What is Creatine? by Coach Laura
I had a few questions the past week about creatine… such as “Should I take it? What is it? How and when do I take it?” I compiled a little research together if you’re interested. Here we go!
What is creatine?
– A naturally occurring compound found primarily in the muscle (~95%)
– Body breaks down about 1% to 2% of our creatine pool per day into creatinine in muscle
– The body can replenish creatine stores by foods that contain creatine (such as beef, salmon, and other meat products)
– There is about 1-2 g of creatine in a pound of uncooked beef and salmon
– Vegetarians will have less creatine stored in comparison to those who consume meat
– About 55% percent of creatine is consumed from the foods we eat. The remaining amount of creatine can be synthesized from the amino acids: arginine, methionine, and glycine
– Normal dietary intake of creatine from food and synthesis from amino acids, allows for a maintenance of creatine levels at ~120g for a 70 kg individual. However, the body has the capacity to store up to 160 g of creatinine under certain conditions
– It is used as an ergogenic aid
Forms of Creatine in the Marketplace (there are other forms but the 2 below are the most popular)
Creatine Monohydrate (more + research available)
– Creatine bound with water
– 88% creatine, 12% water
– 5 grams= absorbing ~4.88 grams of creatine
– Creatine bound to a phosphate
– ~62.3 % creatine, 37.7% phosphate
– 5 grams= ~3.2 grams creatine
What does it do?
– Supplementation can increase muscle creatine content, improve exercise and training adaptations, and provide therapeutic benefits to some populations
– Lends energy during anaerobic work (think Olympic lifting, PR setting, quick sprints, or the first few seconds of all out physical exertion)
– Increases energy to muscles due to conversion of ADP to ATP lending the additional phosphate
– Once creatine phosphate (CP) stores decrease, the rate at which physical work is performed drops off tremendously
– Luckily research has discovered that the ingestion of creatine monohydrate allows for an increase in CP stores and therefore enhances muscular strength and endurance!
Ergogenic Effects of Creatine Supplementation
– Increased Muscle mass and strength
– Increased Sprint performance (single and repetitive)
– Enhanced recovery
– Increased Work capacity
– Increased Training tolerance
– Enhanced glycogen synthesis
Creatine in Women
– Low dose creatine (5 Grams Daily) led to improvements in symptoms of knee pain associated with osteoarthritis
– Potential neuroprotective effect
– Some studies found reduction in depressive symptoms
– Creatine is one of the most effective and safe nutritional supplements that allows for an increase in strength, muscle mass, and performance
– Check with a physician prior to supplementation if you have a history of kidney issues or if you take ephedra (which hopefully you are not because this is banned by the FDA;)) or caffeine products
– Creatine’s performance enhancing effects have been shown to be negated when taken with large amounts of caffeine
– At this time there is no suggested use for individuals under the age of 18
– One way is called “loading”, where an individual takes 0.3 g/kg/d (~15-25 g/d) for 5-7 days followed by a maintenance phase of 3-5 g/day. This is done for periods of 2 to 3 months at a time.
– Another way is supplementing with ~3-6g creatine/day for a period of 2 to 3 months. – Recommended to take 1 to 2 weeks off from supplementation to maintain adequate response in the body to creatine
– Also creatine loading with carbohydrate loading may help maximize glycogen retention (therefore may benefit endurance athletes who are interested in maximizing glycogen availability before exercise/competition)
– Insulin levels enhance creatine uptake, so taking creatine post exercise with a carbohydrate and/or protein supplement may be most effective to increase and maintain muscle creatine stores
Should You Take It?
– Do your research and make an informed decision
– Younger athletes involved in intense athletic training should have approval from health professionals
– If you plan to take creatine, purchase quality supplements from reputable sources (Look for NSF certified supplements, this means they have been tested and certified as safe for sports)
1. Antonio J, Kalman D, Stout JR, Greenwood M, Willoughby DS, Haff GG. Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press; 2008.
2. MedlinePlus. Creatine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-creatine.html. Accessed March 16, 2009.
3. ConsumerLab.com. ConsumerLab.com finds that not all creatine supplements meet label claims: popular sports supplement test results released online. http://www.consumerlab.com/news/Creatine_Tests/8_7_2000/. Accessed March 16, 2009.
4. Eckerson et al. Effect of 2 and 5 days of creatine loading in women. JSCR 2004 Beal Neuroprotective effects of creatine. AA 2011
5. Hultman E, Soderlund K, Timmons JA, Cederblad G, Greenhaff PL. Muscle creatinine loading in men. J Appl Physiol 1996;81:232-237