What is Creatine?
Creatine is a natural substance found in the body. Creatine plays a very powerful role in energy metabolism. Creatine is made up of three amino acids - Arginine, Glycine and Methionine. Creatine is synthesized in the human body from amino acids in the kidney and liver. The other way we get creatine is from our diet. It is believed that 95 - 98% of the creatine in our body is stored in our muscles. The remaining about 2- 5% is stored in various other parts of the body including the brain, heart and testes.
Bigger muscles and improved athletic performance
Creatine supplement enhances muscle growth, improves high-intensity athletic performance, and speeds recuperation following intense exertion.
Many clinical studies published in journals, including The American Journal of Sports Medicine and the Journal of Applied Physiology, support the claim that creatine increases lean muscle mass and athletic performance.
While not approved by the FDA, creatine is often by weight lifters and athletes who wish to optimize their workouts or enhance athletic performance. Creatine helps to increase muscle size and strength, enhance the amount of energy released during exercise, and speed muscle recovery following exertion. However, the scientific evidence suggests that creatine may not have much usefulness as a muscle-enhancing supplement.
Creatine is not equally effective in all exercise areas. The nutrient's most prominent effects occur during bouts of short-term, high-intensity muscular exertion (such as weight lifting) that are broken up by short rest periods. However, creatine does not appear to increase aerobic capacity or improve performance in endurance-type activities such as marathon running or swimming.
Creatine may prove beneficial in the treatment of certain diseases involving the muscles or nerves.
Excess creatine is converted into the waste product creatinine and excreted from the body.
How creatine works
There are several theories regarding how creatine improves athletic performance. Some researchers such as Paul Greenhaff, Ph.D., at the University of Nottingham in England, believe that creatine shuttles the energy released from a cell's mitochondria (where energy is produced) to the site of muscle contraction. Another theory, which has even greater acceptance among scientists, is that creatine actually regenerates energy by "recycling" molecular by-products of the energy used by muscles.
Weight gain is the only creatine side effect documented in the clinical studies.
Some questions exist about the safety of large doses and long-term use of creatine.
There are several forms of creatine on the market.
The cheapest, most abundant and most studied form of creatine is creatine monohydrate (creatine complexed with a molecule of water).
Creatine hydrochloride is a hydrochloride salt patented in 2009 and marketed as an athletic and bodybuilding supplement. Creatine hydrochloride is 59 times more soluble in water than creatine monohydrate. Due to its higher solubility, the recommended dosage for creatine hydrochloride is much lower than that for creatine monohydrate.
The most recent high-tech formulation is creatine ester. It was designed by scientists at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to increase the bioavailability of creatine in hopes of boosting its health-promoting effects. Theoretically, it should be absorbed better and taken up by muscle cells at a higher rate than other forms of creatine.
Creatine citrate is composed of a creatine molecule that is attached to a citric acid molecule. Citric acid is an intermediate of the Krebs cycle (the metabolic pathway that produces aerobic energy within muscle). Citric acid is important for energy production, so creatine taken with citrate may provide greater muscular energy than creatine alone. This is speculative, though, as no research has confirmed this theory.
Creatine phosphate is simply a creatine molecule that is already bound to a phosphate molecule - something that normally takes place in muscle and is essential for creatine to be effective. The phosphate may also help to buffer lactic acid. The phosphate group in this form makes it difficult for creatine to enter muscle cells.
Creatine malate is composed of creatine bound to malic acid, which is a Krebs cycle intermediate, as is citric acid. So, this form may also offer greater energy production than creatine monohydrate.
Creatine tartrate contains a creatine molecule that is bound to one of tartaric acid. This form is sometimes used in solid products, such as capsules, tablets, bars and chewables. The tartrate form may be most stable in a solid matrix, but it offers no other real benefits.