Benefits of Creatine

Author: Joe Sage, NASM-CPT, FNS, WLS, CES

Of all the sports performance supplements out there, creatine is probably one of the most talked about. Some of the claims for creatine include increased performance, lean body mass, muscle size and strength. How much of this is true and who can benefit from creatine?

Creatine is a substance that occurs naturally in the body, is also found in meat and fish, and is used to supply energy to cells. Muscles store creatine as creatine phosphate, which functions with the ATP-CP energy pathway. ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the immediate energy source for cells, primarily muscle contractions, and is used up within seconds. Our bodies have a reservoir of creatine phosphate (phosphocreatine) that can quickly be converted to ATP. This ATP-CP energy system can power an all-out effort that can only capable of lasting up to 15 seconds. Creatine supplements are used to increase the body’s store of creatine in the muscle. This helps increase phosphocreatine resynthesis during the resting time between bouts of exercise. Since energy stores are able to return faster, this will allow you to train harder and longer. Improvements can be seen in strength training programs and explosive power exercises, such as sprints. Simply taking creatine will not increase muscle size, strength, or performance.

Creatine also has the ability to increase cell volume by keeping muscles hydrated. It does this by pulling more water into the cell when it is absorbed. Because of this, it is very important to stay well hydrated when taking creatine. It should be noted that you might see an increase in weight caused by the higher amounts of water in cells.

So, how much is enough? On training days, up to 5 grams can be taken, and on non-training days, 2-3 grams should be taken to maintain muscle stores.

More studies are still needed to be done, but currently creatine does not appear to have any long term negative side effects. While creatine can be effective with anaerobic training, it does not show much improvement with aerobic training.

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