What is Creatine?

What is Creatine?
Creatine is nothing more than a nitrogenous organic acid produced from the amino acids glycine and arginine.  It occurs naturally in vertebrates, which makes it a non-essential nutrient.  The synthesis of creatine takes place primarily in the kidney and liver and is then transported to muscles via your blood.  Creatine works by first converting into creatine phosphate which helps to make ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate).  ATP is what provides energy for muscle contractions.

creatine chemical structure

Fig 1. Creatine Chemical Structure

Table of Contents

Benefits of Creatine


Creatine has been shown to significantly increase strength and endurance in workouts.  This is best demonstrated in exercises that require an “explosive” type of movement such as weight lifting, football, and sprinting.  In addition, creatine has been shown to decrease the time needed for muscle recovery.  This means you will be ready to perform quicker and better in your next training session.  For weight lifters, creatine supplementation best translates into increased reps during each set; furthermore, it has been shown to have anti catabolic properties.

Dosages and Supplementation


An average person who eats meat will consume around 1 gram of creatine per day.  Muscles have a saturation point at which no more creatine can be used by the muscles.  This point is somewhere between 5 and 10 grams per day.  Contrary to popular belief, creatine does not require a “loading” phase and does not need to be cycled on and off.

Since creatine pulls water into the muscles, you will need to stay hydrated or there is a possibility of being slightly bloated.  However, this side effect is often overblown.  Assuming you  stay hydrated, there should be no side effects of creatine use.

The other problem with creatine is the supplement industry.  As we know, there are many products on the market such as pre-workout powders that have numerous ingredients.  Some of these products contain “proprietary blends” where they do not disclose the amounts of each ingredient but only a total weight of the blend.  Creatine supplements are no different.  Make sure to read labels and see what's in your tub.  Some will contain large amounts of sugars, caffeine, and even fillers.  This is why some people have adverse effects to creatine use.  Therefore, it is always best to take a pure creatine supplement without additives.

There are many quality products out there if you look.  A great one is Ancient Strength by N2BM.com.  It's a blend of creatine monohydrate at 4.551g, creatine HCL at 300mgs, and creatine pyruvate at 150mgs.

ancient strength creatine

Fig 2. Ancient Strength Creatine

Types of Creatine


There are various types of creatine. Here are just a few of them explained:

  • Kre Alkalyn – buffered creatine with a high PH designed to absorb easier and faster. These claims have been not been fully proven and it is more expensive.
  • Creatine HCL – creatine is bound to hydrochloric acid.  It is supposed to only require 1-2 grams per day instead of the usual 5-10 grams. It is as effective as monohydrate but not more.
  • Creatine Malate – creatine is combined with a malic acid molecule which is linked to better performance in athletes.  This has also been proven to be no more effective than creatine monohydrate.
  • Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE) – was marketed to have better absorption, but it is actually much less effective.  It is converted quickly to creatinine which is an inactive substance.
creatine to creatinine

Fig 3. Creatine to Creatinine Conversion

  • Creatine Nitrate – same effects as creatine monohydrate but said to be easier on the stomach.
  • Creatine Monohydrate – This is the most cost effective creatine product.  Considered by most to be the best and most effective creatine on the market.
  • Creatine Pyruvate – creatine bound with pyruvic acid which produces higher plasma levels of creatine.  This is considered a good addition to monohydrate.

Conclusion


Creatine is one of the most studied supplements out there.  It has been proven time and time again that it is a safe and effective product to take.  In bodybuilding, it is often a product that is used by a younger crowd that is looking for an edge but not something that will affect their hormone production such as steroids.

Creatine is a staple of any natural bodybuilder, and it's considered one of the most critical things to add to a proper diet and training routine.

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