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What is creatine?
Creatine is arguably the number one training supplement for a large majority of athletes from a variety of sporting backgrounds. Creatine is naturally produced in the human body from amino acids found primarily in the kidney and liver. It is also found in animal products such as beef and fish. However, eating enough of these foods to get the ergogenic effects of creatine is impractical.
If you look up ‘creatine’ in the dictionary you will find something along the following: “creatine: a compound formed in protein metabolism and present in much living tissue. It is involved in the supply of energy for muscular contraction” The latter part is what’s interesting. You see the body uses creatine by taking it in and then converting it to creatine phosphate (or phosphocreatine). Once this happens the body then stores it in the muscle cell where it is later used for energy.
During high intensity, short duration exercise such as weight lifting, sprinting or mixed martial arts, the phosphocreatine is converted in to ATP (Adenosine Trihosphate), which acts as a major source of energy within the body. In other words, ATP is what fuels those explosive movements. As we all know we cannot perform these explosive movements for long periods of time as fatigue eventually sets in. This is because ATP in the body usually lasts between 4-10 seconds before it has to be re-synthesised.
Supplementing with creatine therefore allows your body to produce more phosphocreatine which then allows your body to produce more ATP resulting in longer and greater bouts of high intensity exercise. So if you are a weight lifter this can mean performing 10 reps instead of 8, which over time can allow you to see increases in lean muscle mass, lift heavier weights and become much stronger. For a sprinter, creatine supplementation can allow you to run at full capacity that extra few seconds. As we all know this can be the difference between crossing over the finish line in first or in second place.
Creatine in professional sports
Creatine supplementation is allowed by the International Olympic Committee, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and in other professional sports. As well as improving athletic performance, creatine supplementation also works on helping people with congestive heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, high cholesterol and for slowing down the worsening of atrophy diseases such as Lou Gehrig’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Which type of creatine is better?
There are a variety of different types of creatine all claiming to be better than the others. However, don’t believe the hype. Stick to what the science says. Creatine monohydrate is perhaps the most widely studied dietary supplement in the sports nutrition industry. It has become a valuable weapon in the arsenal of most serious modern athletes to promote maximum size, strength and performance gains. There have been hundreds of researched papers published by universities across the globe on creatine monohydrate supplementation and its safety and effectiveness in sports performance.
Negative health implications of creatine supplementation
While we have discussed the many healthy benefits to supplementing with creatine, it is important to discuss the safety concerns to using this ergogenic supplement. It has been purported that supplementing with creatine can negatively impact the kidney, liver, cause dehydration to the user and muscle cramping. However, all of these are not supported in the scientific literature and the biggest concern researchers have found was in the purity of the product itself, not in the short or long term use of creatine.
To sum up, professional athletes and recreational gym-goers have been supplementing with creatine for the past two decades in order to see increases in strength, power output, and muscular size. Over this long period of time the negative health implications have been anecdotal and are not supported in the scientific literature. Moreover, the biggest concern for creatine supplementation is more to do with the purity and quality of the product and not the actual creatine compound. To ensure product purity ICON Nutrition, a leading UK supplement brand, manufacture a pure pharmaceutical grade creatine monohydrate product that is safe and effective for athletes. Like any other dietary supplement it is recommended you consult with your GP before use and that you follow the recommended dosage guidelines.