Energy: The capacity for doing work. (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)
Does Creatine Work? And maybe more important, how does it work?
The short answer …
Exercise requires energy. Your body gets energy from the foods that you eat. Those foods are broken down into chemical energy called Adenosine TriPhosphase (ATP). This ATP is stored energy and released as necessary to do work. If you think of the storage of ATP as your energy bank account it can determine your overall ability for instant bursts of power when you exercise.
So does creatine work? Let’s continue with ATP as your body’s short term energy source and see how it plays a major role.
The more ATP you store and have ready, the better then potential for more work to be done. But your muscles can only store so much ATP. Your ability for maximum power is limited to a few seconds. This is where creatine comes into play and answers the does creatine work question. If you think of creatine as a quick payday loan to replenish that bank account, you should understand it’s role in quick energy allocation.
Why not just store ATP? It’s a clumsy molecule for the cell to manage. It’s far easier for the body to call upon stored creatine to turn into ATP for short bouts of exercise than to attempt to inefficiently store excessive ATP.
Does Creatine Work?
During the times of heavy exercise when your ATP stores are exhausted, you can call in a quick favor from stored creatine to be turned into ATP for more short term energy. Creatine can be produced by the body and can be found in certain foods. Making the loan significant and useful, you’ll want muscle saturation to happen. This is where creatine supplementation comes into play. Your body can store high concentrations of creatine and uses it to increase energy availability, as needed.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a molecule in an energy system (creatine phosphate) that can rapidly produce energy (ATP) to support cellular function, and this underlies performance enhancing and neuroprotective properties of creatine. A remarkably safe and well researched supplement for most people. – Source: Examine.com
What is Creatine Phosphate?
Creatine Phosphate is an organic compound in muscle that is chemically changed for the production of ATP. Do not make the mistake of equating this form of creatine with the phosphocreatine (PCr) stored within muscle cells.
What is Adenosine TriPhosphate (ATP)?
This molecule is often metaphorically referred to as the energy currency of cells. Removal of the last high-energy phosphate from ATP liberates energy, which is then utilized by the cell to meet energy needs and results in the formation of Adenosine DiPhosphate (ADP). ADP then is recharged by adding back another high-energy phosphate, thereby reforming ATP.
How does creatine work?
Your muscles only save enough ATP to pay for brief bouts of strenuous activity. Having creatine saturation stored within the muscles, allows your body to use the creatine stored for the creation of additional ATP much faster so you can train harder and longer.
Where is Creatine Found Naturally?
In beef, pork and fatty fish. Even though your body produces small amounts, unless you eat about 1 lb of meat daily, you won’t be able to get the saturation effects of creatine supplementation and benefit from the effects.
Is Creatine safe for long-term use?
Not sure yet. So far there are no ill reported events and creatine has been on the market since 1990. The long term effects of prolonged creatine supplementation hasn’t been studied yet. If you use the washout phases during supplementation, this won’t matter as you will not be using it continually for years without stopping.
Is Creatine Safe?
Generally speaking, yes. Creatine is a natural amino acid found and produced by the body. The are some side effects of creatine supplementation people have reported but it’s unknown if it’s directly related to the use or other circumstances.
When Is The Best Time to Take Creatine?
Without a doubt, the best time to supplement is immediately after exercise. Following exercise, your muscles are most sensitive to the effects of insulin. This means that the insulin-meditated transport of creatine, carbohydrates, and amino acids into muscle will be greatest after exercise. Take full advantage of this metabolic window of opportunity by taking creatine with simple sugars and whey protein-immediately after exercise.
How much should I take?
The amount of creatine you take depends on your body weight. During the loading phase take 0.3 grams of creatine for each kilogram that you weigh. Reduce the dosage to 0.03 grams of creatine per kilogram of body weight during the maintenance phase; 10-times less. Recommended daily creatine dosages are as follows for the maintenance phase:
- Less than or equal to 140lbs = 1.9 grams
- 141lbs to 168lbs = 1.92 – 3 grams
- 169lbs to 199lbs = 2.3- 2.7 grams
- 200lbs to 242lbs = 2.7- 3.3 grams
- 242lb+ = 4-5 grams
It’s much less than the 5g per day you see on almost every product sold. That’s because nobody wants to do the math and 5g a day covers up to a 367 lbs person. You are guaranteed to get results if you respond to creatine by taking that type of dose. It’s not necessary but there’s no evidence to suggest that’s too high or there’s any downside. So the shotgun approach works without the math.
Methods to Take Creatine.
The original way to take creatine monohydate is with warm water; you can add simple carbs as necessary. Cranberry juice is an option if you are susceptible to upset stomachs. Many people like to take it with grape juice as a way to spike insulin, open the pathways and drive in creatine and protein to the hungry muscles.
- Creatine Transport (for non-responders)
20-30% of the population does not respond to creatine. Without knowing the actual reasons, some people have reported to get the benefits if they use some type of transport. The idea is that this will promote an insulin spike which will “shuttle” creatine into your muscles. The basic ingredient in all shuttles is Creatine and Dextrose.
- Why use a transport?
If you don’t respond to regular creatine supplementation (creatine with water or with protein) give the insulin spike a shot.
Does Creatine work if I don’t do the loading phase?
No, this is not necessary. Just 3 grams of creatine per day for 28 days results in the same muscle content of creatine as that of a five day creatine load. Once you reach muscle saturation, it takes about a month to reach normal creatine levels.
Will I lose weight or muscle mass if I stop using it?
Only if you stop working out. You’ll probably drop some water weight as the extra water that creatine tends to draw into the cells is no longer happening.
Does Creatine make you bloated and retain water?
Creatine should not increase the amount of water found under the skin, subcutaneously. While it is true that creatine causes the body to retain water, water retention is specific for muscle. Bad products with low quality creatine might cause some bloating.
How does Creatine build muscle?
By itself, it does not. Having extra creatine available and stored within muscle, allows your body to quickly create additional ATP when doing intense exercise. By getting another rep or two and working just a bit harder than before, you overload muscle and encourage growth. If creatine allows you to do one or two more repetitions beyond what you could do without, that’s how it helps to indirectly build muscle. Taking it without exercise won’t build any muscle but it may offer other health benefits.
If you want to know more details of why does creatine work, take a look at the Supplement Reference Guide. It has the answers to this question and hundreds of other sports supplements.
That’s it, in a nutshell. But does creatine work for everyone? Maybe not.
I found the Creatine Supplements for Strength and Fitness to be a very good read. It’s one of the few sites where they do not recommend some mega dose. There’s always the Creatine Wiki which is chock full of info and some valuable links.