Creatine supplements explained
Creatine supplements are beneficial to anyone and especially those people who weight train; that much is a fact. How beneficial creatine is and what the specific benefits are, however, is sometimes misconstrued, says Nick Craft.
What is creatine?
Creatine is an organic acid which is derived from some amino acids, including glycerine and arginine. 95% of all creatine is stored within the body's skeletal muscles. Creatine comes in several different forms. All forms of creatine, with the exception of CEE, have the same benefits from a molecular perspective, but creatine monohydrate is the most cost effective creatine supplement to use.
What kinds of creatine supplement are available?
Creatine is available in a variety of forms, namely:
Creatine Monohydrate is the cheapest and simplest form of creatine available. This is used in GoNutrition's standard Creatine Monohydrate
CEE (Creatine Ethyl Ester)
Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE) is a form of creatine that has been joined to an organic compound, known as an ester group. The theory behind this is to improve the absorption of the creatine. In reality studies have failed to support this and furthermore some studies have suggested that CEE is broken down to creatinine in the intestines. Creatinine cannot be used by the muscles.
Creatine Kre-Alkalyn (AKA buffered creatine) or Creatine Hydrochloride is turned into simple creatine molecules in the stomach. This results in an extra process needing to be carried out by the body, slower absorption and both forms are more expensive than Creatine Monohydrate.
Creatine Magnesium Chelate
Creatine Magnesium Chelate is marketed to prevent water weight at lower doses.
Creatine Citrate and Creapure® are micronised creatine supplements which are more water-soluble so it dissolves easier. Creapure® is used in GoNutrition's premium Creapure® Creatine Monohydrate
What foods contain creatine?
Creatine can be found in small amounts in certain foods including; red meat, certain fish and to a much inferior level, fruit and vegetables. For somebody to receive sufficient amounts of creatine from meat and fish, they would need to ingest 500g (raw weight) of the aforementioned foods on a daily basis. Not only is this not an achievable amount for the average person, it is also largely ineffective in terms of cost. That's where creatine supplements come in.
Why use creatine supplements?
It's more practical and less expensive to get your creatine from creatine supplements than it is to eat foods that are naturally high in creatine. Creatine supplementation is beneficial and to a degree, essential for strength and muscle size increases.
Studies have shown that the ingestion of creatine above the amounts produced within the human body, show significant increases to the direct creatine levels seen within the muscle. This again reflects the previous statement that creatine primarily supplies the skeletal muscles.
What do creatine supplements do?
Creatine is an energy supplier to all cells throughout the body and the primary beneficiary of this activity are muscles. This fact alone indicates that a healthy creatine supply when weight training is going to carry great benefits with regards to the muscles ability to work harder, for longer and at an improved level.
Are creatine supplements well researched?
A lot of studies have been conducted which indicates that creatine has the aforementioned benefits. David Sandler, Senior Director of NSCA, says "Creatine allows you to have a longer and larger work volume. It helps you get one more rep." His research goes on to state that creatine supplementation can increase the stores of this compound by 10-40%.
Along with studies confirming the increased amount of creatine found in muscles after ingestion, further studies also suggest that consuming high glycemic (GI) carbohydrates such as white rice or white bread along with a consistent level of creatine will extenuate the amount of creatine which is held in the muscles. Creatine is then used as an energy source during rapid or high intensity exercise, this is a direct result of increased PCr (phosocreatine) stores.
What form do creatine supplements take?
Creatine Monohydrate is usually found in powder form but can also be found in pill form for easier ingestion. Creatine Monohydrate powder is usually mixed with a liquid such as fruit juice or cordial, even water if you are really brave, as it's not the easiest thing to get down without a flavour to mask it.
What will happen when I use creatine supplements?
When first starting to use creatine, specifically Monohydrate, it is common to see weight gain. This is generally "water weight" due to water being drawn to the muscles with the increased amount of creatine molecules available.
A "loading phase" is widely reported to be an effective way of reaping the benefits of creatine quicker. The loading phase refers to an increased amount (grams) of creatine for a 5-7 day period, followed by a consistent level of creatine, usually 5g.
For example, somebody who weighs 90kg would ingest 27g (0.3g per lb) creatine for 5-7 days then they would consume a consistent amount of 5g per day thereafter.
Why use a loading phase when using creatine supplements?
The primary reason that a loading phase is recommended is that the benefits of creatine supplements are more prevalent at an optimal level of saturation. So essentially, the quicker you reach maximal saturation levels, the faster you should start to see the benefits of creatine.
The drawback of a loading phase is that there is a largely elevated likelihood that the amount of water weight experienced would increase - so this is down to personal preference. 5g creatine a day would be sufficient to saturate the muscles over a long time period, and 2g a day is seen as the "maintenance" level.
Who uses creatine supplements?
After the 1992 Olympics, The Times newspaper reported that Linford Christie, Sally Gunnell and Colin Jackson all used creatine supplements before their respective events.
Now, I'm not suggesting that creatine is solely responsible for their successes; in fact this is just one of many components which made these athletes successful, but this revelation was quickly followed by the first release of the first "creatine supplement" aimed at the fitness industry, in 1993.
Coincidence? I will let you decide on that one, but the benefits of Creatine Monohydrate are all too apparent and at the very affordable price that Go Nutrition sell this supplement for, you can't go wrong.
How do you use creatine?
Personally, I supplement with creatine on a daily basis along with both Leucine and a BCAA complex to provide me with essential Branched Chain Amino Acids
. I take 5g of creatine pre-workout and in the morning on non-training days.
I have been taking creatine consistently for the last six months and I did conduct a loading phase for the first seven days, supplementing with 15g a day for this period.
Since I have been using creatine, I have noticed a significant increase in my ability to train for longer and at the same level as my previous workout, if not harder.
I log my workouts so that I know what weight/rep range I achieved in my previous workout of the same body part. This allows me to use this as a target and in recent months, since the introduction of creatine to my system, I have more often than not surpassed my previous weight/rep range.
I'm not going to say this has happened every workout as that simply isn't true nor do I expect anyone would experience this. We all experience those workouts where you are not feeling at your best or you are not in the right mindset for one reason or another and that can affect your performance in the weight room.
What creatine performance benefits have you experienced?
A prime example of where I feel creatine has influenced my performance is on flat Dumbbell Bench Press. I had hit a plateau of 28kg DBs where I could achieve six reps. I found that I physically struggled to push past this in terms of reps whilst maintaining correct form.
Since the introduction of a consistent creatine intake, I now manage to hit 28kg DBs for 9-10 reps and also press 32kg DBs for six reps, so quite a significant increase in a relatively short time period.
Creatine Monohydrate is the cheapest form of creatine available making it the most cost effective. There are no scientifically proven negative side effects with taking creatine supplements and evidence suggests that ingestion of this supplement can increase skeletal muscle stores by up to 40%, while playing a key role in strength increases and fatigue resistance.