There are many misconceptions about creatine, what it is, what it does, when to take it, etc... Don't be fooled. Creatine is completely natural and within moderation, creatine is completely safe for consumption. Just like anything else common in the dietary world, too much can lead to unwanted side-effects. Here's the low-down on creatine.
What is creatine? "Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in vertebrates and helps supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle." - Wikipedia. Yes, simply put, creatine is an energy source.
First identified in 1832 by French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, creatine is named after the Greek word for meat (kreas). Creatine is found in such things as meat and even breast milk. Creatine content as a percentage of crude protein is even used to gauge the quality of a steak. Yes, steak. Yummmm. Hmmmm. Chomp Chomp.
Creatine (monohydrate) was first introduced into US markets in 1992 through Anthony Almada and the company he co-founded, Engineered and Applied Sciences (EAS). EAS is now known by Experimental and Applied Sciences. The pioneering EAS creatine product "Phosphogen" was developed through Almada's efforts of research and development out of the UCSF medical library in San Francisco, CA. Designed specifically for strength and muscle enhancement. Ed Byrd was Anthony's founding business partner and the two later sold the company to businessman, author and publisher of Muscle Media 2000 (also known as MM2k), Bill Phillips. Prior to purchasing EAS, Phillips was a business partner of Dr. A. Scott Connelly. Dr. Connelly was the founder of MET-Rx. Anthony now heads Vitargo Global Sciences, LLC out of Dana Point, CA. This, the super-carb, Vitargo, is the product that I profess should be the cornerstone of your supplementary program and regime. With more than 300 scientific studies on creatine, it is one of the most highly studied nutrition supplements on the planet, today. Creatine is a highly common supplementation practice among athletes of all levels around the globe. Know that research shows that consuming a high glycemic carbohydrate (ie: Vitargo) in conjunction with creatine increases muscle stores (American Journal of Physiology, 1996). The Karolinska institute, Stockholm, Sweden played a key role in this development. Watch my video: What is Vitargo. Additionally, you may want to add alpha lipoic acid to your carb+creatine ingestion.
Again, within moderation, creatine is completely safe. The daily recommended value for athletic activity: 5 g. One may cycle on 20 g per day but, wise to cycle back down to 2-5 g after a week. Augmented levels of creatine after loading periods have still been found in the system 6 weeks after the cycle. So, consume high levels of creatine with caution. On said principle, you may consider supplementation for 2 months on and then 1 month off - and rotating as such. Again, a 20 g intake should only be applied for about 1 week.
A daily dosage of 3 g of creatine is recommended for the average person. The average human body will produce about 1 g of creatine naturally each day. Again, 5 g - 20 g supplementation for an athlete in training has proven to be safe. Creatine "loading" would equate to an intake of 20 g per day. The meat equivalent would be about 10 lbs of meat. Any beef eaters out there? To a common man that's a TON of MEAT. Again, if you are ingesting this amount of creatine, be sure to cycle for only a few days (ie: 7 days) and then recline back to 2-5 g per day. Otherwise kidney problems could ensue.
As a sport nutrition supplementary form, creatine should come from one source as far as Im concerned and that source is AlzChem AG which produces CreaPure brand creatine. Visit their site here. When visiting know that 1kg = 2.2lbs. Originally discovered from Swedish scientists (Karolinska), CreaPure is the pioneering brand of creatine now manufactured in Germany. Look for their name or logo on any creatine product you're thinking about buying. Creapure calls on a three-pillar industry standard during their manufacturing process that assures quality. These are 1) the selection of raw materials 2) patented high performance technology under GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) conditions and 3) precise chemical analysis.
Creatine is recommended to be taken with caffeine-free drinks, such as water or fruit juice. It can even be taken with warm water or tea. Creatine can also be combined with products such as Gatorade, Vitargo or your favorite pre-workout, such as a beta-alanine suplement. Use your own discretion. However, know that taking large doses of caffeine with creatine cancels the ergogenic (performance enhancing) effect of the creatine. Smaller amounts do not have an adverse effect. It is recommended to take creatine (1g) with 100/ml of fluid. Do not purchase RTDs (ready to drinks) with added creatine as creatine does not remain stable in fluids for long periods. Creatine in drinks should be consumed the same day they are mixed.
When should I take creatine: PRE/INTRA/POST workout?
I recommend creatine supplementation as a PRE workout. The body naturally produces about half of the creatine needed for average human activity. The rest it needs through food or supplementation. As a PRE workout, research shows greater amounts of creatine in muscle, improve performance. Creatine has shown to impact exercises lasting 10 seconds to 2 minutes. Thus, it is not shown to directly benefit endurance activities and is most common in bodybuilding and weight-lifting. By no means, is PRE workout supplementation not beneficial to endurance sports. Perhaps its just not as beneficial (during). Therefore, possibly best suited for an endurance athlete as a POST workout supplement as it aids in muscle recovery. It can also be effective as part of a POST workout shake as it increases resythesis rate. Augmented levels of creatine in the body increase ATP (the sole source of energy for cells). More power available to the muscle. Heightened performance levels. Thus, creatine supplementation is best ingested as a PRE workout.
How does creatine work?
Creatine promotes energy for cell growth.
"All the body's cells use adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as their sole source of energy - regardless of what needs energy. Muscles, the brain, nerves, metabolic process... etc. Again, All cells in the body use ATP as their sole source of energy. When a cell needs energy, one phosphate is split off from ATP. This process releases energy and converts to "high-energy" adenosine triphosphate (tri = 3) into adenosine diphosphate (di = 2), ADP for short. The phosphate that was split off binds to creatine, forming phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine gives the phosphate to the ADP, and this process "recharges" the low-energy ADP so it becomes high-energy ATP. This is how the instant energy source is made available to the body. With the help of the energy store phosphocreatine, it is possible to continually regenerate ATP. -Creapure.com
Does creatine cause cramping? Are there any heart-related disorders (dehydration) with taking creatine?
No. Creatine does not cause cramping. Additionally, there are no heart-related disorders (dehydration), gastrointestinal (bloating or digestive issues) or musculoskeletal issues associated with creatine intake.
Quote: "...long-term use of Creapure (creatine) have consistently shown that in comparison to athletes who did not take creatine those who took creatine did not experience a greater incidence of injuries, heart-related disorders (dehydration), cramping, musculoskeletal injuries, or gastrointestinal disturbances. Additionally, athletes who took creatine over a long period did not have significantly higher muscle and liver enzymes, altered electrolytes, or increased renal stress determined by creatine clearance." - Creapure.com
Additionally, these two studies disprove that creatine a) causes dehydration and b) causes cramping:
A) From the Journal of Athletic Trianing (US National Library of Medicine): "Does Creatine Supplementation Hinder Exercise Heat Tolerance or Hydration Status? A Systematic Review With Meta-Analyses"
B) From the British Journal of Sports Medicine: "Putting to rest the myth of creatine supplementation leading to muscle cramps and dehydration"
Again, the suggested intake of creatine is 5g per day for athletic performance. You may cycle on higher doses (ie: 20 g per day , but, you will want to cycle back down to 2-5 g after a week.
Does creatine cause water retention?
Yes. Creatine draws water into muscle cells. This augments muscle size and volume and causes muscle to increase in lean tissue synthesis. Water retention will also cause weight gain. You will loose this water as you cycle off creatine. Here's a study that explains creatine and water retention: "Effects of training and creatine supplement on muscle strength and body mass." - M. Francaux and JR Poortmans. "
What does creatine look like?
Creatine is a white odorless, flavor-free and order-free, powder. CreaPure describes it here:
"Creatine is a white, flavorless, odorless fine powder. It is produced from cyanamide and sarcosinate using the “cyanamide route” in a patented manufacturing process. Creatine can contain the impurities creatinine, dicyandiamide, and dihydrotriazine derivatives, and diligent checks for their presence need to be performed during the creatine manufacturing process." - Creapure.com
I've found a new creatine product but, I can't find their studies... are these good creatine sources?
Many creatine products swing a big stick. But, few deliver the actual slam. Like most products in the sport nutrition industry maybe 1-1000 have actual studies to back up their claim. So, don't give into all the hype on labels. Do your research first. For instance, a product may tell you their creatine does one thing, but, they're not telling you how they're doing it. Example: Cell-Tech adds 75 g of sugar PER SERVING to their product. If you've read around this site before, you've come across my take on sugar. AVOID IT.
So, this is why a company, like Cell-Tech, slams their serving full of sugar. The sugar spikes insulin and the insulin bulldozes the creatine into muscle cells. Thus making the creatine delivery faster. However, along with those 75 g of sugar, are a) the health risks of high sugar in-take and b) 300 added calories. Calories from sugar. No bueno, amigo. Here's a quote from research conducted by Creapure brand creatine. The only brand I recommend you take:
"In a market always looking for new and improved products, there are now more than 20 different creatine derivatives sold commercially that promise better results than conventional creatine monohydrate. But no scientific studies have been done on these new products that prove that they enhance performance, unlike creatine monohydrate, which, as the subject of more than 300 studies, is one of the most researched dietary supplements around. There is no toxicological information available for these products either.Creatine Esters (ie: CEE) - Creatine ester is a creatine monohydrate that has been esterified with either the alcohol methanol (creatine methyl ester) or ethanol (creatine ethyl ester). After being absorbed by the body, creatine esters are split into creatine and the alcohol methanol or ethanol. This conversion occurs very quickly. Ten minutes after oral administration, the ester is no longer detectable and has been broken down completely into creatine, creatinine, and methanol or ethanol. It has been shown that this breakdown takes place before it has been absorbed into the muscle cells. Twelve percent of orally administered creatine ester is converted into creatinine after 30 minutes, and, in addition, esterification strongly promotes the conversion into creatinine. Creatinine is excreted via the kidneys. The alcohol - in the form of methanol or ethanol - needs to be detoxified by the liver. Methanol in particular is highly toxic and even small amounts can damage the nervous system. There are no studies that prove that creatine esters enhance performance. It is especially significant that there is no indication that these esters have an advantage over pure creatine monohydrate." -Creapure.com
What about Kre-akalyn?
This is a "buffered creatine". There is no evidence to suggest this product says what it claims. Ie: research has found no difference in muscle content, body composition, or training adaptations from the consumption of buffered creatine monohydrate (Kre-Akalyn) and creatine monohydrate (Creapure). Its kind of like supplementing on Karbolyn vs Vitargo. Ive taken both. But, one simply far out-performs the other. EFX uses a carbohydrate called a homopolysaccharide. What the heck is this? Its nothing more than a buffering of various inferior carbohydrate sources such as maltodextrine and or waxy maize. One thing is for sure. It contains ZERO Vitargo. As Vitargo is found in one company's products and that is VGS, LLC. They have a kind of monopoly on the carbohydrate supplement market as NOTHING to date out-performs it. Nothing even comes close. Nothing.
It basically supplies the body with energy. Energy to produce cells. That makes it an excellent supplement for athletic performance (fast twitch) and muscle growth. Again, for this quote, know that 1kg = 2.2 lbs.
"Creatine is an endogenous (made by the body) substance that is present in every human cell. It functions as an energy storehouse. Creatine is required for physical and mental exertion. In the body, creatine is synthesized from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine, primarily in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas, and it is transported from there to all the cells in the body via the bloodstream. Since creatine is involved in all processes that require energy, muscle, brain and nerve cells receive correspondingly larger amounts. The creatine reserves of a person who weighs 70 kg equal about 120 grams. The vast majority of creatine (app. 95%) is stored in the skeletal muscles. Creatine is primarily involved in muscle contraction. It is taken up from the blood into the cell membrane by means of a sodium-dependent creatine transporter. Approximately 60-70% of the total creatine in muscle is stored in the form of the highenergy molecule phosphocreatine. The remaining 30-40% is present in the form of free creatine. Besides adenosine triphosphate, phosphocreatine is the most important source for energy in the body. All of the body’s cells can use only adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as an energy-releasing substance. Since the ATP reserves in the body are limited, ATP has to be continuously resynthesized. ATP is produced from the energy sources fat and carbohydrates over a fairly long time frame. If a cell needs energy, the “high-energy” ATP is converted to “low-energy” adenosine diphosphate (ADP). Similar to a battery, creatine (phosphocreatine) charges low-energy ADP up to high-energy ATP until ATP that has been converted from fat and carbohydrates is available. Muscles contain 3-4 more phosphocreatine than ATP, and the phosphocreatine serves as a short-term energy reserve for the times when the need for ATP is greater than the synthesis of ATP from carbohydrates and fat can provide. Phosphocreatine levels and the regeneration of ATP play key roles when the body is involved in intense, repetitive forms of exertion. Increasing the amount of creatine and phosphocreatine speeds up the regeneration of ATP, which leads directly to the release and availability of more energy. Creatine supplementation increases the amount of creatine in muscle tissue
Orally administered creatine is absorbed by the intestines and then goes into the bloodstream. Small doses of creatine result in maximum blood plasma concentrations after fewer than two hours. For concentrations of creatine in muscles there appears to be an upper limit that can not be extended (~160 mmol per kg muscle dry matter). Ongoing supplementation with large amounts of creatine oes not raise the levels of creatine in muscle any more, so is not recommended." - Creapure.com
What are phosphagens?
"Phosphagens are energy storage compounds, also known as high-energy phosphate compounds, are chiefly found in muscular tissue in animals. The majority of animals use arginine / phosphoarginine as phosphagens. However, the phylum Chordata (ie: animals with spinal cords) use creatine." -See wikipedia on phosphagens.
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My recommended creatine product. Click image to order:
German Creatine contains Creapure Creatine Monohydrate. The purest, safest and most effective form on Creatine on the World market today.
Lower quality Creatines contain higher levels of impurities. These impurities include Dicyandiamide (DCD), Dihydrotriazine (DHT), Creatinine, Thiourea, and Sodium. Unfortunately, the long term effects of these impurities remain unknown. And because Creatine is used in large amounts for extended periods of time, the quality of Creatine you consume is incredibly important. Our goal is to bring you the safest and most effective Creatine in the World. And that's why we've chosen to use pure German manufactured Creapure in German Creatine , which is guaranteed to contain the highest purity level ever - a minimum 99.95%.
No Excess Water RetentionIf you've used other Creatines in the past, no doubt you've experienced excessive water retention resulting in a soft, bloated look to your muscles. This may be due to inferior manufacturing processes that leave excess Sodium in the finished product. Creapure is manufactured in Germany using a patented manufacturing process that has produced the purest Creatine in the World. And unlike cheaper forms, you will not experience excessive water retention.
What are some other creatine supplements? Check these out
Can creatine monohydrate really improve performance? -by Lyle McDonald, Bodybuilding.com
Creatine - Why use it? Scientific support to back its benefits - by David Robson, Bodybuilding.com
When's the best time to take creatine? -by Mark Barroso, Men's Heatlth
Benefits, side-effects, dosages and FAQ's -by MuscleandStrength.com
The Best Time to take creatine -by Bornstein, Bodybuilding.com