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Ultimate Guide To Creatine

What is Creatine? Contrary to population belief, creatine is not an anabolic steroid. Once seen as a supplement for only the elite bodybuilders and professional sports athlete, it is now extremely popular among all gym goers and the general population. It is a compound found in the bodies of vertebrate animals and is composed of 3 amino acids; arginine, glycine, and methionine. It is predominately used by skeletal muscle and brain tissue as these tissues require high amounts of energy. We make about 1g of it a day and it can be found in our diets from meat and fish.   What does Creatine do? ATP is a high energy molecule. It supplies the body with energy and once it is used up it is reduced to ADP, a low energy molecule. Creatine comes along and reattaches a new phosphate to ADP, making a new high energy molecule of ATP. The faster ATP can be restored, the more energy the body has for high-intensity exercise. In high-intensity exercise, ATP is broken down very quickly. If the body has a high store of creatine (phosphocreatine), ATP can be re-synthesised and the exercise can be maintained for a longer time. At exhaustion, both creatine and ATP are very low.   What are the benefits of taking a Creatine supplement? We only make 1g of creatine naturally per day but we need 3-5g per day to see benefits. Cooking degrades the creatine in meat. In order to get enough creatine for diet alone, we would need to eat approx 1 kilo of raw meat. Vegetarians/vegans are getting no creatine from their diets.  
  1. Increased Strength: In the mentioned study, the creatine group increased bench 1RM by 8kg while training the only group actually decreased by 3kg (Earnest et al., 1995). Creatine group also got 4 extra reps at 70% 1RM. Creatine is one of the most researched sports supplements with strength gains seen in both upper and lower body and using a range of dosing strategies over varying amounts of time.
 
  1. Increase Training Volume: Athletes can train longer before reaching a lactate threshold and are able to train for a longer period in total. They tend to be able to complete more reps before reaching fatigue and there is higher power output. This has been shown in athletes who supplement with creatine completing faster 15m sprints compared to those who do not supplement (Chwalbinska-Moneta, 2003; Burke et al., 2008; Rawson et al., 2011).
 
  1. Body Composition: NB! Creatine does not have a direct impact on your body composition. It can enhance training performance which can then directly change your physique. Creatine does not cause bloating. Instead, it causes muscles to become hydrated, increasing the muscle diameter, giving a more full and pumped look (Safdar et al., 2008.) This extra water does however also tend to cause an increase on the scales. Some evidence that the added water in the muscle can lead to greater muscle protein synthesis, leading to more muscle hypertrophy but WAAAAY more research is needed (Bemben et al., 2001)
  How much Creatine should I take? Muscles need 3-5g a day for 4-6 weeks to become saturated. If you plan to take creatine long term it is probably better to take a low dose daily than to load. There is no need to cycle creatine. It can be taken long term with studies showing creatine used consistently for over 21 months!   When should I take Creatine? There is no significant difference in performance depending on when you take it. Maybe slightly greater gains when taken after training but ideally just remember to take it! In the morning, before/ during / after training, before bed. It’s all the same.   Do I need to load Creatine? No you don’t have to. You can either take a low dose daily and reach saturation within 6 weeks or you can load first (20g/d x 6 days) and reach the saturation point quicker. Both equally fine but stomach discomfort is seen when taking more than 10g in a single serving, so maybe if loading split it up and two servings of 10g throughout the day.   Should I take the powder or pill, and is monohydrate best? Creatine monohydrate is the cheapest and most well researched. New creatines like ethyl-esters have little research and have been shown to be equally as effective as the monohydrate, just triple the price. I personally prefer the powder because it is more cost effective. If choosing the pill version make sure to read the back and check how many grams are in each pill.   Are there any risks or disadvantages of taking Creatine? 72 American football players were participants in the below-mentioned study... There were no differences in risks between players who took creatine and those who didn't. If anything those who took creatine was injured less. Muscle cramps: There is no direct link to creatine. It may be that creatine leads to an increased ability to perform at high intensity and it is the high-intensity exercise that causes the cramps. GI discomfort: Only when taken in excessive amounts. If you plan to load, it would be better to take 10g at two separate times throughout the day. No clinically significant differences between players who took creatine and those who didn’t for renal function, muscle and liver function, blood lipids, red blood cell count nor clinical urinalysis. Kreider et al., 2003.       Blog written by #gngang member Emma Cowley More about Emma

Emma has a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education and biology and a Masters of Science in sport and exercise science and medicine, which both earned her a first class honours and a university class award. Additionally, she is currently doing a Ph.D. in the Dept. of Exercise Metabolism + Adaptation too.

She is also a qualified personal trainer, Olympic Weightlifting coach and AfN Nutrition coach. She has gathered the requisite scientific knowledge through her academic background, which compliments her practical experience acquired through training and coaching.

Emma is currently the UK-Ireland Education Manager for a European Health company where I work with healthcare leaders across Europe, including Oxford University, Cambridge, Imperial College and Trinity College Dublin, to support in the development of novel and innovative health educational projects.       References Bemben M., Bemben D., Loftiss D. & Knehans A. (2001) Creatine supplementation during resistance training in college football athletes, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33 (1), 1667-1673. Burke D., Candow D., Chilibeck P., MacNeil L., Roy B., Tarnopolsky M. & Ziegenfuss T. (2008) Effect of creatine supplementation and resistance-exercise training on muscle insulin-like growth factor in young adults, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 18, 389-398. Chwalbinska- Moneta (2003) Effect of creatine supplementation on aerobic performance and anaerobic capacity in elite rowers in the course of endurance training, International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 13, 173-183. Ernst K., Schafer B. & Lampen A. (2017) Creatine and creatine forms intended for sports nutrition, Molecular Nutrition in Food Research, 61 (6), 1-18. Kreider R., Melton C., Rasmussen C., Greenwood M., Lancaster S., Cantler E., Milnor P. & Almada A. (2003) Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes, Mol Cell Biochem, 244 (1), 95-104. Rawson E., Stec M., Frederickosn S. & Miles M. (2011) Low-dose creatine supplementation enhances fatigue resistance in the absence of weight gain, Nutrition, 27, 451-455. Safdar A., Yardley N., Snow R., Melov S. & Tarnopolsky M. (2008) Global and targeted gene expression and protein content in skeletal muscle of young men following short-term creatine monohydrate supplementation, Physiology Genomics, 32 (2), 219-228.  
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