What is Creatine?

Creatine monohydrate is without a doubt the most researched, time-tested, and proven sports supplement available to date; thousands of studies have demonstrated that increased muscle creatine stores via supplementation can significantly enhance both aerobic and anaerobic exercise and training adaptations.[1]

The average 200-lb individual contains approximately 150g (roughly 1/3rd pound) of creatine stored as creatine and phosphocreatine. In sedentary individuals, the body breaks down about 1%-2% of its creatine pool per day; active individuals and athletes alike may break down significantly more.

Chemically speaking, creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid-like biomolecule found primarily in muscle tissue. The body can replenish creatine via diet by eating foods that contain creatine (red meat typically contains modest amounts of creatine), or via synthesis from the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine.

That being said, obtaining enough creatine for performance benefits solely from diet and endogenous amino acid synthesis is rather impractical, especially for active individuals. Thus, supplementation is highly recommended for performance enhancement.

How Does Creatine Work to Enhance Performance?

During exercise, stored adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the dominant energy source. ATP is depleted rapidly and can be recharged by creatine via the phosphocreatine energy system in muscle cells. An increased pool of creatine means faster recharging of ATP and therefore more work can be performed for a short duration, such as when sprinting and weightlifting.

Increasing the amount of creatine can affect exercise and training in several ways. Increasing the availability of creatine in muscle may help maintain the availability of energy during high intensity exercise and may help speed up recovery after intense exercise. This allows you to do more work over a series of sets or exercises, leading to greater gains in strength, muscle mass and performance over extended periods of time.[2]

Moreover, research suggests that creatine supplementation can augment performance in endurance athletes by increasing both muscle glycogen and creatine stores.[3] Since glycogen is the predominant fuel source for extended bouts of aerobic exercise, endurance athletes stand to benefit from supplemental creatine. Of further note, creatine can help reduce muscle catabolism during extended bouts of cardio, making it even more worthwhile for bodybuilders and physique athletes looking to retain as much muscle as possible when cutting down.3

Benefits of Creatine Supplementation

Primary benefits of creatine monohydrate supplementation include:1,2,3

  • Increases intracellular water levels in muscle cells, which in turn enhances protein synthesis
  • Augments ATP production in muscle cells, resulting in increased capacity to perform physical work (e.g. more powerful muscle contraction and endurance)
  • Is a natural neuroprotective agent since brain cells rely heavily on ATP for membrane integrity
  • Can help reduce muscle catabolism during prolonged aerobic/endurance exercise
  • Appears to increase the time to exhaustion in extended cardiovascular exercise
  • Promotes greater creatine and glycogen retention which may improve glycogen availability for endurance athletes (which is beneficial for long bouts of aerobic and anaerobic exercise)

Dispelling Myths About Creatine

Myth: Creatine use should be cycled to avoid desensitization.

Truth: Some dietary supplements do indeed to be cycled on and off to maximize their benefits; however, creatine can (and should) be used indefinitely. Actually, it is ideal to take creatine for a long period of time for performance enhancement as it is most beneficial after establishing a saturation point.[4]

Myth: You must megadose a creatine supplement when your first start taking it.

Truth: It is not necessary to megadose creatine when first taking it; this is simply a means of rapidly saturating creatine stores in the body. Even a minimal dose of creatine monohydrate (e.g. 3 to 5 grams per day) taken for several weeks will eventually saturate creatine stores in the body.

Myth: Creatine is harmful for the kidneys.

Truth: This claim is unsubstantiated clinically, deriving  from the supposition that renal function is impaired when plasma creatinine (a byproduct of the phosphocreatine system) levels rise.[5] A study in 2005 gave subjects a rather exorbitant 20g dose of creatine monohydrate daily over a one-week period and found no significant changes in kidney function.[6] The take-home message is that, barring pre-existing kidney abnormalities, there is no grounds for fearing creatine’s impact on renal function.

Myth: It is unsafe for females to use creatine..

Truth: Regardless of your gender, creatine has the same principal roles in both males and females (and is safe for use). In fact, creatine supplementation is highly recommended for females looking to be more athletic and fit.

Myth: Teenagers should avoid creatine because it can stunt their growth.

Truth: Anatomically speaking, stunted growth arises from the premature closing of epiphyseal plates on the ends of long bones; this can result in a growing human not reaching their genetic height potential. Simply stated, there is no literature, nor connection, between the premature closure of epiphyseal plates and creatine levels in the body. Creatine is an organic biomolecule present in all humans and found in a variety of foods, it’s just as safe for teenagers as it is for any other age group.

Myth: You must take creatine monohydrate with at least 50g of fast-acting carbs for proper absorption..

Truth: While insulin does enhance the rate of creatine uptake into skeletal muscle, there is no need to ingest excessively large amounts of sugar/carbs with creatine monohydrate.[7] In fact, a more practical way to enhance creatine uptake is to simply ingest it after lifting weights, as studies suggest this is the timeframe when creatine is best absorbed.[8] This is why we recommend taking MPA CreRiboVol after training for optimizing their anabolic potential.

Wrap-Up

The critical take-home message is that creatine supplementation is indubitably efficacious for enhancing physical performance, especially in gym goers who perform short, high-intensity bursts of exercise, and even endurance athletes.

There are a multitude of benefits from supplementing with creatine (monohydrate), and those benefits are backed by plenty of scientific literature. As it stands, creatine is the undisputed champion of performance supplementation. And remember, when in doubt, opt for MPA CreRiboVol, which includes 10g of research-proven Creapure® (German-grade creatine monohydrate) per serving.

 

[1] Juhn, M. S., & Tarnopolsky, M. (1998). Oral creatine supplementation and athletic performance: a critical review. Clinical journal of sport medicine: official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine, 8(4), 286-297.

[2] Maganaris, C. N., & Maughan, R. J. (1998). Creatine supplementation enhances maximum voluntary isometric force and endurance capacity in resistance trained men. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 163(3), 279-287.

[3]  Engelhardt, M., Neumann, G., Berbalk, A., & Reuter, I. (1998). Creatine supplementation in endurance sports. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 30(7), 1123-1129.

[4] Buford TW, et al. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr.

[5] Pline, K. A., & Smith, C. L. (2005). The effect of creatine intake on renal function. The Annals of pharmacotherapy39(6), 1093-1096.

[6] Poortmans, J. R., Auquier, H., Renaut, V., Durussel, A., Saugy, M., & Brisson, G. R. (1997). Effect of short-term creatine supplementation on renal responses in men. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology,76(6), 566-567.

[7] Steenge, G. R., Lambourne, J., Casey, A., Macdonald, I. A., & Greenhaff, P. L. (1998). Stimulatory effect of insulin on creatine accumulation in human skeletal muscle. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism,275(6), E974-E979.

[8] Vandenberghe, K., Goris, M., Van Hecke, P., Van Leemputte, M., Vangerven, L., & Hespel, P. (1997). Long-term creatine intake is beneficial to muscle performance during resistance training. Journal of Applied Physiology, 83(6), 2055-2063.