One of the most well-studied supplements is creatine, but what is its function? How can it help me reach maximum strength and why is it an important supplement for vegetarians?
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a natural substance that the body can produce itself and has the task of supplying the body's cells with energy. As early as the 19th century, researchers concluded that an increased creatine intake enabled the body to supply the muscles with a higher amount of creatine and could thus increase the capacity for high-intensity exercise and thus stimulate and promote muscle growth.
How does creatine affect the body?
When you put your muscles to work, the body's ATP molecules are consumed and these ATP depots last for about 2 - 3 seconds during hard work such as heavy lifting or sprinting. When the ATP molecules are consumed, the body needs creatine phosphate and it is produced in the liver and kidneys when the production of the amino acids L-arginine, Glycine and I-methionine transports the creatine in the bloodstream to the body's various muscles. Creatine phosphate is then synthesized in the muscle cells and eventually becomes energy and is sufficient for about 5 - 6 seconds of heavy activity. After that, the body's supply of glycogen takes over to supply the muscles with energy but with a lower effect. Glycogen is not enough to maintain the intense muscle work as crete phosphate and therefore the body needs to get the right levels of creatine.
Our bodies are estimated to metabolize about 2 grams of creatine per day and during physical activity that turnover increases, which means that our creatine depots are never really full and the body itself can only produce 1 gram per day through the body's production. Therefore, we need to add at least 1 gram per day via, for example, the food we eat and then meat and fish are good sources of creatine. They contain about 4 grams per kilo, but during cooking up to 30% can be lost because the creatine is broken down when heated, so a creatine supplement can simplify your daily intake and be a more economical choice that complements your diet and the body's own production.
How does creatine affect exercise and what effect does it have?
Creatine is a performance-enhancing supplement and has the property of giving you increased energy that will give you more stamina for activities that are heavy and explosive. However, creatine binds the fluid in your muscles and you may therefore notice a slight weight gain. When the fluid is bound inside the cells of the muscles, the cell's anabolic signal increases and the dietary supplement has its effect. You will simply be able to do a few more reps, lift heavier weights and recover faster between sets.
Studies have shown that individuals who took creatine increased their strength by as much as 20%, unlike individuals who did not take any creatine supplement. You can also read that a creatine intake means that you increase more in strength after a training period and thus increase your maximum strength.
Two examples of endurance results from studies are:
- Bench press - Men who regularly strength trained and dosed 25 g of creatine per day for six days made a clear increase in the number of reps they were able to do during the bench press exercise.
- Squats and bench press - A number of handball players received a supplement of 20 g of creatine for five days, they also increased their maximum number of how many or how much they could handle.
When and how to use creatine? Dosage?
Since creatine is a performance-enhancing diet supplement that provides your muscles with energy, it is best to take in conjunction with exercise and preferably just before you begin your workout.
Regarding dosing, it is advantageous to start with a recharging phase as you take about 20 grams per day by dividing it into 4 doses per day for about 4 to 6 days. After that, you can lie down on an intake of about 5 grams per day to maintain. By starting with a recharge, you quickly fill up your depots, which then only require maintenance to then maintain the right level.
Are there different types of creatine? Creatine monohydrate
Yes there are different types of creatine and the main and most relevant thing that distinguishes them is the water solubility. Creatine monohydrate is the most common variety and it is on this that 97% of all studies have been done. Creatine monohydrate has been shown to be most effective and also has a maximum creatine content of 87.9%. This is the closest you can get to a pure creatine.
What should you keep in mind when taking creatine?
- As previously mentioned, the substance creatine binds fluid in your muscles and it can therefore be good to drink extra water up to.
- Creatine also needs the substance sodium to be distributed in the body and if you eat a diet with too little salt, it can counteract the creatine's absorption capacity and ultimately your result.
- Dosage is always relevant and crucial for a dietary supplement to have its intended effect, so read about the specific product and how they are best dosed.
Creatine is important for vegetarians and vegans.
For an intake of creatine via diet, we need to eat meat and fish, but since a vegetarian or vegan diet lacks this main source, the recommended intake is halved and vegetarians and vegans are therefore often low on creatine levels. Therefore, it will be more than just a performance enhancer, but it will also be an important dietary supplement for a vegetarian diet. Creatine is created from amino acids from non-animal sources and therefore become a vegetarian supplement.