Creatine is a non-protein amino acid manufactured by the body in the liver, kidneys and pancreas using the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine. Creatine is then carried to the heart, brain and skeletal muscle, where it assists in the production and regeneration of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the major source of energy at the cellular level. When more ATP is available, more cellular energy is available, hence creatine's well-known benefit of increasing the work capacity of muscle.
Since creatine's introduction as sports nutrition supplement, it has been the subject of more inaccurate media stories and uninformed reporting than just about any other type of dietary supplement. But creatine is an entirely natural and safe compound for healthy people. About 1-2g of creatine is synthesized by your body daily, and another 1-2g is supplied by diet. Dietary creatine is found mainly in meat and fish, although creatine supplements themselves are not made from food ingredients. Creatine monohydrate powder is by far the most popular form of supplemental creatine in use. It is inexpensive, tasteless and very easy to use.
Whether from food or supplements, dietary creatine is absorbed in the small intestine and dispersed via the bloodstream to all the musculature in the body. Creatine is then either used or stored by muscles to regenerate ATP, especially during short bouts of intense exercise such as in weightlifting or football when there is a sudden demand for large quantities of energy. Although popular with athletes and bodybuilders, creatine is widely used by many other types of athletes and even non-athletes as well.
Creatine Benefits All Types of Muscle
Taking creatine supplements has been shown to help boost exercise performance in certain activities involving short bursts of intense exertion such as sprinting, jumping, basketball and weight lifting.1 Creatine has also been shown to help recovery from exercise, both speeding muscle repair and easing pain and soreness.2 Other types of muscle benefit from creatine, too. Congestive heart failure involves a gradual loss of function involving primarily the heart muscle but also other structures. One study of congestive heart failure treatments used creatine in addition to traditional medical therapy and showed major improvement in symptoms as compared to a placebo group.3
Using Creatine Supplements
A typical recommended dosage of creatine supplements for purposes of exercise enhancement is as follows: an initial "loading phase" of one week consisting of 5 grams of creatine taken 4 times daily, followed by a dose of 2-5 grams daily to maintain creatine levels in the muscles. Consult your physician before beginning the use of creatine supplements, and do not take more than the recommended dose.
Taking creatine supplements typically causes weight gain and increases muscle volume, but it is important to note that most of this is attributed to water retention. Additionally, there is no benefit to consuming more than the recommended amount, as the body can only absorb so much creatine. Once the body has absorbed the maximum amount of creatine, any excess is excreted in the urine unused. Some people do not receive any benefit from creatine supplements, although it is unclear as to why.
Creatine is best absorbed when taken with a food containing carbohydrates, such as fruit or oatmeal. Creatine Supplements are available in liquid, powder and pill form. Micronized creatine is simply processed into a very fine powder for more efficient absorption. Choose creatine monohydrate, as the majority of creatine research has been conducted on this form of creatine.
There have been reports of dehydration, stomach cramping, muscle cramping and diarrhea associated with the use of creatine supplements.