Creatine is one of the most widely used supplements among professional athletes. In fact, people in the U.S. spend about $2.7 billion a year on sports supplements, most of which contain creatine.
Here are some interesting facts about Creatine
• Creatine assists athletes in high-intensity training
• It helps to build body mass
• Creatine may be used to support individuals with muscular dystrophy
• Some studies show that creatine helps to boost memory
• Creatine is safe in moderate doses
• It is being studied for treating depression and Parkinson’s disease
Read on to know more!
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a natural substance composed of three amino acids, namely L-arginine, L-methionine, and glycine. It is present naturally in animal foods, including fish and red meat, and it made by the body.
However, around 95% of the total amount of creatine in the human body is stored in the skeletal muscle, while 5% is stored in the brain.
Each day, about 1.5 to 2% of creatine present in the muscles is broken down into creatinine, which is excreted in the urine. Therefore to maintain basal levels, you need to replenish 1-3g of creatine daily.
Around half of this creatine demand comes from your diet (You can get 1 to 2 grams of creatine from salmon or one pound of raw beef).
Your liver and kidney also fulfil part of this replacement by synthesizing creatine from the amino acids arginine and glycine.
Creatine supplies energy to the part of the body where is a demand. So athletes usually rely on supplements to increase their energy supply, improve their sports performance, and train harder.
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), every athlete who engages in intense training “may need to maintain their store by consuming between 5 and 10g of creatine a day.”
Benefits of Creatine Supplementation
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements consumed. It is one of the most common sports nutrition supplements for building muscle and strength.
Below are some science-based benefits of creatine:
1. Improving athletic performance
Creatine boosts your muscles phosphocreatine stores, which leads to the formation of new ATP –the key molecule used by the cell for energy and all basic metabolic functions.
This creatine’s direct role in ATP formation makes it very useful for improving high-intensity exercise performance.
This supplement does not benefit only the advanced athletes, but everyone, regardless of their fitness level. It may improve numerous factors, including:
• Ballistic power
• Muscle endurance
• Resistance to fatigue
• Brain performance
• Muscle mass
• Sprint ability
A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine showed that creatine helps to boost athletic performance in short periods of extremely powerful activity.
However, not all studies had recorded the same benefit. "https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407788/"2012 review concluded that creatine:
• enhances the quality of high-intensity intermittent speed training
• boosts the effect of resistance training on body mass and strength
• may enhance power, fat-free mass, neurological function, and daily living performance
• improves the level of endurance in aerobic exercises that lasts more than 150 seconds
2. Repairing damage after injury
When you take creatine supplements, it may help you prevent muscle injury. Not only that, but research also suggests that when you sustain an injury during an athletic performance, creatine helps to enhance your recovery process.
More so, one of the benefits of creatine supplementation is that it helps to reduce cramping after an intensive session of resistance training. This function is due to the antioxidant effect of creatine.
Interestingly, creatine may also help in rehabilitation for brain and other injuries.
3. Increased body mass
The more creatine content you have in your muscles, the greater your body mass.
However, based on the report of the U.S National Library of medicine, creatine does not build muscles. But the increase in body mass is due to the ability of creatine to cause the muscles to hold water.
A review, Published in 2003, states that “The visible gain in body weight is attributed to water retention during supplementation.”
Another possibility for muscle build-up could be as a result of harder exercise routine.
4. Creatine and muscular atrophy
Studies show that using creatine supplements every day for 8 to 16 weeks may help to reduce fatigue and improve muscle strength in individuals with muscular atrophy.
A review of 14 studies also revealed that regular intake of creatine supplement caused an increase in muscle strength of 8.5% in people living with muscular dystrophy compared with those who did not take the supplement.
5. Improved brain function
Your brain requires a significant amount of ATP to carry out a difficult task. Creatine supplements increase phosphocreatine stores in your brain which has been shown to boost its production of ATP.
A study also showed that creatine increases dopamine levels and mitochondria function, thereby enhancing brain function.
More so, meat is the best source of creatine, and vegetarians often have a low level of this supplement. One study conducted on creatine supplements in vegetarians showed a 20-50 percent improvement in their intelligence scores.
Studies on older individuals found a significant improvement in memory and recall ability after two weeks of supplementing with creatine.
Other benefits of creatine supplementation include:
• Creatine might help treat neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease
• It helps to treat depression
Safety of Creatine supplementation
When you take the recommended doses of creatine, it is considered “safe” to consume.
But in high doses, it could affect the liver, kidneys, or heart. More so, it could result in:
• Stomach pain
• Muscle cramping
Should I use creatine supplements?
The National Collegiate Athletic Association and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) endorsed the use of creatine as a sports supplement.
Now creatine is generally used among fitness enthusiasts and professional athletes.
You can also take creatine supplements to boost your athletic performance and health.
It may also help to boost your brain function, accelerate muscle growth, and fight neurological diseases.