The FACTS on Creatine

What is creatine? –  Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid (protein building block) that’s found in meat and fish, and also made by the human body in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. It is converted into creatine phosphate or phosphocreatine and stored in the muscles, where it is used for energy. During high-intensity, short-duration exercise, such as lifting weights or sprinting, phosphocreatine is converted into ATP, a major source of energy within the human body.  Skeletal muscle contains about 95 percent of all creatine and the heart, brain, and testies hold the remaining 5 percent.

How does creatine work?

 

According to Jose Antonio, PhD, a professor at Nova Southeastern University and the CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, “Creatine serves as a fuel source for rapid exercise through increased phosphocreatine (PCr) stores.”  Here’s some basic human physiology that will help you understand how creatine works as a fuel source: If you perform aerobic activity (like jogging), the main source of energy your body will use is glycogen. Glycogen comes from carbohydrates and is primarily stored in your muscles. When you perform anaerobic activity (like sprinting, jumping, weightlifting, or playing sports), your body gets its fuel from ATP and phosphocreatine. So the more creatine you have available, the more fuel you have in the tank to sustain intense activities. Studies show that “supplementation can increase phosphocreatine (PCr) and creatine (Cr) stores by 10–40%”.  Dr. Antonio states “To date, creatine is clearly the single most effective dietary supplement for enhancing gains in anaerobic performance as well as increasing lean body mass and muscle fiber size.”

 

Research has shown that creatine offers these benefits:

  • Increased fat-free mass
  • Improved maximal strength (as measured by a one-rep max bench press)
  • Improved muscular endurance
  • Increased anaerobic power and performance (shown in many activities including continuous jumping, jump squats, knee extensions, and repeated sprints by soccer players)
  • Increased hydration in extreme outdoor conditions

Surprising health benefits of creatine:

  • Fights inflammation following muscle damaging exercise
  • Improves brain performance
  • Improves long- and short-term memory for vegetarians
  • Speeds recovery in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Helps mitigate symptoms for those with neuromuscular disorders
  • Prevents DNA mutations in aging cell

Who Can Benefit from Creatine?

The short answer is everyone! Creatine helps all age groups and everyone from the athlete to the non-athlete and from power sports to endurance sports. Even those with injuries and illnesses can benefit from taking creatine.  Examples would be bodybuilders, any type of athlete, the aging population, sufferers of neurodegenerative disease, individuals such as vegetarians who have a lower base level of creatine.

  buffer lactic acid – Creatine may also act as a lactic acid buffer and improve exercise recovery time. Lactic acid is a bi-product from anaerobic (without oxygen) exercise, such as weight training. Lactic acid is responsible for the ‘burning’ sensation when the muscle becomes fatigued. When you cannot train anymore, it is due to you either having run out of energy or a build up of lactic acid.
Creatine may act as a buffer for this lactic acid, which helps to delay the onset of fatigue.

  •   Improved endurance – A study was done on rowers: “Creatine supplementation improves endurance (expressed by the individual lactate threshold) and anaerobic performance…”.  Another  study was done on cyclists: “This study showed [that] creatine ingestion improves submaximal cycling efficiency from [an] increase in muscle phosphocreatine”.
  •   Anti-inflammatory – A study used triathletes and showed that creatine serves as an anti-inflammatory: “Creatine supplementation before a long distance triathlon competition may reduce the inflammatory response induced by this form of strenuous exercise”.
  •   Hydration for outdoor sports in hot weather conditions -  A study shows creatine helps keep you better hydrated in hot outdoor conditions: “The effects of creatine supplementation on cardiovascular, metabolic, and thermoregulatory responses during exercise in the heat in endurance-trained humans were positive”.

Stacking Creatine and Beta Alanine –

New research is revealing a synergistic, beneficial relationship between creatine and the popular bodybuilding supplement beta-alanine. A study by Hoffman, J., et al. (2006)1 revealed that a group of males supplementing with the combination of creatine and beta-alanine gained more lean mass and lost more bodyfat than a group supplementing with only creatine.  It is also noteworthy to mention that this study was performed on collegiate football players, and not on inexperienced lifters.  A second study by Zoeller RF, Stout JR, O’kroy JA, Torok DJ, Mielke M.(2006)2, analyzed the aerobic benefits of beta-alanine as a stand alone supplement compared to the creatine/beta-alanine combination. 55 subjects participated in the study, and it was revealed that “a significant time effect” was observed for the individuals supplementing with the creatine/beta-alanine combination, in 5 out of the 8 measured parameters. Simply put, researchers noted that creatine used with beta-alanine boosted endurance performance.

It is apparent that beta-alanine works as an effective amplifier for creatine, providing more endurance, strength, fat loss and muscle gain.

 

Numerous studies exist that reveal the following benefits of beta-alanine supplementation:

  • Beta-alanine boosts explosive strength and power.
  • Beta-alanine increases muscle mass.
  • Beta-alanine heightens muscular anaerobic endurance.
  • Beta-alanine increase aerobic endurance.
  • Beta-alanine assists you in training harder and longer.

Different forms of creatine – 

  • Creatine monohydrate – Creatine monohydrate is a natural substance that turns into creatine phosphate in the body. Creatine phosphate helps make a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides the energy for muscle contractions.  The body is able to product some creatine by itself, and can also get creatine from some foods like red meat and oily fish. However, levels of creatine in food sources may be reduced during the process of cooking.
  • Creatine HCL – is made by attaching a hydrochloride (HCL) group to creatine to enhance its stability. While creatine is well-recognized by sport scientists and athletes as the most effective supplement that you can take for promoting muscle growth and strength gains,  In attaching this hydrochloride group, the solubility of the molecule increases greatly compared to creatine monohydrate (the existing basic form of creatine).  Creatine HCL is the most soluble form of creatine on the market. As a result, it may be far more bioavailable and readily absorbed than creatine monohydrate. This means that creatine HCL is essentially a super concentrated form of creatine, and a much smaller dose is needed to achieve the same effect in regards to strength and muscle gain.  Creatine HCl is soluble in water, so it can be absorbed into the bloodstream easier than similar products.  Another benefit to creatine HCl is that it does not get converted to creatinine. This waste product can build up in the muscles and body from other supplements on the market. The newer form can also be absorbed by the intestines more effectively. A fraction of the dose is typically needed to increase muscle mass, strength, and endurance.
  • Creapure  - is a form of creatine monohydrate and is widely considered to be the purest and finest quality micronized Creatine Monohydrate on the market today. Made by AlzChem in Germany it undergoes a slightly different manufacturing process to make it ‘purer’, which is one of the reasons it’s the preferred creatine for many professional strength, speed and power athletes.  As previously mentioned AlzChem use a different manufacturing process for the creatine monohydrate which in turn ensures it’s free from impurities and unnecessary by-products including Creatinine (CRN), dicyandiamide (DCD), Dihydrotriazine (DHT) and Thiourea. Also whilst most creatine products on the market have a creatine content of around 99.9%, Creapure is 99.99% pure Creatine Monohydrate.

The History of Creatine – 

In 1832 the French scientist Chevreul discovered a new ingredient of meat to which he gave the name Creatine, according to the source from which it was extracted (Kreas: Greek for flesh). The German scientist Justus von Liebig confirmed that Creatine is a regular constituent of flesh. Creatine levels in wild animals were 10 times higher compared to captive animals suggesting that physical activity might have an influence on the amount of Creatine present in flesh. A meat extract (Liebigs Fleischextrakt) was the only source for Creatine supplementation over the next century.

In 1912, Harvard University researchers Otto Folin and Willey Glover Denis found proof that ingesting creatine can dramatically boost the creatine content of the muscle.[1] In the late 1920s, after finding that the intramuscular stores of creatine can be increased by ingesting creatine in larger than normal amounts, scientists discovered creatine phosphate, and determined that creatine is a key player in the metabolism of skeletal muscle. The substance creatine is naturally formed in vertebrates.

Anecdotal reports in the early 1990’s suggested that Creatine supplementation might improve sport performance. British track and field 1992 Olympic champions Linford Christie (100 m dash) and Sally Gunnell (400 m hurdles) reportedly used Creatine, as did the Cambridge University rowing team in training for three months before defeating the heavily favored Oxford (1). Numerous controlled clinical trials followed in the upcoming years proving the benefits of Creatine supplementation in different sports.