Creatine is one of the most popular supplements in the market. It is also a naturally occurring amino acid present in our bodies and acquired through the consumption of meat, fish, dairy products, nuts, seeds and egg whites. The majority is located in skeletal muscle with around 5% in the brain and heart. The liver can also produce creatine by combining arginine, glycine, and methionine. You can read more about creatine supplements by clicking on the active link. So, what are Uses of Creatine Supplements?
Production of energy
The main use of creatine is its ability to aid the production of energy. The creatine in our bodies is stored as creatine phosphate (phosphocreatine), and when ADP (adenosine di-phosphate) requires an additional phosphate to convert back to ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate), it can be provided by creatine. The ATP-PC system provides a rapid source of energy in anaerobic activity.
Buffer lactic acid build up
Another use is the ability to buffer lactic acid build up; especially useful to both endurance and strength athletes. Glycogen breakdown has the side effect of lactic acid development. This is responsible for the burning sensation and fatigue of the muscle. Hydrogen ions are released by lactic acid and can build up in the muscle cells. However, the ATP production process utilizes large amounts of hydrogen ions, thus acting as a “buffer” to lactic acid build up and delaying its onset, allowing the athlete to train for longer.
Endurance vs. Strength
The effects of creatine on performance are much less clear in endurance training as an aerobic activity is very minimal reliant on the phosphocreatine energy system. It’s potential as a buffer to lactic acid build up is one obvious advantage for endurance training, but any gain in body mass may be disadvantageous as more energy is required to move a heavier body from A to B over longer periods of time. It needs to weigh it up against the potential advantage of increased maximal power/lean body mass gained through creatine supplementation alongside resistance training.
Taking the supplement with carbohydrate helps the body to assimilate creatine more readily. The associated increase in insulin helps to transport the creatine into the muscle cells, leading to improved glycogen storage in the muscles. The exact timing of the when the creatine is taken is not as critical for endurance training. It will be effective provided there is a sufficient supply available to the muscles.
It is perfectly safe for women to take a creatine supplement, although one of the side effects is increased water retention and bloating. There are supplements on the market that include additional substances intended to relieve these symptoms. Avoiding the loading phase may also help to dissipate this.
The most important point to note for anyone considering creatine supplementation is that it will have little or no effect on the average person who is not involved in intensive sporting activities. It is not a short cut solution to muscle gain, and no pill or powder should ever replace a diet based on sound nutrition principles.