What is Creatine? Should You Be Taking This Supplement?

If you ever searched for fitness supplements,
there’s a good chance that you’ve stumbled upon the supplement Creatine. From gyms, to
magazines, to websites, and maybe even from your fitness buddies.
The science of creatine deals with energy production, specifically in replenishing used
energy. As humans, we use the molecule ATP as our energy source. Unfortunately, your
muscle cells want to keep the levels of ATP in the cell pretty low. Reason being is that
if we use too much energy at once, it will cause cells to be acidic and muck up all cellular
functions. In order to combat this, the muscle cells need a little help from creatine kinase.
When ATP is used, creatine kinase helps keep the acid levels in check by taking out hydrogen
ions. On top of that, creatine kinase also takes another byproduct from used ATP called
ADP and brings it to its buddy phosphocreatine to replenish ATP. This system of energy production,
known as the Phosphagen system, is the system used to produce energy for the first 10 seconds
of intense physical activity before other energy production from other sources, such
as sugar glucose and fat, is even utilized. Where creatine comes in is the production
of phosphocreatine. Remember, your body doesn’t like too many ATP molecules in cells, so whenever
your body has excess ATP, ATP reacts with creatine to formulate phosphocreatine. The
more creatine in your body, the more phosphocreatine produced, the more energy you can replenish.
And this is where creatine supplementation comes into play. Although your body can naturally
synthesize creatine from the breakdown of the amino acids glycine and arginine, studies
consistently show that taking creatine supplements can be beneficial, especially with increasing
power output. A meta-analysis showed subjects improving power output by up to 26% after
taking a creatine monohydrate supplement. But one thing that creatine supplementation
does not do which many people believes it does is increase muscle mass, well at least
not directly. The two ways that muscle mass might increase with creatine is by providing
more energy for higher power output, which then provides a greater stimulus for muscle
protein synthesis, and by retaining water, which might make muscles seem bigger without
adding actual muscle mass. And there’s even more benefits. Creatine supplementation
has also been linked to replenishing glycogen, which is also important for energy production,
reducing depression symptoms, decreasing fatigue, and there’s also even study that showed vast
improvement on reducing headaches and dizziness from kids that suffered from traumatic brain
injury. As far as how and how much you should take,
many manufacturers have recommended using a “loading” phase, where for the first week
you take more creatine than you would for the following weeks, but the research shows
that there’s not really any significant benefit in doing so. The most typically recommended
amount that has shown positive benefits is between 3-5 grams per day and you can decide
to stop taking creatine whenever you want to. But what about the dangerous side effects
you’ve heard about creatine? There are definitely concerns in the case of what creatine does
to your kidneys and liver, but, these concerns have either been debunked or lack any concrete
evidence, especially in human trials. The only notable side effect is the retention
of water in your cells, which might make you look a little bit more plump and a weigh a
bit heavier, but if that’s one of your goals to begin with, more power to you.
Have more questions about other popular supplements? Leave your suggestions below! And don’t forget
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