Article care of bluediamondfitness.com
Creatine Monohydrate: The hottest dietary supplement on the market today.
What is it? Where does it come from? What does it do?
by Rye Armstrong
Creatine marketing has spear-headed recent campaigns aimed at
fitness fanatics, athletes and health-conscious people alike. According
to research, college athletes, football players and body builders have
shown the most significant increase in creatine usage. Creatine has
become one of the hottest dietary supplements on the market. In addition
to the rise of creatine marketing, there has also been a parallel
increase in creatine research to determine if there is a role for
creatine in strength enhancement. Research completed so far suggests
potential health benefits can be attained from using this product. But
creatine has been around for over a century. With all the hype from ad
campaigns it is deluding to think that such a product exists that can be
so beneficial to fitness training.
Touted as one of the only agents that can make you stronger and
allow you to recover faster between workout sets, while at the same time
packing on the muscles, creatine research still leaves much to be
discovered. And all of this without the use of artificial chemicals,
hormones or synthesized nutrients.
Creatine is a odorless crystaline, naturally occurring amino acid
formed in the liver and kidneys. From there, 95 percent of it goes to the
muscles and forms creatine phosphate, which boosts the bodys
manufacturing of the energy producing molecule adenosine triphosphate
(ATP). ATP is the only chemical that powers muscle contraction and
relaxation. Loading with creatine is reported to allow muscle fibers to
work harder for a longer time before the body runs out of ATP. This
allows for a heavier, more intense workout as creatine fuels muscle
development at a greater speed.
Creatine is found in a variety of foods in various concentrations
as well as within the human body. The richest source of creatine is in
lean red meat -- 2.2 lbs. of steak contain approximately five grams of
creatine. Vegetarians have been shown to have lower creatine storages
than carnivores. But cooking and storing meat seriously reduces its
First discovered in 1832 by the French scientist Chevreul,
creatine is unique because it is neither reabsorbed or secreted by the
kidney and because of this property its excretion rate is used to measure
kidney function. Energy production by all cells, including muscle,
originates in a process called oxidative phosphorylation. This process
uses the breakdown of glucose (glycosis) and other substances as fuel to
produce high energy phosphate bonds in the form of ATP. The breakdown of
ATP produces energy which is then used to drive reactions needed for cell
survival. ATP is also used as the energy source of muscle contraction.
The first reported benefits of creatine supplementation surfaced in a
1923 experiment done on rats running in a maze.
It has been theorized that by increasing the amount of free
creatine in the diet one could increase the amount of phosphocreatine in
muscle which would then provide better availability of high energy
phosphate for energy production during muscle contraction.
But wait, theres more. Creatine has also been promoted by
companies that market it to do much more than make you stronger and allow
faster recovery between sets. It is also believed to help pack on the
pounds. When the muscle absorbs creatine, it also brings water with it.
This promotes a phenomenon called cell volumizing or cellular hydration.
When a muscle cell is hydrated it gets bigger, fuller and rounder. Take
note; this is not the same thing as water retention.
Clinical Science posted results of a research experiment
involving six subjects performing five sets of 30 maximal contractions
with one-minute recovery periods. They showed greater peak muscle torque
production in the final 10 contractions of set one, throughout sets two
and four, and during the middle ten contractions of set five after
creatine monohydrate was supplemented for five days. This study was
compared to baseline performance and six other subjects taking placebos.
They also had lower plasma ammonia accumulation, supporting the
hypothesis of improved ATP replacement.
However, research experiments conducted on aerobic energy exercise participants such as
runners has shown no performance enhancement. Creatine is believed to
only be beneficial to high-intensity anaerobic exercises for short
periods such as weight lifting. For football, hockey, basketball and
tennis (high intensity sports), creatine may be of some benefit. Overall,
creatine is most beneficial when used for sprinting type events such as
running, swimming and cycling.
It is no wonder that research like this and myriad others has
prompted the introduction of creatine into the sports marketing
mainstream. But still, there are questions left unanswered by research.
There have been anecdotal reports from numerous college-level trainers
that athletes using creatine supplementation have experienced a delayed
muscle cramping and soreness. It is currently not known whether the use
of creatine is related to cramping and muscle strain.
The fact that the dietary level of creatine can affect our muscle
creatine content, and that this content may not be optimal for maximum
protein synthesis, suggests that creatine supplements may be of benefit
for all active persons interested in maximizing the results they get from
their exercise. This is especially true of vegetarians and other people
getting little creatine in their diet.
How Does Creatine Work?
Creatine accepts a high energy phosphate from oxidative phosphorylation
and becomes phosphocreatine. This phosphagen acts as a storage form of
high energy phosphate. Under physiologic conditions, phosphocreatine
permit ATP concentrations to be maintained in muscle when ATP is rapidly
being utilized as a source of energy for muscular contraction. On the
other hand, when ATP is plentiful the phosphocreatine concentration can
build up to act as a store of high-energy phosphate. In muscle, a
creatine phosphate shuttle has also been described which transports
high-energy phosphate from mitochondria (organelle which is the site of
oxidative phosphorylation) to the sarcolemma and which acts as a high
energy phosphate buffer. Creatine is converted to phosphocreatine by the
enzyme phosphocreatine kinase. The phosphate group is transferred from
one molecule of ATP.
The major sources of energy during a fast and nonsustained muscle
contraction, such as that of the 100m sprint, are creatine phosphate
during the first 4-5 seconds and anaerobic glycolysis (the breakdown of
glucose in the absence of oxygen to produce ATP). In contrast, during
more sustained exercise, aerobic metabolism is the principal source of
ATP. During aerobic exercise, the major fuel sources are blood glucose
and free fatty acids which are broken down and go through the citric acid
cycle to produce reducing equivalents which are then used to produce ATP.
It is therefore more likely that if creatine supplementation has an
effect it would only be seen during a brief, anaerobic exercise.
Promotes muscular growth
Increases storage of instant anaerobic energy
Increases muscle strength
Improves endurance by delaying fatigue
Harris, R.C., et al. (1992) Elevation of creatine in resting and
exercised muscle of normal subjects by creatine supplementation. Clinical
Greenhaff, P.L., et al. (1993) Influence of oral creatine supplementation
of muscle torque during repeated bouts of maximal voluntary exercise.
Clinical Science 84; 565-71.
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