What Is Creatine?

What is creatine?

Creatine is one of your body’s natural sources of energy for muscle contraction. Its name comes from the Greek word for meat. About half of the body’s supply comes from a carnivorous diet and about half is produced in the liver, kidneys and then delivered to the skeletal muscles for use. About 95% of creatine is stored in the skeletal muscle of your body and is used during physical activity. Creatine helps to maintain a continuous supply of energy to working muscles by keep production up in working muscles. Small amounts are also found in your heart, brain and other tissues.

Creatine is also found in foods such as milk, red meat and seafood. In a normal omnivorous /carnivorous diet, you consume one to two grams/day of creatine. Vegetarians may have lower amounts of creatine in their bodies.

Creatine exists in a steady state with a similar compound named creatinine that can be measured in lab tests as a marker of kidney function. It is passed out of your body in the urine. This means your body must release stored creatine each day to keep normal levels, the amount depending on your muscle mass. Although creatine is created naturally in your body, you must keep up your levels and do so through your daily diet.

How does creatine work?

After creatine enters the body (or after it is produced by the body) it firsts binds with a phosphate molecule to form creatine phosphate. Now here is where I’m going to lay a bit of biochemistry on you, so I’ll do my best to keep it simple.

ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) is the body’s energy source. When your body oxidizes carbs, protein, or fat, it is doing this process in order to produce ATP. ATP is the energy responsible for driving almost every body process there is. (ATP is even involved in creating more ATP.) ATP provides this energy by hydrolyzing a phosphate group.

When a phosphate group is hydrolyzed, energy in the form of heat is given off and this energy is used to drive whatever process is being performed, for example, muscle contraction. Because one phosphate has been lost from the ATP, it is now called ADP (adenosine di-phosphate). Now you have free ADP as a product from the ATP hydrolysis.

What are the benefits of creatine consumption?

  • increased muscle growth by increasing the volume of water in the muscle cells.
  • improved exercise performance by increasing the energy availability.
  • faster recovery timings
  • increased brain function and improved cognitive function
  • potential benefits such as reduced inflammation as well as improving glucose metabolism

Are there any drawbacks to creatine consumption?

  • digestive issues such as bloating and gas
  • water retention which in turn could lead to weight gain
  • kidney damage
  • dehydration meaning it is important to increase water intake
  • potential interactions with medications

How to supplement creatine?

Most people take their creatine in the morning because it’s easy to habit-stack with breakfast or your other supplements. But you could take it in your pre-workout or intra-workout drink, or have it post-workout. The most important thing to get the effects of creatine is consistency.

The main ways that you can supplement creatine is through a powdered form or a tablet form.