Creatine is found naturally in the bodies of both humans and animals. It is an amino acid that is one of the important building blocks of muscle-building protein. Creatine can be ingested through a meat diet of beef, pork, chicken, turkey and fish, although the amounts are small and much of it is destroyed through the cooking process. You would literally have to eat around 10 pounds of cooked meat in order to receive 20 grams of creatine.
How Creatine Works
The body stores creatine until it is needed to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Around 40 percent of creatine is stored as free creatine (Cr) with the remaining 60 percent stored as creatine phosphate (CP), which is what the body uses to produce ATP.
ATP is the substance that is needed to create muscle power. Muscle contraction is produced when ATP molecules split into ADP molecules (adenosine-diphosphate). The energy provided by this molecular splitting of molecules is what causes muscle fibers to contract. If there is an insufficient amount of ATP available for this process, muscle cells will reach failure more rapidly and stop contracting. Therefore, a sufficient amount of creatine (which is used to create ATP) is necessary for proper and powerful muscle contractions during workouts.
The body naturally produces about 2 grams of creatine daily. Although this small amount (and the amount consumed in meat products) is sufficient for muscle growth in the average person, those active in sports, weightlifting, bodybuilding and fitness programs require creatine supplements to get the amounts necessary for proper energy levels, muscle growth and muscle recovery.
A study conducted by UCLA revealed that Creatine Nitrate is more water soluble (1000%) than other creatine derivatives. This means that Creatine Nitrate more easily absorbs into the body for more rapid use by the muscles. Thus, you reap the benefits of energy, strength and endurance provided by the extra surge of Creatine Nitrate.
Benefits of Creatine
Research shows that creatine improves athletic performance, especially in high intensity workouts (such as weightlifting) and short duration sports (such as sprinting). It also reduces muscle fatigue, allowing your muscles to perform for longer periods.
Other studies reveal that creatine increases lean muscle mass. Because muscle fibers receive more contraction power and can function for longer periods of time, more muscle breakdown occurs during workouts, resulting in greater muscle growth to compensate. Also, it has been found that women benefit from the effects of creatine use in the same performance capacity as men.
Can You Take Too Much Creatine?
Absolutely not. The body stores all the creatine it needs for future use. When demand is placed on the muscular system, creatine is released to make the substance ATP, which is used to provide proper muscle contraction. This is why taking a creatine supplement directly before a high intensity workout or intense sports session is necessary to meet those demands.
However, any excess creatine is funneled through the liver and kidneys where it is converted into creatinine and excreted through urine. Scientists in Nova Scotia found through studies conducted at St. Francis Xavier University that 46% of creatine intake was excreted by athletes within a 24 hour period. For this reason, it is better to consume a proven soluble creatine supplement which allows much more to be absorbed into the body and less wasted through excretion.
Creatine and Water Retention
Creatine creating water retention has been proven to be pure myth. A recent study conducted on subjects receiving creatine supplements and placebos found that subjects taking the supplements showed no significant body water increase over a three month period. Although creatine does draw some water into muscle cells, this study proved that it wasn’t in amounts deemed to be significant.
One reason for the puffy look after taking creatine is believed to be due to excessive sodium levels found in cheaply manufactured creatine supplements. Sodium is a byproduct when creatine is manufactured through a cheap process. This is another reason to purchase a high quality creatine supplement.
Other Side Effects of Creatine
Another myth circulating about creatine use is that it causes some nasty side effects. However, hundreds of studies conducted on creatine have revealed that there are minimal to no side effects. Some of the side effects reported from creatine use are cramps, dehydration and upset stomach, most of which can be alleviated by drinking plenty of water during and directly after taking a creatine supplement.
It is a common belief that creatine can cause kidney and liver problems. However, studies have found no link to creatine use and injury to these organs. Since creatine is passed through the liver and then the kidneys for conversion to creatinine and subsequent excretion, it is best to consult your doctor before taking creatine if you already have existing kidney or liver problems, but there is no conclusive and set evidence that creatine causes damage to healthy kidney or liver organs. Creatine can cause added stress to already damaged organs, though, which can irritate them further.