Monday, December 5, 2011

Creatine, the most tried and tested supplement of all time!- Part 1 (What is creatine?)

What is creatine?

Creatine is one of the most popular supplements of all time.  In countless studies creatine has shown the ability to increase muscle mass, increase strength and endurance, increase metabolism, decrease belly fat, and even increase testosterone.  With all the benefits of creatine supplementation the only real question is why aren't you using it to help you achieve your goals?

Creatine is composed naturally in your body out of several amino acids.  The main source of creatine, however is meat, especially red meat.  It is worth note that in studies where vegetarians were observed they had significantly lower levels of creatine than non vegetarians, but after supplementation both groups were equal, making creatine supplementation important for vegetarians.  Of all the creatine in your body over 95% is found in the skeletal muscle.  Creatine is responsible for increasing production of ATP in the muscle cell (the first source of cellular energy);  this leads to an immediate increase in strength and endurance once the muscle cell has been saturated with creatine.  Creatine supplementation has been shown the ability to greatly increase ATP supply of the muscle cell.

A little more on creatine.

Research performed on creatine has repeatedly shown that oral doses of 5-20 grams per day are extremely safe and associated with only very minor side effects like: dry mouth, minor cramping, and stomach upset, and most of these side affects can be mitigated if you use creatine properly.  Creatine should always be taken with at least 8oz of water.  If you are supplementing with creatine you should drink at least 32oz of additional water per day.  When you take creatine it should be COMPLETELY dissolved in water or juice, if there are visible particles of creatine then it can increase stomach upset.  Creatine pulls a tremendous amount of water along with it (which is also one of its benefits), but if particles are left intact and not completely dissolved it can pull additional water into the intestines which can cause gastric upset and diarrhea.

Creatine enters the muscle under several different mechanisms.  Since taking creatine orally elevates plasma levels of creatine it enters the cell through osmosis, where concentrations of less dilute composition move into more dilute areas.  Creatine also enters the muscle cell via insulin transport, this is why creatine's benefits can be multiplied when taking it dissolved in juice, or taking it with a simple carbohydrate like table sugar (this stimulates insulin response and increases uptake of the creatine into the muscle cell).

How does creatine work?

As I stated before, creatine works through several mechanisms to increase: strength, endurance, and recovery.  The primary effect of creatine is that it increases production of ATP (the cell's first source of energy).  Creatine is converted in the body into Phosphocreatine, this allows ATP to be regenerated and recycled more efficiently.  The amount of ATP in the muscle cell is the main limiting factor in muscle fatigue, since creatine extends the life of the ATP store, it can immediately increase the amount of time your muscles can perform a maximal contraction.

Creatine also contributes to a state called "muscle volumization".  When a muscle cell is volumized it is super hydrated with nutrients and fluids from the blood stream.  This added circulation immediately increases muscle endurance and size (this is also the thing most people complain about, claiming to feel bloated with creatine supplementation).  This effect usually will contribute to somewhere between 2-6 lbs of weight gain, strictly due to the extra fluid in your muscles (this weight gain is temporary and will be lost when creatine supplementation ceases).

Creatine increases protein synthesis.  Protein synthesis is the process of converting amino acids into new muscle cells.  Protein synthesis will only occur in an anabolic environment.  Creatine contributes to this environment through both muscle cell volumization, and also through increasing endurance which allows you to work harder and stimulate a stronger recovery response from your training.

The other effects of creatine are less widely studied, but are still believed to be a very important component of why creatine is so effective at building strength and muscle.  These benefits include: increased testosterone production, increased growth hormone and insulin like growth factor, and some research has also shown that creatine is a powerful antioxidant.

In my next article I will cover some of the different types of creatine and which kinds I have used with the most success.  I will also cover dosing, cycling, and ways to increase the effectiveness of creatine.  Please make sure to like Chasing the Dream on facebook or sign up for email updates so you don't miss this important article!

Here is my recommended creatine.  It is affordable, effective, and doesn't cause too much water gain.


It is worth note that in studies where vegetarians were observed they had significantly lower levels of creatine than non vegetarians, but after supplementation both groups were equal, making creatine supplementation important for vegetarians. protein bar

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