Recommended Supplements, Part 4: Creatine

7 Sep

Although this series of posts is titled, “Recommended Supplements,” it is not my intent to encourage or discourage the use of Creatine.  I simply want to share evidence-based information and, perhaps, dispel a few myths.  I also want to discuss the potential effect of creatine on athletic performance, according to current research.

Creatine is not a steroid.  It’s a combination of amino acids produced by the liver, kidney, and pancreas.  Creatine is naturally found in muscle and in red meat and fish, though at far lower levels  than in the powder form sold commercially.

How Creatine Works

Creatine works by transporting extra energy into your cells. Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is the compound your body uses for energy.  For a muscle to contract, it breaks off a phosphate molecule from ATP.  As a result, ATP becomes ADP  (adenosine diphosphate).  The problem: You can’t use ADP for energy, and your body only has so much stored ATP.  The solution: ADP takes a phosphate molecule from your body’s stores of creatine phosphate, forming more ATP.

If you have more creatine phosphate—which you do if you take a creatine supplement—you can work out longer and do (for example) sets of eight reps instead of six.  Over weeks and months, that added workload allows you to add lean muscle mass, lift heavier weights, and become stronger.  This is how Creatine, combined with Strength training, can help athletes improve Strength, Speed, Agility, Explosive Power, and – ultimately – Athletic Performance.

Creatine Fact and Fiction

  • Creatine is perfectly healthy, when consumed properly.
  • Creatine is not similar to anabolic steroids.
  • Creatine is not prohibited by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), professional sports leagues, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
  • Creatine cannot help you build muscle mass without Strength training.
  • Creatine rarely causes gastrointestinal upset.
  • Creatine helps fast-twitch muscle fiber athletes (sprinting, jumping, throwing) more than slow-twitch ones (endurance exercise).
  • Creatine may cause some (minimal) water-weight gain.
  • No two people will have the same results with Creatine (individuals with more fast-twitch than slow-twitch muscle will experience greater gains).
  • You will not lose muscle if/when you stop taking Creatine.

There are lots of different forms of creatine on your supplement store’s shelves.  Creatine Monohydrate is the one you want.

Here’s How to Take Creatine

  • Creatine should be taken with carbohydrates and protein, following a workout.
  • You shouldn’t take too much Creatine.
  • Avoid the “loading” phase.
  • Take 5 grams per day.
  • Drink plenty of water.

Men and women respond differently to Creatine supplementation.  Research indicates that women typically benefit from creatine during short-term supplementation.  However, gains in body mass and fat-free mass generally are not as rapid as men. Nevertheless, women do gain strength and muscle mass over time during training.

Creatine for Children and Adolescents

“No study has indicated that creatine supplementation may be harmful for children or adolescent athletes.  In fact, long-term creatine supplementation (for example, 4 to 8 grams per day for up to 3 years) has been used as therapy for a number of  deficiencies and neuromuscular disorders in children.  However, it should be  noted that much less is known about the effects of creatine supplementation in younger individuals.”  (Richard Kreider, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation and Director of the Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory and Center for Exercise, Nutrition & Preventive Health Research at Baylor University)

Creatine Safety

See your doctor first if you have high blood pressure or diabetes, if you regularly take any prescription meds or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, etc., which can tax the kidneys), if you’re over age 40 (since kidney function slowly declines after age 30), or if you have a history of kidney or liver disease.

Your thoughts?

4 Responses to “Recommended Supplements, Part 4: Creatine”

  1. supplements canada September 27, 2012 at 9:41 PM #

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    • Brian Lebo September 28, 2012 at 7:07 AM #

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