What IS Creatine?
Creatine is an essential molecule that helps provide cellular energy in the body. More specifically, Creatine Phosphate can be used to replenish the phosphate group on ATP (the energy coin of the cell) after stores have been depleted through physical activity. The creatine phosphate energy pathway is anaerobic meaning it generates energy without oxygen which makes it readily available to us even if we haven’t increased our ventilation rate yet. Because of this, our phosphocreatine energy pathway is used for short bursts of high energy activity such as olympic weightlifting, short sprints, explosive jumps, etc. Unfortunately, our body doesn’t retain large stores of creatine in its system which is one of the reasons why, for example, we struggle to retain top sprint speeds if we are doing repeated efforts with minimal rest. In the sporting world, supplementation is thought to increase the ability to regenerate energy in the CP system thus improving physical performance [1,2,3,4].
How it works
When ATP (adenosine TRI phosphate) is used in the body it is reduced to ADP (adenosine DI phosphate) meaning it loses one of its phosphates. In the body, creatine and phosphate form reversible bonds and with help from the creatine kinase enzyme these reversible bonds allow ATP, the energy coin of the cell, to be regenerated; this happens because creatinephosphate is used to donate a third phosphate back to ADP in order to regenerate the ATP that can be used for energy.
Research and Performance Improvements
Creatine Monohydrate, one of the most common forms of supplemental creatine, is an exogenous (produced outside the body) material formulated to be similar to the endogenous (produced inside the body) creatine that is manufactured by our liver, kidneys, and pancreas. In addition to supplements, creatine can be found in shellfish and other forms of meat. Because food sourced creatine is acquired by eating meat, vegetarians are shown to have lower resting blood creatine levels than meat eaters .
Current research indicates that creatine monohydrate supplementation is effective for improving physical performance at high intensity activities which may be responsible for trainee’s increases in muscle mass and strength [1,4]. In some studies, creatine is even shown to improve neurological recovery and performance . While the average daily supplemental does is 3-5g/day, studies have shown that up to 30g/day for 5 years is safe [3,4]. While this example of 30g/day for 5 years would most likely be costly and over the top for most trainees, it showcases that the supplement is widely researched and that even in extreme cases professional researchers have found it to be safe [2, 3, 4].
The International Society of Sports Nutrition, the American Dietetic Association, and the American College of Sports Medicine all agree that creatine supplementation is safe and the “most effective ergogenic nutritional supplement currently available to athletes in terms of increasing high intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training.” Furthermore, according to Kreider RB et al., “no study has reported any adverse or ergolytic effect of short- or long-term creatine supplementation while numerous studies have reported performance and/or health benefits in athletes and individuals with various diseases ”
If you so choose, you can purchase creatine monohydrate online and in many sports nutrition stores. Personally, I purchase my creatine in bulk online because it is the most cost effective option considering it is something I take every day. The bulk options are generally unflavored, but I add in flavor drops which are very affordable. Furthermore, I use a scale to measure a dose by weight in grams.
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This article does not take the place of advice by a qualified health professional. What’s appropriate for one individual may be counterproductive or unsafe for another. If you are suspicious of an illness, injury and/or are in constant pain the author encourages you to see a doctor, dietician, and/or a therapist to get a proper diagnosis and rule out illness. Illness, pain, and injuries are complicated topics that have a variety of causes and presentations. You should see your doctor before beginning any exercise program. The author is not qualified to prescribe treatments, food, supplementation, or medication. The author is not qualified to diagnose, or assess medical symptoms or conditions. This article and any information contained there-in is for informational/educational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for medical advice. Please talk to your doctor and medical care providers before starting any supplement or dietary regime and before starting any exercise or fitness program. Kansas State University and Anneliese Spence are not liable for any injuries or illness incurred due to exercise training or supplementation.
- Burke DG, Candow DG, Chilibeck PD, MacNeil LG, Roy BD, Tarnopolsky MA, Ziegenfuss T. Effect of creatine supplementation and resistance-exercise training on muscle insulin-like growth factor in young adults. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008;18:389–398. [PubMed] [Google Scholar
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- Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., … Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14, 18. doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
- Kreider RB, et al. Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003;244(1–2):95–104. doi: 10.1023/A:1022469320296. [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]