What is Creatine?
Creatine is the most well-known amino acid among bodybuilders. In actual fact, it isn’t really an amino acid, but a tripeptide, like glutathione, a compound made out of three amino acids. It is formed mostly in the liver and kidneys from the amino acids
Creatine is, however, often also taken in through nutrition. The skeletal muscles are the body’s biggest reservoir over 90% of the Creatine in the body is stored in the muscles.
Functions of Creatine
Creatine is of central importance in the energy supply of the muscles, and can therefore be found in the skeletal and cardiac muscles. Fast muscle fibres store the most. This reacts with phosphate to form the energy-rich compound ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
The consumption of Creatine can support muscle-building. However, it is necessary to maintain the intake over a period of several weeks, while continuing weight training.
Consumption Guidelines for Use in Weight Training
The following intake recommendations are based on Burgerstein’s Handbook of Nutrition (12th edition), p.285:
“Fast Load” is the more aggressive approach, with a quicker initial intake of Creatine:
- Loading phase: 300mg Creatine per kilogramme of body weight => if the body weight is 70 kilogrammes, 21g of Creatine per day in 4 doses. This phase only lasts five days.
- Maintenance phase: only around 3g of Creatine per day for a period of 4 to 12 weeks.
- Weaning phase: no Creatine for at least 4 weeks
This Fast Load method is, however, not recommended by nutritional scientists, as the actual added value of the muscle gained is not high and the kidneys can be overloaded by the metabolic products of Creatine.
This is the preferred approach today, as there is no proof that higher doses result in significant improvements in muscle-building.
- Loading Phase: 3g to 5g per day over a period of 4 weeks
- Maintenance Phase: 3g per day over a period of 4 to 12 weeks
- Weaning Phase: 4 weeks or more with no Creatine
Outside of bodybuilding, Creatine is also important and can be taken as a supplement to support medical treatments. It is possible that it can help lower the blood sugar level of those diabetics who play sport.
Studies have indicated that the consumption of Creatine can support cardiac output in cases of heart failure or after a heart attack. These studies are, however, ambiguous, and obviously, any treatment of these conditions should be undertaken by a doctor.
In other sports, the muscle wasting associated with the acute need for energy can be reduced by the consumption of Creatine, so that the balance between muscle building and wasting changes in favour of the former. Both the general performance and the regeneration time of athletes can be improved by it.
Creatine leads to a short-term increase in the water retention of muscle cells. Those with kidney failure or damage should therefore avoid consuming Creatine. More than 5g of Creatine should not be taken for a period longer than three months, as the metabolic products of Creatine can potentially damage the kidneys. Creatine is also known to cause hair loss.