Creatine is a chemical substance known to all lovers of an active lifestyle. Popular among both beginners and experienced athletes, it affects the development of exercise capacity, as well as the improvement of energy and physical performance. Creatine is a compound that occurs naturally in the human body, but it is often also supplied from the outside, in the form of a dietary supplement.
Creatine - what is it?
Creatine is a chemical compound of an organic nature, known as β-methylguanidinoacetic acid. It is a combination of a guanidine molecule with acetic acid, which was discovered in 1832 by a French scientist.
Creatine is formed naturally in the human body, i.e. in the liver, kidneys and pancreas, with the help of three amino acids - glycine, arginine and methionine.
Most of the compound is transported with blood to the muscles (mainly skeletal), a small amount remains scattered throughout the body, and the rest is regularly removed with urine from the body.
Sources of creatine
The amount of naturally synthesized creatine in the body is not large, so athletes should pay attention to the supply of this component to the body along with the diet.
The best nutritional sources of the substance are red meat, milk, cod, herring and poultry. Unfortunately, doses of creatine present in food are also small. In order to supply the body with 5 g of creatine, one would have to eat as much as 1.6 kg of cod or drink 50 liters of milk!
Fortunately, dietary supplements containing creatine come to the rescue, which perfectly complement the daily, balanced diet, providing the body with the necessary amount of substances.
Action of creatine
In skeletal muscle, creatine is phosphorylated to phosphocreatine, which is an important energy store for ATP.
The task of creatine is to launch subsequent ATP renewal pathways, i.e. the component that stores and transports energy directly to muscle cells, by transporting the phosphate residue to the ADP molecule. Thus, creatine allows atp to be reactivated and the body performs or continues the effort.
Anabolic effect of creatine is conducive to building muscle mass. This compound increases endurance and speed and also contributes to a faster increase in muscle mass and its strength. Thanks to this, creatine is distinguished by its wide application both in endurance disciplines and among athletes of strength disciplines.
Creatine can also affect tissue reconstruction, which supports muscle regeneration. Thanks to this, tissues that will be damaged as a result of effort will regain full strength faster and this will translate into longer and more intense training.
The main benefits of creatine
The main advantages of creatine include the effect on:
- increase in muscle mass,
- improving the body's efficiency,
- increase in endurance,
- escalation of muscle strength,
- better regeneration - efficient renewal of strained tissues,
- improvement of hydration.
Types of creatine
There are several forms of creatine, and discussions about which one is best are still ongoing. Before deciding on one supplement, however, it is worth getting acquainted with the available types to make the right choice for us.
The most popular and best-studied form of creatine is its monohydrate. It is a combination of substances with water molecules that affects the effectiveness of its action. Creatine is a strongly hydrophilic compound, so it loves water and willingly combines with it. Creatine monohydrate is distinguished by its great bioavailability. This compound effectively and quickly saturates the muscles, which translates into obtaining the expected exercise results.
Another available form is creatine malate (TCM), which is a combination of creatine and malic acid. This compound shows a lower water binding capacity than the monohydrate. The advantages of malate, however, include better solubility and higher chemical stability of the compound. This makes this form of creatine last longer and does not convert so quickly to biologically inactive creatinine.
Another type of dietary supplement is creatine citrate, which is a combination of a creatine molecule with citric acid. This form is distinguished by great solubility. Due to the participation of citric acid in metabolic processes, it guarantees better absorption of the supplement in the body. Citrate, like malate, provides an effective increase in lean muscle mass devoid of retention (which can occur with creatine monohydrate).
This is one of the most water-soluble forms of the compound. Creatine hydrochloride is biologically stable and highly concentrated. Thus, it contributes to faster muscle saturation with creatine and less water retention.
Creatine ethyl ester
Creatine ethyl ester (CEO) is formed as a result of creatine esterification. This means that the substance is not converted to creatinine, which is a biologically inactive form. Additionally, creatine ethyl ester increases its bioavailability and improves absorption.
Creatine pyruvate is characterized by less water binding than monohydrate. It is a combination of creatine with pyruvic acid, which supports energy processes and thus affects the exercise capacity of the body.
Creatine Magnesium Chelate
Magnesium creatine chelate, in turn, is a formula that consists in merging the creatine molecule with magnesium, which is aimed at increasing the bioavailability of the supplement.
Creatine stacks are also popular, which are a combination of several above-mentioned forms of creatine. Stacks are often enriched with additional elements such as minerals, vitamins or amino acids.
How and when is it best to take creatine?
To achieve the desired effects, the supplement should be taken regularly regardless of whether the training day falls or not.
Until recently, it was popular to take creatine according to the saturation phase, i.e. taking significant amounts of the supplement for several days in a row to "recharge" the body with creatine. Currently, this model is being abandoned in favor of regular, subdued supplementation.
The use of creatine before training affects exercise capacity, increases endurance, strength and performance during physical activity. In turn, eating it after exercise also has a positive effect on the functioning of the body. It supports the regeneration of tired muscles, accelerates their reconstruction and affects the faster renewal of energy resources in the body. Therefore, it is recommended to take creatine both before and after training.
The perfect companion for creatine
It is worth supporting supplementation and using creatine in the right company. thanks to this, it is possible to increase the positive effects and efficiency of creatine. Therefore, it is recommended to take the compound along with carbohydrates, the consumption of which affects the production of insulin, which plays an important role in the transport of creatine to the muscles. Such a combination can increase the effect of the supplement, contributing to increasing the absorption of creatine.
Sipping creatine with plenty of water also has a positive effect on its effectiveness, and at the same time reduces the risk of unwanted stomach ailments.
Another "partner" of creatine is leucine, an amino acid that affects the effectiveness of creatine intake, and at the same time supports the process of protein synthesis.
Combining substances with α-lipoic acid also seems to be a good solution. This compound allows for faster saturation of muscles with creatine.
In turn, the creatine compound together with tarragon, a popular culinary spice, can lead to better creatine absorption.
Creatine - how to supplement it correctly?
A dietary supplement containing creatine should always be used in a thoughtful way. Creatine supplementation depends on many individual factors such as body weight, diet or degree of musculature.
Also, the times of taking the substance depend on the body's response to creatine or the type of physical effort undertaken. However, some general patterns can be adopted.
It is recommended to take a portion of creatine before starting training and after physical activity, along with the addition of carbohydrates. With long-term disciplines, you can also take specific portions of the supplement several times during the day.
Some data suggest that already 3 g of creatine is enough to increase exercise capacity during exercise. However, it is assumed that 1 g of creatine should be taken for 10 kg of body weight. Thus, an athlete who has 80 kg should supplement with 8 g of β-methylguanidinoacetic acid every day.
Systematic use of the substance is important, but it is equally important to take the right portion of the supplement. It is not recommended to provide the body with amounts greater than recommended, as this may lead to negative results.
Side effects of creatine use
Although creatine is a substance naturally produced in the human body, taking too large portions of the product can cause unwanted side effects.
It is unlikely to take too much creatine, replenishing its reserves only from food (after all, there is not much of it in food ...). However, incorrect creatine supplementation may contribute to the occurrence of negative reactions of the body.
If the recommended doses are exceeded, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting may occur. Inadequate supplementation can also cause dehydration and rapid weight gain, associated with water retention in the body. Therefore, when taking creatine, you should remember about proper hydration of the body. In addition, as a result of this dehydration, there may be a loss of valuable vitamins and minerals. In case of long-term intake of excessive portions of the supplement, we can even lead to liver damage.
So it is worth remembering to take supplements in accordance with the recommendations placed on the leaflet or packaging. Also, do not exceed the recommended servings of the product. Taking more doesn’t result in better results, on the contrary, it can lead to disruption of the entire system.