Updated: Oct 15
As a health and performance supplement, creatine has been used by athletes and fitness enthusiasts for decades. In fact, it is one of the most heavily researched supplements on the market. A quick look at Examine.com will give you dozens of articles written on the benefits or potential benefits of supplementing your diet regimen with creatine, and those barely scratch the surface on the body of work surrounding this substance.
Creatine is a derivative of the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. We naturally produce about 1-2g/day in our kidneys, liver, and pancreas. Creatine can also be absorbed by consuming red meats, salmon, and supplementation (creatine monohydrate). About 90-95% of the creatine we absorb goes to our muscles. Creatine is broken down into creatinine and excreted through our urine at a rate of about 2g/day, depending upon consumption and activity levels.
Why supplement with creatine?
Well, do you care about your exercise performance? Are you looking to support or build lean muscle? Are you concerned with improving your brain function or defending yourself against neurological diseases as you age?
Daily supplementation with creatine can help with all of these areas, which is why it’s worthy of your attention. Let’s take a look.
1. Improvement In Intense Exercise Performance
Our muscles rely on a substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is a byproduct of our phosphogenic energy system, to effectively perform short, fast bursts of energy, such as sprinting, ballistic movements, Olympic lifting, a heavy squat, etc. Creatine’s direct effect on the production of ATP in our muscles can help create more potential available ATP, in turn, improving the performance of short, intense exercises and efforts.
Endurance athletes likely won’t see quite the same benefits, due to their sports’ reliance on the aerobic energy system. However, creatine supplementation has a “cell volumizing effect”, which pulls more water into the muscle cells. Over time, and with some resistance training, this could result in more muscle glycogen storage and protein synthesis, thus, aiding in muscle endurance and reducing protein breakdown.
2. Supports Muscular Size and Strength
One of creatine’s primary functions as a supplement is to increase muscle size and strength. In fact, it has shown to be the most effective supplement on the market for such a task. The initial gains are seen via the additional water being pulled into the muscle cells. Over time, prolonged supplementation activates specific channels that aid in muscle tissue growth, strength, and performance.
In this study, 25 male subjects (7 control, 8 creatine group, and 10 placebo group) were subjected to a 42-day strength training program. At the end of the program, the control and placebo groups did not see any change in their lean, skeletal muscle mass. However, the creatine group saw gains of 2.0kg (4.4lbs) in mass.