Creatine has been one of the most popular sportssupplementssince it’s introduction some 17 years ago. Yet, there is still a lot of mystery and confusion regarding it. In this article, I hope to clear some of that up as I detail what it is, it’s history, it’s use inbodybuilding, some of the different versions and it’s tie in to Nitric Oxide. Here we go!
What is creatine?
Creatine is a nitrogenous compound that occurs naturally in meats and fish and is synthesized by the liver, pancreas and kidney. It’s also called metylguanidine-acetic acid and is produced from three amino acids: methionine, arginine and glycine.
What is its history?
Creatine is not at all new, it was first discovered in 1835 by a French scientist named Chevreul. He named it after the Greek word for flesh “Kreas”. It wasn’t until 1847 that creatine was first linked to muscle tissue. In 1922, human studies dating back to 1910 were reviewed by a scientist named Hunter(1), in these studies, subjects were “loading” with creatine up to 20 grams per day for 6 days. In 1926, Chanutin2) detailed case studies where human subjects loaded 4 times a day for 10 days. In the 70’s, researchers thoughtinsulinmight be involved in the uptake of creatine, this was determined yet again in 1992 by Harris(3). It wasn’t until 1993, however, that creatine monohydrate was actually introduced as a supplement by EAS, it was called Phosphagen. Ed Byrd, an EAS co-founder and the man that gave us NO2 in 2002, was largely responsible for it’s introduction. Since then it’s pretty much taken the supplement world by storm and has proven to be one of the most effective supplements on the market.
What does it do?
Muscles store creatine as creatine phosphate, which functions as part of the ATP-CP energy system, also called the Phosphagen system. Muscle cells contain 4 to 6 times as much creatine phosphate as ATP. In fact, it can be said that skeletal muscle is a creatine requiring tissue.
ATP is the immediate energy source for muscle cells at both high and low intensities, however, it can take less than a second to burn your bodies reserve of ATP. This is where creatine phosphate ( also called phosphocreatine) comes in. Your body has a small reserve of creatine that your muscles can quickly convert to ATP. However, this will only power an all out effort for 3 to 15 seconds. As exercise intensity decreases and the duration increases, as in a marathon type race, your body turns to other systems of energy production. The Phosphagen system is used primarily for shorter duration exercise, as in bodybuilding training. At this point, we’ll turn this into an explanation of one of the things creatine does. Creatine use as a product that can enhance muscle cell energy production becomes obvious when you look at the re synthesis of creatine. There’s a regulating enzyme known as creatine kinase that breaks down creatine, separating the phosphate molecule from the creatine molecule. Phosphate then binds with ADP, which lacks just one phosphate from becoming ATP. So basically your body can “manufacture” fresh ATP through this process, which can take up to 4-5 minutes. Don’t many bodybuilding programs require at least a few minutes rest?
So, what’s the bottom line? Well, the more creatine available, the more that can ultimately be used for energy, allowing you to train harder and longer which, in turn, can lead to better results, be it improved performance, more muscle, increase strength.
What else does it do? It acts as a “voluminizer” or “cell expansion” product by pulling water into the muscle cell, causing it to expand, resulting in a increase in muscle size and strength. This is a big category right now, largely due to NO products but creatine was really the first product to cause this effect. Some say that this is temporary and you lose your size when you go off. To a point this is true, but it’s also true for pretty much all aspects of bodybuilding, isn’t it? If you cut back on protein, you risk losing size, when you go off yoursteroidor pro hormone cycle, you lose size, when you stop training, you lose size. You don’t lose everything ( this is also true for all aspects of bodybuilding) but you will lose something. Regardless,most people will cycle creatine, taking 4-6 week breaks. Once you go back on, you gain everything back and more.