Creatine 101: Definition, Benefits, Side Effects
Workout supplements have gained popularity over the past few years. Many gym goers take supplements for a variety of reasons, from muscle building to weight loss. Amongst a wide range of supplements available in the market, creatine remains as one of the most popularly used. But have no worries, as we present you your Creatine 101.
Does creatine boost your strength and performance? Does it provide more harm than good?
Read on to find the answers to these questions.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid that is naturally located in your muscle cells as well as your brain. Its primary function is to provide energy to cells throughout your body, particularly muscle cells.
Our bodies naturally produce creatine. It is formed through the combination of three amino acids: L-methionine, glycine, and L-arginine. It is primarily made in your kidney and the production is completed in the liver. Once creatine is produced, it is converted into phosphocreatine and creatine phosphate which are stored in your skeletal muscles for energy use.
Your body can only produce small amounts of creatine daily which is why others find their source externally. Some people get it from their diet, particularly fish and meat. Others are taking synthetically manufactured creatine supplements. Cyanamide and sarcosine combine with other compounds to produce creatine supplements.
Cyanamide is generally produced synthetically from cyanogen chloride and ammonia, but it can also be naturally sourced from several leguminous plants. Sarcosine, on the other hand, is naturally produced by our body by breaking down methionine to glycine or by converting dietary choline into glycine. It can also be synthetically produced by combining methylamine and chloroacetic acid.
Is Creatine Good For Your Body?
Most people take creatine for the main purpose of getting a boost in their physical performance. Whilst this supplement can definitely increase your strength, there are more to creatine than just a strength booster.
Below are some of the benefits that we can get from creatine.
Improves Athletic Performance
Creatine enables your body to produce more energy. With an increased amount of energy, you can absolutely perform harder and achieve more. Because creatine improves your strength, you have more power to perform high-intensity exercises.
A review conducted in 2012 concludes that creatine can improve endurance performance, increases the benefits and quality of high-intensity intermittent speed training and boost the effects of resistance training on body mass and strength.
Another review showed an increase in performance by adding creatine to a training program. It helped increase the participants’ strength by 8%, bench press one-rep max by up to 43%, and weightlifting performance by 14%.
Creatine is effective in improving your high-intensity exercise performance because it increases your capacity to produce adenosine triphosphate energy.
Helps you Gain Muscle
Using creatine supplement does not only increase the production of ATP energy but it also improves your muscle cells functions.
Creatine encourages your muscle to retain more water. When your muscle cells are swelling, it triggers several processes that can form new protein. This process subsequently creates new muscle mass.
Taking creatine supplements can increase your strength and endurance to perform high-intensity weight exercises. This increased resistance can help you achieve the ideal muscle and body mass that you want.
Improves Cognitive Function
Your brain also needs plenty of ATP for it to function at its optimum.
A study shows that creatine supplementation can improve cognitive function, particularly those who have lower creatine levels. Vegetarians who are taking the supplement got a significantly higher score on both intelligence and memory tests.
In addition, creatine supplement can also improve conditions such as memory and brain function in older adults, motor neuron disease, brain or spinal cord injuries, epilepsy, Ischemic stroke, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Relieves Deficiency Syndromes
Our body needs a healthy amount of creatine for it to function properly.
The level of creatine needed varies between individual and depends on the person’s muscle fiber type and muscle mass.
Having low creatine level causes conditions, such as osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, muscle atrophy, multiple sclerosis (MS), diabetes, congestive heart failure (CHF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Taking creatine supplements may help relieve these conditions but there is no study available yet that can back up this idea.
Supplements increase the level of creatine in your brain. This can provide relief to movement disorders, symptoms of autism, as well as seizures.
Improves Blood Pressure Levels and Microvascular Health
According to research, taking creatine supplements may improve capillary density and microvascular reactivity. This research concluded that 20g of creatine per day for one week significantly reduced the blood pressure of 40 healthy males participants. There is also an increase in the recruitment and density of skin capillary.
Does it Have Side Effects?
Despite the many benefits of creatine that are backed up with studies and research, many people are still hesitant to take this supplement. Some people are afraid of the negative side effect it brings.
Some users reported its side effects, such as Rhabdomyolysis, compartment syndrome, digestive problems, nausea, muscle cramps, dehydration, bloating, weight gain, kidney stones, and liver damage.
You should take special precaution if you are:
- Pregnant or Breastfeeding – There is no sufficient information that claims creatine supplement is safe for pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers. It’s better to be safe than sorry though. Avoid taking this supplement.
- Children – Creatine is generally safe for children as long as the proper dosage is followed appropriately. Children 2-5 years of age can take 2 grams of creatine daily for 6 months while 5-18 years of age are safe to take daily 3-5 grams for 2-6 months.
It is not 100% safe for people with bipolar disorder, diabetes, and kidney disease to take creatine supplements. Some reported cases shown that taking creatine supplementation made their condition worse.
You should also take precaution in taking a supplement if you have Parkinson’s disease. Creatine, when taken with coffee, can make your condition get worse faster.
Should you or should you not take creatine supplements?
If you’re a perfectly healthy individual who aims to get the optimum result in your workout sessions, then my answer is a resounding yes. Creatine supplement is a convenient way of getting our dose of creatine level and it provides many short term and long term health benefits.
Though it’s generally safe, just like with any other supplements, it is wise to take creatine supplements with caution. Follow the instructions as stated on its label and always ask your doctor first before starting with this supplement.
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Nordqvist, J. (2017). Should I use creatine supplements?. Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263269.php
Mawer, R. (2017). How Creatine Helps You Gain Muscle and Strength. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/creatine-for-muscle-and-strength
Risher, B. (2018). Will Creatine Boost Your Gains? Here’s Everything You Should Know. Retrieved from https://www.menshealth.com/health/a19515624/creatine-side-effects-what-it-is-what-it-does/
Cunha, J. Creatine. Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_creatine_creatine_phosphate/drugs-condition.htm
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