Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in vertebrates and helps to supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle. This is achieved by increasing the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). It is naturally produced in the human body from amino acids primarily in the kidney and liver. It is transported in the blood for use by muscles. Approximately 95% of the human body’s total creatine is located in skeletal muscle.
Creatine has been shown to be an effective antioxidant with supplementation alone and also when associated with resistance training. Creatine supplements are used by athletes, bodybuilders, wrestlers, sprinters, and others who wish to gain muscle mass, typically consuming 2 to 3 times the amount that could be obtained from a very-high-protein diet.
However, the Mayo Clinic states that creatine has been associated with asthmatic symptoms and warns against consumption by persons with known allergies to creatine. There are reports of kidney damage with creatine use, such as interstitial nephritis; patients with kidney disease should avoid use of this supplement. In similar manner, liver function may be altered, and caution is advised in those with underlying liver disease, although studies have shown little or no adverse impact on kidney or liver function from oral creatine supplementation.
Extensive research has shown that oral creatine supplementation at a rate of five to 20 grams per day appears to be very safe and largely devoid of adverse side-effects, while at the same time effectively improving the physiological response to resistance exercise, increasing the maximal force production of muscles in both men and women.
The most common form of creatine supplement found in the market today is Creatine Monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate supplements are products that contain a very pure form of creatine and are often taken pre/post workout and/or with other supplements like whey protein. ATP is the immediate source of energy for muscle contraction. Muscle fibers only contain enough ATP to power a few twitches, additional ATP must be drawn from the body’s ATP “pool”. Creatine monohydrate is converted into creatine phosphate in the body to keep the ATP pool filled.
What does this mean in the real world? Having a good reservoir of ATP available may help you lift heavier weights for more reps by providing your muscles with enough the fast-converting energy it needs for maximum performance. You’ll often hear this referred to as “explosive energy”. Here’s a list of the possible benefits of taking creatine for someone who is doing intense resistance training (weight training) or a sport which requires high amounts of instant energy (for example a sprinter).
- Enhanced muscle mass/strength
- Increased muscle energy availability
- Increased power output (more sets/reps)
- Weight gain
- Enhanced recovery after exercise
Creatine usage is generally not recommended for people under the age of 18. This is because of the lack of research of creatine supplementation in teenagers.