What is creatine?
Your body makes the protein creatine naturally. It is found in muscles as well as the liver, pancreas and kidneys. The more you exercise, the more creatine your muscles make, but creatine in the diet can also be absorbed by the body and added to both muscle and nerves, potentially improving neuromuscular performance.
Creatine was discovered in meat in 1832. Not long after, scientists found muscle levels were much higher in wild foxes, who exercise more, than in domesticated foxes. Around a century ago, it was found creatine in the diet could be absorbed by the body and could increase the creatine content of muscles.
What does creatine do?
Creatine is used to produce phosphocreatine, which in turn is used to provide energy to cells. Phosphocreatine is particularly used to provide muscles with energy during high-intensity exercise of short bursts of 15 to 30 seconds, such as sprinting or swimming short-distance races, weight-lifting or during sports such as tennis or football. Using creatine supplements to increase stores of creatine in muscle may make more energy available to muscle cells when they need it-increasing stamina and endurance.
What are the benefits of creatine?
Two-thirds of the 300 published studies on creatine’s effects on exercise found the supplement was helpful for sports that involved short, repetitive bursts of high-intensity exercise (creatine was not helpful for other sorts of exercise). However, a minority of studies found no benefit. The studies looked at a variety of types of sport including sprint cycling, swimming and soccer.
Creatine may increase lean body mass (however, some researchers have suggested this is due to muscles retaining extra water).
A study of men over 70 years of age found creatine supplements increased strength, power and endurance while a study of men and women over 65 found using creatine supplements during resistance training produced measurable improvements in muscle strength.
Creatine has also been used to improve exercise capacity, including endurance, in people with congestive heart failure. It is not known exactly how creatine produces benefits for people with this condition, as it does not appear to increase the amount of blood the heart can pump.
How to take creatine
* Creatine is available in oral powder, granules and micronized particles.
* As a sports supplement take either 3 grams of creatine daily continuously for 28 days or a cycle of 5 grams for 5 to 7 days followed by 2 to 10 grams a day for 8 weeks and then a 4-week break.
* To reduce age-related loss of strength take 5 grams of creatine a day, ideally in combination with regular resistance training.
* Taking creatine supplements with glucose or simple carbohydrates such as dark grape juice may reduce gastrointestinal side effects. Micronized forms may produce also better results with fewer gastrointestinal side effects.
* Creatine is not recommended for children and teenagers, as its safety and effectiveness have not been established.