Wanna get swoll bro? Well there is a power supplement for you! Creatine is one of the most well known supplements in the bodybuilding world. Creatine was first discovered in the 1830’s, when Michel Eugene Chevreul extracted the compound from meat. It was confirmed that creatine has an anabolic (building) effect in the early century when it was found that supplementation increases creatine content in muscle. Creatine became popular in the 1990’s specifically during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics where an estimated 80% of these athletes were using it to improve performance and muscle building potential. Creatine has tremendous effects on many other cellular functions such as produce energy, build muscle, improve performance, and can even improve brain and heart function. Let us dive in deeper.
Helps Muscle Cells Produce More Energy
The cells of the body use adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for all cellular functions. ATP is an organic compound and hydrotrope that provides energy to drive many processes in all living cells; most specifically contractions of muscles and firing of neurons. When at rest, muscle cells have 2/3 of its creatine capacity available in the form of energy-rich creatine phosphate. As a muscles contracts and uses ATP, the enzyme creatine kinase (CK) transfers this phosphate group to the ADP and is then converted to ATP. Having larger pools of creatine phosphate also leads to faster generation of ATP and therefore aids the cells in recovery of energy that is expelled during exercises. Creatine essentially allows the body to generate new energy faster than during normal circumstances. Taking a creatine supplement is a great way to replenish your cells during and after a workout.
Aides in Muscle Growth
Creatine is known as one of the best muscle building supplements for its ability to aide in muscle growth. Made popular by the bodybuilding industry, it is a common supplement found in gym bags everywhere in the health, wellness, and fitness world. Creatine increases the amount of water in the muscle cells leading to hydration and volumization of the cells (greater pump in the muscle bellies). Creatine also increases IGF-1 in the body which is a key hormone that plays a role in muscle growth and leads to the creation of protein (the building block of muscles). With its recovery enhancing properties, creatine decreases the amount of muscle breakdown which results in less muscle loss from exercise.
Improves Performance During High Intensity Exercise
Since ATP is the most basic form of energy in the body’s cells, it plays a fundamental role in metabolic processes and muscle function. Since the cells can only store enough ATP for about 8-10 seconds of high intensity exercise, the body will need more than it can naturally produce during long bouts of exercise. Creatine increases the body’s stores of creatine phosphate which is then used to produce new ATP during high intensity exercise. It is like having a back-up fuel tank on a racecar.
May Improve Brain Function and Heart Health
While new research is emerging on other benefits from taking creatine, it is becoming increasingly clear that it can help improve other body functions rather than just the ones mentioned above. It is being found that taking creatine supplements can improve brain function and heart health. It is believed that due to its energy producing properties, creatine can help neurons fire with more strength and accuracy which in return help the brain communicate more effective with body and the world around it.
The heart fills and pumps via electrical impulses. Therefore, people will have pacemakers placed on the heart if they have heart issues. The access to more energy from creatine can help the heart pump more effectively, especially during exercise.
Where to Get Creatine Naturally and Through Supplementation
Though the body can naturally produce creatine in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas, it cannot produce enough to elicit the gains you desire as quickly as ingesting creatine rich foods or through supplements. I am always an advocate of getting your nutrients through food first and then filling in the gaps with supplements. The most creatine rich foods consist of animal meats such as beef, pork, chicken, and fish. Once it is ingested, the body does the rest. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may want to look into adding a creatine supplement to your diet if you are looking to build muscle and burn body fat.
Personal Experiences with Creatine
I have been using creatine for many years throughout my training career. I have used it for its muscle building effects in strength training and its recovery properties when I was training for a marathon. I have seen great benefits in both areas of my training.
I do not have any dietary restrictions for animal meats, so I make sure to get a healthy dose of animal proteins in with every meal. As for training, I enjoy using a creatine supplement from Legion. I like to bring them up in my articles and posts because they are a third party tested company, so you know that what is on the label is actually in the bottle. They also only use scientific study backed doses in their products, so you will not be getting too much or too little of something in their supplements. I am not tied to them in any way other than I enjoy their products. You do not have to use them but being third party tested should be a gold standard when it comes to choosing a supplement.