CREATINE: The Quick Report on How to Optimize Its Use
Maybe the most widely-studied supplement that exists, creatine has been around for decades. And since there is a plethora of research already out there confirming its benefits and debunking its myths, I just want to supply you with an outline of how it works and some tips on optimizing your supplementation of it.
What It Is
Creatine is synthesized from the amino acids, arginine and glycine, in the liver and kidneys (and to a lesser extent in the pancreas). It is converted to PHOSPHOcreatine and stored as energy, primarily in skeletal muscle.
Why It’s Needed
Anaerobic activity like sprinting and weightlifting, where the activity lasts for merely seconds, relies solely on ATP (Adenosine TRIphosphate). During these bursts of about 3-10 seconds of intense work, ATP breaks down to ADP (Adenosine DIphosphate), which cannot be used as energy. So it must be converted back to ATP.
Creatine lends a phosphate molecule back to recycle the ADP into ATP (from di- to tri-), to improve power, strength, energy, etc.
How It’s Used
ATP is the energy currency in our body for many cellular reactions, not just skeletal muscle contraction and athletic performance. The majority of chemical reactions in the body require some sort of catalyst to induce that reaction.
Other functions requiring ATP:
Also, low ATP production has been linked to psychological dysfunction like bipolar disorder, as well as post-partum depression. It takes a lot of energy to make a baby, which can cause depleted ATP stores.
So as you can see, many uses for creatine outside of athletic performance.
How To Take It
It’s common hear the recommendation for a creatine “loading phase” for 7-10 days. Loading is not necessarily necessary. It may have evolved from old school bro science, back when creatine quality was not very good. Assuming you’re eating enough red meat and seafood, you’re probably getting pretty close to the recommended 2g daily dose.
To help ensure that you replenish everything you use, 3-5g daily should be enough for most athletes to maintain a full tank.
Best time to use it: post-workout
Before you train, your cells are replete (full) of ATP stores. So throwing it in pre-workout will likely contribute to EXTRA-CELLULAR water, rather than INTRA-CELLULAR water (getting into the cells). But after you’ve trained, and used up a lot of the ATP, your cells are craving it and will take it up easily and quickly, even without carbs present.
That is an optimal use for it. Depletion and reloading, just like with many nutrients.
What Type To Get
Look for the Creapure seal on the label. Creapure is 99% pure creatine monohydrate, which is about 88% creatine. Other forms provide around 50-60% creatine, based on what carrier it’s bound to.
Although, anecdotally it has been reported to be beneficial to cycle through different forms, due to the potential adaptation to one type.
Regardless, if you experience any gastric discomfort from taking it, that is likely due to poor quality fillers and excipients in the product.
Should Women Use It?
Poor quality creatine can cause subcutaneous water retention (holding water under the skin). Good quality creatine will hold more water intramuscularly, which is great for performance and increased lean mass. More muscle mass means higher metabolic rate.
So, aside from a slight increase in scale weight (which may be a blow to a woman’s psyche), and considering all the aforementioned benefits, women have just as much use for it as men.
Creatine is shown to be safe and effective. It’s benefits include: increased lean body mass, improved hydration, improved performance in strength/power/speed, better cognitive function, improved mood, and more.
Suggested dose is 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate post-workout, for maintenance.
As always, consult your doctor before taking any supplement, if you have health considerations that supersede these recommendations.
By: Elliott Schackne, firstname.lastname@example.org