Creatine is one of the most significant muscle-building breakthroughs of all times. It was discovered in early 1832 but was not utilized as a bodybuilding supplement until the early 1990s.
Creatine is a naturally occurring nitrogenous organic acid that is found in skeletal muscle. It is made up of three amino acids: L-methionine, L-arginine, and L-glycine.
The body of an average person metabolizes 2 grams of creatine per day. Most of this creatine is obtained through foods such as red meat and fish. Because bodybuilders use more creatine than the average person, they must get it through supplements.
It would be challenging to eat enough red meat or fish because the concentration is too low, and much of it is destroyed when the food is cooked.
How does creatine work?
There are a few different ways in which creatine benefits bodybuilders. The first of which is through intra-cellular water retention. When creatine is taken, it is stored in the muscle cells and attracts water. The side effect of this is increased muscle strength from 5-15% and increased muscle fullness or pump. Another side effect of this is the muscles increased ability to synthesize protein and resist catabolism.
The second benefit of creatine is increased bodily production of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is what your muscles use for energy when they contract. When you work out, your body releases ATP, followed by lactic acid. The Lactic acid is the burning sensation you feel at the end of a set. When too much is built up, your muscles will no longer contract. Increasing your body supply of ATP allows you to work out harder and longer by minimizing lactic acid output.
Types of creatine
There are three common forms of creatine:
- Creatine Monohydrate
- Creatine Ethyl Ester
- Creatine Hydrochloride
Creatine monohydrate is the basic form of creatine attached to a water molecule. Many bodybuilders will argue that this is the only type of creatine needed and the most effective. Creatine ethyl ester is claimed to have a higher absorption rate and longer half-life than creatine monohydrate, but none of this is clinically proven. A study found that creatine ethyl ester breaks down faster and is inferior to the monohydrate version. The creatine hydrochloride was patented in 2009 as a hydrochloride salt. It has since proven to absorb 59 times better in water than creatine monohydrate. Due to this, the recommended amounts are substantially lower than that of the monohydrate version.
Recommended creatine intake
Most supplement companies recommend starting a loading phase of 20 grams for five days and 5-10 grams a day after that. I do not recommend a loading phase. I saw no benefit from it and believe it was a waste of money. Taking 5 grams a day with a post-workout shake gave me great results in a few weeks. It will take a few weeks to see any results from creatine. Your body can only store so much, and it will take a two to three weeks to build up to optimal levels.
Side effects of creatine
One significant side effect of creatine is gastrointestinal discomfort during the first couple of weeks. This may include bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. After a few weeks, your body will get used to absorbing it. This is the only side effect I saw, but you must remember that your kidneys and liver will have to process the creatine. As with all other supplements drink plenty of water. Multiply your body weight by .66, and this is how many ounces of water you should be drinking every day.