Creatine is an organic compound consisting of three amino acids: L-Arginine, Glycine, and L-Methionine. In the human body, creatine plays a role in energy production through the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
ATP in short is a cellular fuel that supplies energy to our muscles during exercise. Creatine is non-essential for the human body. In other words, it can be synthesized by our body from the aforementioned amino acids. It is synthesized in the liver and about 95% of the creatine produced in the body is stored in skeletal muscle, and the remaining 5% in the brain, heart, and testicles. Once used for the body, creatine is converted to creatinine and excreted in the urine.
Normally, the human body only synthesizes the creatine it needs through the aforementioned amino acids, but creatine is also found in the foods we eat. Most creatine is found in meat and fish, with beef/beef having the highest creatine content (about 1 gram per 100 grams).
Benefits of increased creatine intake
According to numerous studies, increased creatine intake would help build muscle mass and increase muscle strength. We will briefly list the benefits of creatine.
- Increased muscle strength – according to various studies, creatine increases the ability of a muscle to apply force. This effect extends both to the amount of force and to the reaction time of the muscle fibers (the muscle contracts faster). This is because creatine increases the production of ATP (cellular fuel) and thus muscle cells have more energy. Many studies confirm that creatine helps to some extent to improve athletic performance, but this effect is limited mainly to strength sports (weightlifting) and sports with high intensity, but with a short duration (sprints). In sports involving the aerobic energy system and endurance, creatine would not bring tangible benefits.
- Faster recovery – Increased creatine intake allows you to restore ATP levels faster and thus restore muscle strength faster. Creatine also helps to some extent for the faster elimination of lactic acid (causes muscle fever). It is debatable what is the effect of creatine on the recovery of muscle fibers.
- Increased muscle mass – many people are happy with creatine intake precisely because of this effect. However, this is due to a side effect of creatine. Creatine causes water retention in the cells. In this way, your muscle cells fill with water, and from there, your muscles look bigger. That’s why many bodybuilders boast that they gain weight with creatine. The bad thing, in this case, is that after you stop creatine you also throw away the water, and therefore the size of the muscles decreases. However, creatine would help you increase your strength and workload and thus create larger micro-tears in your muscles, which if properly recovered would lead to more muscle mass.
There are many other benefits of creatine, but they are poorly understood.
Creatine as a dietary supplement
Because it is almost impossible for those who want to increase their creatine intake to increase their food intake (this would mean huge amounts of beef), many people resort to the use of creatine as a dietary supplement.
There are many different forms of creatine, each of which is said to have its benefits. But which is the best? According to various studies, the form of creatine that you would benefit from the most is micronized creatine monohydrate (this is a powder form). If you are hesitant between a monohydrate or another form of creatine, choose a monohydrate (micronized). If you are hesitant between two different brands of creatine monohydrate, choose the one that is purer.
There are different ways to take creatine. The first thing to remember is to drink enough water when taking creatine. Otherwise, you may overload your kidneys. You can take up to 5 grams of creatine every day, at any time of the day. According to some studies, taking creatine in combination with carbohydrates increases efficiency due to the effect of insulin. Therefore, you can take creatine in combination with dextrose, honey, or any food that will increase your insulin. If you decide to take it with a fast carb, a good time to do so would be after a workout.
Another way to take creatine is with the so-called. preload. This means that you will need to recharge with creatine within a week. in this case, you take about 20 grams of creatine per day divided into 3-4 doses for 7 days. After this week, take a daily maintenance dose of 2-3 g.
There is no noticeable difference in the results between the two methods of administration, but with pre-charging, you would put more strain on the body due to the higher doses. This is also the method of intake that many manufacturers recommend, perhaps, because this way you would use up a bucket of creatine faster. The method you choose is a matter of personal choice and the effects you would achieve will be the same.
Although research shows that it is possible to take creatine as a dietary supplement constantly, fitness circles say that it is good to take creatine cyclically. In other words, have a period of creatine intake and a rest period. This way you feel the effect of creatine every time, and the risk of harmful side effects from the intake is lower. Creatine is a fairly well-researched supplement for side effects. The only proven side effect is water retention. This can be harmful if you do not drink enough water.
Creatine causes the body to inject water into the muscles even if you do not get enough water your body may be pulling water out of your organs to get it into your muscles. This can cause injuries and muscle cramps. Therefore, it is extremely important to increase your water intake when taking creatine (at least 150 ml for every 3 grams of creatine).
A side effect that is still debated is kidney damage due to high creatinine levels. This is possible with high doses of creatine and low water intake.
In any case, do not exceed the recommended doses and drink adequate amounts of water.