Supplements ~ Creatine
discovered in the 1830's, has been around and about commercially since
1992 and is probably one of the most used and abused supplements in
Many talk about it as the
panacea to victory. Well it is, or it isn't or it might be!
It depends who you hear it from and in what context. And to be
honest, I'm not going to swing the debate one way or another in this
short article. As ever, read it, do your own research and do what
you think is best for you.
is is it?
Creatine Monohydrate is an ergogenic aid. It isn't on any
sporting banned list and is considered a supplement rather than a drug.
It's been suggested that creatine has an anabolic affect as it has been
shown in some research to have a positive affect on muscle cell growth.
I'll explain why later.
is synthesised from the amino acids glycine, arginine and methionine in
the kidneys, liver and pancreas It's predominantly found in
skeletal muscle, where it exists in two forms as creatine.
Approximately 40% is in the free creatine form, while the remaining 60%
is the phosphorylated form, creatine phosphate.
Normally less than a gram
per day is supplied by our diet and another gram is synthesized by the
kidneys. Kidney synthesis is the only creatine source for vegetarians
and may indicate a clear role for creatine supplementation in
veggie-cyclists. There was concern that high doses might potentially
injure the kidneys, but at the recommended dosage, no adverse affects
have yet been demonstrated.
does it do?
Creatine phosphate (CP) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) supply
most of our energy for short-term, intense energy bursts like a sprint.
When the muscle cell's supply of creatine phosphate becomes depleted,
the rate of energy production in the cell is decreased with obvious
Creatine supplementation can
prolong the rate of regeneration of the cell's energy in order to
improve athletic performance during these intense bursts. If you
want further information on this process read the
factsheet, if you want to see and more importantly feel it for yourself,
take a Wingate Test.
How does it
Supplementation provides an extra
pool of creatine on which the body can draw when stocks become depleted
by saturating the muscles and other storage areas. Without
supplementation you can still perform at a high level, it's just the
repeats at which you can perform are potentially shorter due to
relatively earlier creatine depletion.
Basically the human body is
80% water, the other 20% make up the bits that stop us drowning!
It is thought that creatine increases muscle cell growth by drawing some
of this water in to the cells. Obviously the water has to come
from somewhere, so when taking creatine you may need to drastically up
your fluid intakes. Especially during the first weeks loading
Stronger muscle cells (due
to their volume) that can perform for longer (due to their creatine
concentrations) can increase the quality of your training and obviously
lead to greater mass, strength and power gains.
What is the
maximum amount of creatine the body can store is about 0.3 gram per
kilogram of body weight. So for a 70 kilo rider that's 21 grams.
Research has shown that a
loading dose of 20 - 25 grams of creatine monohydrate, in four or five
doses of 5 grams each, for 5 to 7 days can produce a stored creatine
increase of up to 20% in muscle cells.
Once the cells are saturated
with creatine a maintenance dose of 2 to 5 grams a day is sufficient to
maintain levels. If you forego the loading dose, and just take the
2-5 grams a day, you will still reach saturation just a few days later.
Long-term supplementation is
not really beneficial from a sporting perspective and may lead to
undiscovered problems later in life. Take it during your intense
training periods, get the benefit, then back off and eat a decent,
balanced hi-carb diet to maintain your creatine requirements.
Don't be tempted to exceed the recommended dosage. They're
recommended for a reason! Taking excess creatine, that can't be
stored in the muscles or synthesised by the kidneys, is passed straight
to your urine. You will literally "pass" it down the drain!
Creatine is most beneficial when used during
interval training in the following doses.
Load at 20g per day (4 x 5 g) for 5 days
Follow with 2g per day maintenance for 25
One of these dosages should be taken 30-60
minutes before a workout to ensure Creatine availability during the
workout for maximum power output.
Another dosage should be taken immediately
after the work out as part of your post-exercise recovery strategy.
Either drink it down in one go and drink
fluids during the day or mix it in a drink and sip it over an hour or
What contains creatine?
Creatine is produced naturally in the
body. It is also found in red meat, poultry and fish. Creatine
monohydrate is the normally powder form of creatine found in
I maximise my supplementation?
Taking more than the recommended dose
will not increase concentration levels. The only place where
creatine will become more concentrated is in your urine! Your body
will reject all creatine it can not store. So don't waste your
dosh by "doubling-up".
There is evidence that
carbohydrate supplementation will improve the benefits of a creatine
supplementation program. During a research study, muscle biopsy,
urine, and plasma samples were obtained from 24 males before and after
ingesting 5 grams of creatine (group A) or 5 grams of creatine followed,
thirty minutes later by 93 grams of carbohydrate (group B), four times
each day for 5 days.
resulted in an increase in muscle phosphocreatine concentration in both
group A and B. However group B showed a 60% greater concentration
of total creatine storage than their group A counterparts who never took
the carbohydrate supplementation.
There was also a
corresponding decrease in urinary creatine excretion in group B.
They wasted less of what they were taking in. These findings go
someway to support the importance of adequate carbohydrates in creatine
There is also a secret
ingredient that can significantly increase creatine absorption but I
save that for my clients! If you ask when you take a test as part
of your own self-coaching, I'll tell you then.
I be aware of?
Some research has shown that creatine
supplementation increases body weight, but this may be due to either
fluid retention or increased muscle mass. Research using creatine
supplements during endurance exercise such as cross-country running has
shown no beneficial effects. So don't take it for the club runs.
supplementation has resulted in significant saturation increases for
some individuals but not others, suggesting that there are 'responders'
and 'nonresponders'. These increases in total concentration among
responders is greatest in individuals who have the lowest initial
creatine measurements to begin with, such as vegetarians.
creatine is a natural component of food, the amount of food required to
supersaturate the muscle may not be feasible. If creatine monohydrate
can be proven to be a safe and effective ergogenic aid then
supplementation could be the simplest way to increasing muscle stores.
It may be
beneficial to avoid caffeine if taking creatine supplements. One study
showed that caffeine diminished strength gains seen with creatine use.
Swings and roundabouts I'm afraid.
When I've taken
creatine I have felt an aching in the knuckles in my hands, probably due
to fluid retention and I can honestly say I do become "aware" of my
kidneys. It's a strange feeling but not one that causes me any
concern. I don't think!
This article is neither an endorsement or a condemnation of the subject
of this article or any other supplement use. It is here to allow
the reader to draw their own informed conclusion.
Do your research and
if any doubt consult a physician before undertaking any supplement
regimen. Never take more than the stated dose and never mix any
drug or supplement with alcohol. Always check that you are not
contravening any sporting code, ethics or permitted levels for your
sport before undertaking any supplementation.
Where can I get some?
Creatine comes in a few different
forms, capsules and powder are the most common and the best way to take
it seems to be as a powder. However there are two types of powder!
Try and get the micro-sized granules as it mixes and disperses well in
water. Normal powder is similar in grain size to salt and doesn't
always dissolve completely, which means you're still chewing it for half
an hour after consumption.
Any good cycling
shop will sell you some. As will places like Karob and other
health food outlets in the Island.