Creatine Supplement: A Bigger & Stronger You
By Charles Hopkins
Published 04/21/2006 | Food & Drink
Can creatine monohydrate make you stronger, faster and leaner? The answer is a qualified...Yes!
A number of studies have proven that when creatine supplements are used, in conjunction with exercise, significant gains can be made in strength and endurance. It has also been shown to improve muscle strength and decrease recovery time needed following a work out.
Creatine monohydrate works the best for activities that require rapid or intense effort. Activities such as weight lifting and sprinting are examples of this type of activity. If you are jogging or a marathon runner you may not see the same type of results.
About 93% of all the creatine in your body is stored in the muscles. The reason it is stored in your muscles is that it plays a key role in providing your body with a boost of energy it needs to perform work.
The normal energy cycle of the muscle requires a substance called Adenosine Triphosphate or ATP to fuel it. The muscle usually has enough ATP on board to fuel a burst of work lasting about 6 seconds. Creatine restores the ATP to a state where it can act as fuel for the muscle and continue the burst of activity for about another 6-12 seconds.
A good analogy is to think of the muscle as if it were a high performance engine. ATP is the gas for your engine and creatine is an octane booster that allows you to get better performance from your engine.
While the entire process is not completely understood the side effects of creatine include bigger muscles and increased production of muscle tissue.
This translates into more repetitions, more weight lifted and/or the ability to sprint faster. More work equals more muscle and more muscle equals increased strength and endurance.
Additionally, creatine has been shown to decrease muscle soreness and recovery time needed between work outs. Obviously, being sore can be a de-motivator when it comes to working out.
Activities such as jogging or marathon running may not benefit as much from creatine supplementation as weight lifting. The muscles work slower for these activities and seem to be able to restore ATP at a rate that meets the need.
Creatine occurs naturally and can be produced by the body. It is found in beef, pork, salmon, cod, herring and tuna. So, why not just eat meat? There are a number of reasons. Some people prefer not to eat meat. It is also impractical to eat as much meat that may be required to achieve the amount of creatine supplementation you desire. Creatine supplementation also allows you to know the exact amount of creatine you are getting.
The normal dose for creatine is between 2-5 grams per day. For the fastest results you can "load" the muscles by taking between 10-20 grams of creatine for approximately 5 days. Once you have loaded the muscles you can maintain the creatine level by taking the normal creatine dose approximately 30-60 minutes before a work out.
The negative side effects of creatine are that it can make you more likely to become dehydrated and if you are working out very intensely and/or in a very hot climate this can be dangerous. The body can lose up to 2-3 quarts of water in an hour if it is hot enough. The key is to drink plenty of water any time you work out.
Because it is excreted through the kidneys, and due to the increased risk of dehydration, creatine supplements are not recommended for people with kidney disease.
When you first start taking creatine supplements you may notice an immediate gain of weight of between 2 to 5 pounds. Creatine causes your muscles to store more water which seems to assist in creating more muscle. This is a side effect that causes many people to think that creatine is similar to anabolic steroids. Creatine is an amino acid and does not affect the body the same way that steroids do.
Other side effects can include injuries from stressing the joints and muscles by attempting to work too hard. This not a direct result of the creatine but is related to a misunderstanding of what creatine can do for your body.
The results of creatine supplements vary from minor to significant depending on the person using them. A number of factors come into play that affects the outcome. Age, sex, work out intensity and frequency as well as how much creatine store you start with all play a part in the results you will achieve.
If you suffer from any chronic illness or are on prescription medications for your heart, blood pressure or other medical conditions you should always consult your medical provider before taking creatine. This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as medical advice.