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Creatine

Creatine has two main uses; it can be used every day regardless of training, or can be used by athletes to help achieve peak physical conditions. When used in tandem with a heavy exercise regime, Creatine helps to power muscle contractions for brief, intensive bursts of athletic activity and is a significant form of energy storage. Large amounts of scientific data and research has confirmed that supplementing with Creatine increases strength, lean body mass and muscular energy whilst helping to improve recovery times during intense exercise. Creatine has been widely embraced by world class athletes looking for a competitive advantage that's effective and safe. Creatine can also be taken every day - Creatine is naturally found in muscle tissue and can be derived from animal products, especially meat and fish. Supplementing with it helps to replenish the muscle’s natural Creatine stores and makes it easier to determine that you’re getting the right amounts of Creatine at the right times, rather than relying on whole food or a largely meat-based diet. Creatine supplements are readily absorbed and are often delivered with carbohydrates, depending on the type of Creatine. This increases uptake of Creatine into the muscle cells; making supplementation an easy and logical choice.

What exactly is Creatine?

Creatine is a protein made from 3 different amino acids (Arginine, Glycine and Methionine). It mainly naturally occurs in the body, but can also be found in meat or fish. Creatine is stored mostly as Phosphocreatine in muscles, which generates rapid energy during any high intensity activity. Creatine is an osmotically active substance, which means that it can cause water to move across cell membranes. When muscle cell Creatine percentage rises, water is drawn into the cell, an effect that boosts the thickness of the muscle fibres by around 15%. This stretching is essentially a mechanical force, which triggers an anabolic reaction; this stimulates protein synthesis and increases lean tissue mass.

What are the benefits?

Creatine has many benefits, such as:

  • 1. Prolongs maximal power output.
  • 2. Increases strength & endurance.
  • 3. Speeds up recovery between high intensity sets.
  • 4. Increases lean and total body mass.
  • 5. Buffers build-up of lactic acid in muscles.
  • 6. Increases concentration levels.
  • 7. Improves short & long term memory.
  • 8. Fights depression.
  • 9. Fights Parkinson’s disease.
  • 10. Lowers cholesterol.
  • 11. Improves eyesight.

A large number of studies have measured the effects of Creatine supplements and the general consensus is that in the gym it specifically improves:

  • 1. 1 Rep-max bench press.
  • 2. Number of repetitions (70% of 1 rep-max performed to fatigue).
  • 3. Jump-squat peak power.
  • 4. Cycle power of ten 6-second bouts (better maintained).
  • 5. Isokinetic knee extensions (produce less fatigue).

Who could it benefit?

There is a case for taking Creatine for a large number of people. Athletes involved in high-intensity and anaerobic based sports will benefit, but the effects of Creatine aren’t just limited to them. Anyone can take Creatine and its positive effect on the brain shouldn’t just be limited to athletes. Creatine will help almost anyone with any of their short or long term goals – for either physical gains or mental conditioning.

Creatine doesn’t just benefit the typical resistance training gym-goer. Researchers at the Australian institute of Sport found that Creatine improved both sprint speed and agility run times in football players, although it had no noticeable effect on endurance. A study in Yugoslavia by Ostojic et al concurred with this and also made the claim that Creatine increases maximum potential vertical jump height. A number of other studies have concluded that Creatine helps everyone from kayakers to archers in their respective fields.

How much should I take?

It is recommended that you take a loading dose of 20g (4 servings of 5 grams per day) for 5 days, which should be followed by a 5g a day maintenance. Alternatively, you could take a daily 3-6g divided dose for 30 days. It is worth noting that only around one third of the Creatine you take ends up in the cells – two thirds ends up in the urine. The best and most efficient way to take Creatine is to take smaller amounts whenever possible, while attempting to slow down the absorption rate in the gut. This can be achieved by ingesting dietary fibre. Our muscles have a maximal Creatine storage capacity of 150-160 mmol/kg (they normally contain 125mmol/kg). This essentially means that any consumption of Creatine above the recommended quantities are a waste of both time and money.

Any side effects?

The main side effect of Creatine is a much higher rate of weight gain (as water and/or lean mass, although depending on your objectives this could be considered a benefit), whether or not this is a long term effect isn’t proven. There is no performance benefit of taking more than the recommended allowance as anecdotal evidence suggests that in certain circumstances Creatine can cause mild stomach pain, nausea and muscle cramping. There is also concern that water retention as a result of Creatine supplementation can cause dehydration due to fluid shifts in the muscle cells. This hasn’t been scientifically proven yet most experts/manufacturers recommend the intake of extra fluids while taking Creatine.

What is the evidence?

Studies reviewed in the ‘Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research’ by Volek and Kraemer agree with the list of gym-specific benefits as specified above in the ‘What are the benefits’ section. Creatine is no market newcomer so a large number of studies have proven its worth and consistency in athletes. The vast majority of studies conclude that short-term Creatine supplementation increases body mass. This effect occurs in males, females, trained and sedentary people, including both elite and non-elite athletes.

Longer term studies lasting up to 12 weeks on well-trained athletes also demonstrate a massive increase in lean body mass. Professor Kreider from Memphis University believes that athletes can gain up to 1.5kg during the first week of a loading dose and up to 4.5kg after 6 weeks. A large number of studies agree with this – the common consensus is that between 1-3% lean body weight can be gained after a 5 day loading dose. It is worth noting that these gains in weight are partly due to both a rise in cell volume and also a greater rate of muscle synthesis.

What is the best form of Creatine?

The most common and widely known form of Creatine is Creatine Monohydrate. The main reasons for it being commonly used are its tastelessness, and how easily it dissolves in water. Creatine Monohydrate is the most concentrated, commercially available Creatine whilst being the least expensive. While there are other forms of Creatine on the market, for example Creatine serum, Creatine citrate, or Creatine phosphate – there is no evidence that they have a better absorption rate, that they produce higher levels of phosphocreatine in the cells, or that they result in greater increases in performance or muscle mass.

Can anything enhance Creatine ingestion further?

Studies have shown that insulin helps the body absorb Creatine much faster, this is why it is often suggested that you take a carbohydrate alongside your Creatine. The carbohydrate stimulates insulin release, which in turn increases the uptake of Creatine by the muscle cells and raises the levels of Phosphocreatine. Scientists don’t agree on the exact amount of carbohydrate necessary to produce a raise in the body’s insulin levels, but estimates range from 35g to 100g.

Another potential way to increase Creatine effectivity is to take it with, or shortly after a meal. This essentially attempts to make use of the body’s natural post-meal rise in insulin levels. While certain products do offer a Creatine/carbohydrate combination, this isn’t fully necessary and taking plain Creatine monohydrate is equally effective.

There have also been studies into the combined effect of both Creatine and Whey protein. Burke and others from St Francis Xavier University found that when taken in conjunction, Whey and Creatine achieve much greater increases in strength (tested on the bench press) and in muscle mass, compared with people who took only whey protein.

What happens when I stop taking Creatine supplements?

After the cessation of taking regular Creatine supplements, over a period of four weeks, your muscle’s Creatine stores will drop extremely slowly down to normal levels. While it is the case that during your Creatine intake program the body’s natural production of Creatine is greatly lowered, this is fully reversible and will have no lasting effect. In order to maintain a healthy Creation generation level, it is suggested that Creatine is best taken in cycles, for example a 3-5 month program, followed by a 1 month break.

Overall

Creatine is a versatile, consistent & effective supplement that can benefit people through helping with a large spectrum of problems. When taken in moderation there are no noticeable side effects to hamper your progress towards achieving your goals. Whether you are an elite athlete or have never stepped foot inside a gym, Creatine has the capacity to greatly impact your life and body for the good. Here at SNC Direct we stock a large number of Creatine products which are tailored to suit a range of needs, while all being premium, high quality goods.


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