Creatine is often referred to as an amino acid, but it is actually a tripeptide, which means it is comprised of 3 amino acids: methionine, glycine, and arginine. It is naturally produced in your body and can also be obtained through dietary sources. However, the levels are so low that most of it is lost in the cooking process. In order to maintain muscle mass, your body needs creatine- which is why it’s a great idea to use a supplement.
Creatine is stored in your muscles as phosphocreatine, which is used to create adenosine triphosphate or ATP. This is a high-energy molecule used to power through your most intense workouts. There are several things that affect creatine levels in your body:
Creatine is Better than Multivitamins
Despite the fact that there’s little to no evidence supporting the use of multivitamins, there are millions of people who take them daily. However, there’s a lot of evidence to support the efficacy of creatine. Many people believe it is a steroid and something used only by gym rats- but there’s plenty of proof that the average person can benefit from it as well.
Let’s make this clear: not only should athletes be adding creatine to their protein shakes, it should also be added to the average person’s favorite beverage and someday, we may even have proof that it’s beneficial to add to the little ones’ sippy cups as well.
Sarcopenia and Creatine
Sarcopenia is a condition that comes with the aging process involving the loss of muscle tissue. Muscles begin to wither away and the ability to do simple physical activity diminishes.
Of course, the obvious answer to prevent this from happening is weightlifting. That being said, anyone that’s ever dealt with an aging relative can tell you that trying to get them to lift weights after a lifetime of being sedentary is almost impossible.
However, there is some evidence that supplementing with creatine alone, without the assistance of resistance training, is more than enough to reverse this condition- at least to some degree.
Understandably, creatine-induced reversal of sarcopenia works better when used along with a resistance training program- but it is pretty interesting that it does work alone, at least to some degree.
Does Creatine Affect Longevity?
There are several compounds that are known to be mitochondria-friendly, such as:
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
- Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD)
- Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ)
All of these compounds help with the production of ATP in some way.
While this, of course leads to more energy, it also creates happier mitochondria- which determines how long cells live and thrive, as well as the health and lifetime of the organ that the cell belongs to.
Once you start getting unhappy, unhealthy mitochondria, you begin to experience organ failure. Once enough of your organs fail, it gets too much for your body to continue that instead of swapping out the malfunctioning cells, you die.
Interestingly enough, creatine isn’t typically considered as a compound that nurtures mitochondria, even though it seems to be more effective than any of the others.
Does Creatine Affect Heart Health?
If you know anything at all about creatine, you probably know that it results in increased ATP production. ATP is the body’s energy currency. Heart cells are just one group of cells that depend on adequate ATP levels. In people who are in heart failure, ATP levels are low, which is indicated by their lowered energy levels and the fact that they tire easily.
However, when heart patients are given a creatine supplement, they get stronger, and their energy levels increase. While it’s true that research has not shown creatine to have an effect on ejection fraction, it does seem that it is a cheap and easy way to make the lives of heart patients last longer.
Miscellaneous Benefits of Creatine
- Some research indicates that creatine lowers blood sugar, especially when used in conjunction with exercise. This seems to indicate that it has a nutrient partitioning effect, which means it stores carbs in the muscles instead of fat.
- Creatine may increase osteoblast formation- which are the cells that build bone- which helps in the formation of bones, repairing bones and preventing osteoarthritis.
- Creatine may reduce the accumulation of fat in the liver of those who have been diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Creatine may help those with fibromyalgia, as these patients typically have low phosphocreatine levels, and therefore low ATP levels.
How to Use Creatine
When it comes to using creatine, it seems like everyone in the world has a different suggestion. However, the best one seems to be the oldest- but it does take a bit of calculating:
- For the first 5 to 7 days, multiply body weight (in kg) by 0.3 grams. Divide that amount by 4 and take one dose four times daily.
- On day 8, you can start consuming 3 to 5 grams daily to maintain creatine levels
If this is too much, simply take one dose of 5 grams each day. At the end of 30 days, you will be fully loaded, and you can either continue with the 5 grams daily or you can drop to 3 grams daily.
It’s important to note that you’ll want to make sure the creatine product you are using is micronized creatine, as it’s easier for your body to absorb and put to work.
Is there an ideal time to take creatine?
After the loading protocol outlined above, or after steadily taking 5 grams daily for 30 days, there really isn’t an “ideal” time to take creatine. That being said, one study took 19 athletic participants and divided them into 2 groups. Both groups did the same workout 5 days per week for a period of 4 weeks. One group was given 5 grams of creatine prior to working out and one was given 5 grams of creatine following the workout.
At the end of the 4 weeks, the group that was taking creatine following their workout gained 2x as much lean body mass as the group that was given creatine prior to working out. In addition, this group lost approximately 2 pounds more fat than the group taking creatine prior to working out. Finally, they were able to bench a few pounds more than the group taking creatine prior to working out. So basically, it seems that taking creatine following a workout is better than taking it before.
Researchers concluded that perhaps the workout increased the sensitivity of the cells to creatine absorption, or perhaps the meal following the workout resulted in an insulin surge that facilitated the absorption of the creatine. No matter what the reason is though, it doesn’t hurt to take creatine following your workout. On days that you don’t train, the timing really doesn’t matter.
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