Creatine - Athlete's Gold?

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Creatine powder is a supplement often taken by athletes, including Olympic athletes from who it was first introduced, for its ability to increase lean muscle mass, provide energy during workouts, and help the muscles recover quickly after intensive exercise.1

Creatine is a compound produced by the body in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys2 from the combination of the three amnio acids glycine, arginine3 and methionine, with the body producing about 1 gram a day. The combination is then stored in the muscles in the form of creatine phosphate, where the body converts it into ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), or what is known as energy.

What is it good for?

Creatine is commonly used by athletes for its ability to aid in muscle recovery, produce muscle, and to make help provide and release energy during a workout.

  • Short duration exercise. Creatine is especially good for providing energy during high intensity, short duration exercise (>30 seconds).4 It can even go as far to reduce the fatigue levels experienced between high intensity, short duration exercises.5 This is possible due to, with supplementation, the body having a larger supply of Creatine Phosphate (CP) (the form stored in the muscles), which can quickly be used to create ATP, feeding the body with the energy needed during short duration, intensive exercise.
  • Increase in muscle mass. By increasing the amount of energy readily available in the body, the muscles are able to work harder with more energy, effectively producing more muscle. A study conducted by Southern Illinois University, athletes that took creatine over a 6 week period gained 5 pounds of lean body weight versus those who took the placebo, and did not have any increase in lean body weight.6 This can also be due to the body being able to perform resistance exercise for longer since the body has more energy, which has been shown to produce muscle cell swelling/volumisation by increasing the water content in the muscles. Muscle cell swelling/volumisation is what causes an increase in muscle mass.6
  • Quickened muscle recovery time. With increased levels of creatine phosphate in the muscles due to supplementation, there is an increase in resynthesis of phosphocreatine molecules in the muscles, which creates an increased ability for the body to perform exercise. An increase in the resynthesis of phosphocreatine molecules in the muscles lowers the blood lactate accumulation and ammonia levels, which are known to inhibit peak performance levels.7

In addition to athletic performance, this amino-acid created compound can do so much more.

  • Neurological Disorders- Creatine has the ability to increase the levels of phosphocreatine in the brain, which are often reduced in neurological disorders. An increase in the these levels have shown to increase mobility and decrease cell death by 25%.8
  • Heart Disease- Studies have shown that creatine lowers concentrations of triglycerides in individuals with high concentrations of triglycerides. Those with heart failure often have lower energy levels than those who don’t, and are not able to exercise as much. Creatine, however, can increase their ability to exercise, due to an increase in ATP in the muscles.2
  • Improvement of brain function- Strenuous tasks or complicated thinking requires a great deal of ATP in the brain, where a creatine supplement can increase phosphocreatine stores in the brain, which help the brain to produce more ATP.8

Creatine is a supplement that has been well researched and is very safe to use in the right dosage. While the body creates its own version of the compound, supplementation can be beneficial to those trying to increase energy levels during high intensity, short duration workouts, those looking to improve brain function, or those looking for help with neurological disorders and help to reduce heart disease.

 

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