Creatine is one of the most successful supplements on the market in relation to improving strength and increased muscle size (when taken in the correct dosage). . Creatine has been viewed as potentially harmful by some authorities, however these views are not substantiated by any clear evidence. Some forms of creatine are thought to be superior to others. Below I will discuss the benefits of using creatine and the plethora of empirical research which supports this finding.
There have been over 250 studies on creatine over the last decade to support the following findings.
Creatine Allows Higher Intensity Workload
Creatine enhances the body’s capacity to perform high intensity work (which inevitably leads to greater muscle size and performance gains as a result. Creatine Phosphate ensures that muscles do not prematurely fatigue. From a personal perspective, I find it much easier to get out the last few reps in a set when using creatine. Research shows that creatine is most effective when engaging in weightlifting, sprinting and other high intensity exercises - as opposed to endurance exercises (e.g. long distance running)
Essentially when you engage in strenuous activity, you convert high energy cells (ATP), into a de-energised form cell (ADP). Creatine regenerates ATP in order to assist further energy production.
The human body naturally produces creatine in small amounts. That said, supplementary creatine simply enhances the process.
Creatine allows you to recover at a faster pace.
Findings show use of creatine aids post-exercise muscle regeneration, with simultaneous reduction of muscle cell damage and inflammation. Muscle regeneration allows the athlete to fully recover, therefore enables them to shorten the time between strenuous exercise - maximising gains. In addition, users report that delayed onset muscle soreness is reduced significantly when using creatine.
Muscle Inflation will occur when consuming creatine. Creatine has a property which causes inflation of the muscle, which produces larger muscle appearance. Importantly, this provides a stimulus for protein synthesis. Weight increases are common, and are often reported to be between 4 and 6 pounds (1.5kg -2.7kg).
Decrease in age related muscle loss
Creatine has been shown to also reduce age related muscle loss, also known as Sacropaenia. As we age, there is a decline in the production of muscle building hormones such as testosterone, growth hormone and insulin. Fast twice fibres (the type that bulk on muscle size) respond well to supplemental creatine. This additional creatine negates degenerative effects of age related muscle wasting as it enhances fast twice muscle fibres.
Although researchers suggest that creatine enhances brain function, I would not suggest using it solely for this reason as the research is preliminary.
Creatine is not advised for everyone, those most likely to experience positive effects from creatine are:
1) Bodybuilders and strength athletes,
2) the ageing population engaged in active exercise
3) those will naturally low levels of creatine (such as vegetarians, who have a lower base level of creatine)
There are different types of creatine, the type of creatine one uses will usually determine their results.
This is the most popular form of this supplement. Most scientific research is conducted using creatine monohydrate. It is bound with water to provide 88% pure creatine per molecule. Monohydrate is the most commonly used creatine on the market. It is often said that monohydrate may cause kidney and liver damage. However, a plethora of research has found no evidence to support this.
This is essentially creatine monohydrate, but with much smaller molecules (the molecules have been cut up or divided). I would recommend micronised creatine to those who get stomach discomfort or unwanted bloating after using monohydrate.
It is assumed that creatine phosphate would give better results than the monohydrate form(due to the biological reasoning behind phosphates). This is not true. The reality is, creatine phosphate has only 62.3% creatine per molecule as opposed to monohydrate, which has 88%. No evidence has shown that phosphate is more effective than monohydrate.
This is regular creatine bonded with special molecules which allow increased absorption in the body. It is very expensive. However, it does cause less stomach discomfort in those susceptible.
Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE)
Anecdotal evidence suggests that CEE has absorption rates up to ten time higher than creatine due to its solubility. CEE is monohydrate with an ester attached which makes for greater absorption. Additional anecdotal evidence suggests that it eliminates the unwanted bloating. Although I would rarely report on anecdotal evidence, this product shows great promise.
In order to benefit from the benefits of creatine, Experts recommend saturating the muscle with creatine. This means taking 20g (4g, 5 times a day) for the first 5-7 days. Once muscle creatine stores are saturated, studies indicate that you only need to take 3 to 5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day in order to maintain elevated creatine stores. In order to enhance creatine uptake, consume creatine with a high carbohydrate drink to increase insulin and promote creatine uptake. In conclusion, creatine should be taken following intense exercise, as the the body is in a state which glycogen re-sysnthesis and protein synthesis are promoted.
NOTE* Dietary supplements are not well regulated. Research any product before you use it. In many cases manufacturers of supplements have been found to have the wrong ingredients/macro-nutrients on the labelling.
If you have any other questions, do not hesitate to ask. :)