Creatine

♦ A natural supplement that promotes muscle building and supports performance as shown in many research studies.

What a useful supplement for body building ? There were over 300 web-pages when I last checked on creatine for body building and muscle gain so it clearly generates great interest amongst the community. When I was doing weights and gym work in the mid-80’s, I first noticed the supplement on the shelves back then because it was understood to have benefits for body builders recovering from severe muscle damage. Knowing how much to take is important because muscle can only ‘hold’ so much. A useful source of knowledge about the science behind creatine in particular, is discussed in Hoffman (2002), Berning and Steen (2006), Alpers et al., (2008) and recently Jäger et al., (2011).

A man lifting weights. Photo by David Castillo Dominici. Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Pumping Iron ! Photo by David Castillo Dominici. Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What is it ?

Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid and synthesised from the amino acids glycine and arginine via ornithine (also used in supplements) in the liver and kidneys. It was first identified in muscle by a French chemist, Michel Cheveul in 1832.  About a gram is produced daily by the body. Whilst it is non-essential, it is sourced naturally from meat and fish.  Up to 95% is stored in skeletal muscle as the phosphorylated form, phosphocreatine (PC) and the heart, brain and testes store the remainder.

Why is it important ?

Creatine is extremely important in the energy metabolism of cells. Phosphocreatine was long thought of as the main energy reserve because of its involvement in preparing ATP. It is most valuable during high intensity work-outs because it provides the reservoir for the re-phosphorylation of ADP, directly at the site of action – the muscle.  Its supply is limited.  When phosphocreatine is used up, the capacity for short, high intensity exercise severely reduces (Tesch et al., 1989).

Photo by Serge Bertasius Photography. Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo by Serge Bertasius Photography. Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is quite certain that creatine supplementation leads to weight and muscle mass gain !

Creatine remains a safe and effective supplement in sport training. Taking creatine for strength development has been scrutinised a number of times (Cordain, 1998; Williams and Branch, 1998). A few studies have shown that creatine concentration in skeletal muscle can be increased by up to 20% with supplementation (Febbraio et al., 1995; Hultman et al., 1996) to a saturation limit. The maximum level in muscle is estimated to be between 150 to 160 mmol/kg dry weight (Balsom et al., 1994) which means on reaching saturation, no further intake is necessary.

Acute and chronic supplementation of creatine monohydrate has been reported to improve strength and performance primarily during high intensity, intermittent activities (Greenhaff 1997; Kraemer and Volek, 1999; Kreider, 2003). There was claimed though to be no further improvement in performance during endurance activities even though it was used during such work-outs. Looking at those web-sites which offer creatine, a typical dosing or loading dose would be up to 25 g daily for a week, followed by maintenance dosing of 2g/day. For speed training, athletes conduct acute dosing on a daily basis with about 3g creatine for less than 4 weeks.

New Users To Creatine

Muscle gain happens quickly, states Paul Greenhaff, Ph.D., Professor studying muscle metabolism at the University of Nottingham in the UK. Whilst the initial gain is water (about 2 to 4 pounds in the first week of supplementation), subsequent gains in muscle are due to the increase in the workload that is handled.

First time users of creatine supplements always need to have a carefully crafted exercise plan with well- defined objectives. Supplementation can be conducted from 1 week to half a year and from the research  there have been positive changes noticed in strength training.  A review of those web-sites which define supplementation for new beginners recommend well-defined advice.  The Maxinutrition™ website on creatine use recommends the following:

Loading and maintenance phase of training where a rapid creatine uptake in the short term is desired, and the gains are needed in a brief supplementation cycle, such as 1 month.

Load Phase* – Take 5g, 4 times throughout the day, for the first 5 days.

Maintenance – after the loading phase, take just 5g for the remaining supplement cycle if muscle size and strength is your goal. If you are just looking for strength/power/performance gains without an increase in size take a maintenance dose of just 1 x 5g per day.

The Finished Article. Photo by domdeen. Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Finished Article. Photo by domdeen. Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2). Maintenance Only– this method is often favoured for a longer term supplementation plan, for example 1-6 months. For this method supplement with 3-10g creatine daily for the total period selecting higher doses if muscle gain is also required (6-10g) and lower doses if you are just looking for performance gains (3-5g).

There are no adverse effects  known for short term supplementation and there are no studies demonstrating any negative effects with high-dose or long-term supplementation to my knowledge.   The benefits using a loading dose are stated to be seen within 5 to 7 days. There is said to be a reduction in urine production in the first 3 days of using a loading dose. A variety of products are available to meet the sportsperson’s needs including Creatamax 300™, Creatamax Extreme™, Promax Extreme™ , and Cyclone™ from Maxinutrition™

There is a very effective supplier for creatine from Creatine Muscle Builder CPA
 
Other suppliers of creatine are available from the following suppliers:-

BulkPowders

MyProtein

The Protein Works

USN

US Based Products

This page contains links to our affiliate marketing partners.

Revised 23rd August 2017 to include US based affiliate marketing program.

References

Alpers, D.H., Stenson, W.F., Taylor, B., Bier, D.M. (2008) Manual of Nutritional Therapeutics. 5th Edt., Publ. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia. PA. USA
Balsom, P., Soderlund, K., & Ekblom, B. (1994). Creatine in humans with special references to creatine supplementation. Sports Med., 18, pp. 268-280.
Berning, J.R., Steen, S.N. (2006)  Nutrition, Sport & Exercise. 2nd edt. Publ. Jones and Bartlett. Sudbury, MA. USA. ISBN: 0-7637-3775-5
Cordain, L.C. (1998) Does Creatine Supplementation Enhance Athletic Performance ? J Am Coll Nutr.  17 pp. 205-6
Febbraio, M., Flanagan, T., Snow, R., Zhao, S., Carey, M. (1995). Effect of creatine supplementation on intramuscular TCr, metabolism and performance during intermittent, supramaximal exercise in humans. Acta Physiol. Scand., 155, pp. 387-395.
Greenhaff P (1997a) Creatine supplementation and implications for exercise performance. In: Jeudendrup A, Brouns M, Brouns F (eds) Advances in training and nutrition for endurance sports. Novartis Nutrition Research Unit, Maasticht.
Hoffman, J. (2002) Physiological Aspects of Sport Training and Performance. Human Kinetics Publ. ISBN0-7360-3424-2
Hultman, E., Soderlund, K., Timmons, J., Cederblad, G., Greenhaff, P. (1996). Muscle creatine loading in man. J. Appl. Physiol., 81, pp. 232-237.
Jäger, R., Purpura, M., Shao, A., Inoue, T., Kreider, R.B. (2011) Analysis of the efficacy, safety, and regulatory status of novel forms of creatine. Amino Acids 40 pp. 1369-1383
Kraemer WJ, Volek JS (1999) Creatine supplementation. Its role in human performance. Clin Sports Med 18 (3):651–666, ix
Kreider RB (2003) Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Mol Cell Biochem 244(1–2) pp. 89–94
Tesch, P.A., Thorsson, A., Fujitsuka, N. (1989) Creatine phosphate in fiber types of skeletal muscle before and after exhaustive exercise. J. Appl. Physiol. 66 pp. 1756-1759
Williams, M.H., Branch, J.D. (1998) Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: an update. J Am Coll Nutr 17 pp. 216–234