormones.

Overall, if elderly people keep exercising even at this age, their body is getting only benefits out of this lifestyle. However, elderly people must avoid high-intensity exercises and keep in mind that creatine can sometimes increase the blood pressure. So, before starting to use creatine these people should check their blood pressure.

References:

Burke, DG; Candow, DG; Chilibeck, PD; MacNeil, LG; Roy, BD; Tarnopolsky, MA; Ziegenfuss, T (2008). “Effect of creatine supplementation and resistance-exercise training on muscle insulin-like growth factor in young adults”. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 18 (4): 389–98

Schedel, J. M., H. Tanaka, A. Kiyonaga, M. Shindo, Y. Schutz
Chen, J.; Wang, M.; Kong, Y.; Ma, H.; Zou, S. (2011). “Comparison of the novel compounds creatine and pyruvateon lipid and protein metabolism in broiler chickens”. Animal 5 (7): 1082–9.

Mayhew, D.L., Mayhew, J.L., & Ware, J.S. (2002). Effects of long-term creatine supplementation on liver and kidney functions in American college football players. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 12, 453-460

 

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