WHAT IS CREATINE ?
Creatine is a natural substance produced by the body that helps to supply energy to the body’s cells by increasing ATP (energy). Created by the body out of the amino acids glycine and arginine (5), it increases energy stores in the muscle cells especially during heavy lifting and high-intensity exercise. The amount of creatine in the muscle stores allows for 3-5 seconds of hard intensity such as a sprint, and increased creatine levels can allow for 8-10 seconds of hard intensity (6). This increased stored energy also encourages increased muscle mass and strength, and a faster recovery. The majority of the body’s creatine is stored in muscles, and a small amount is stored in the brain.
CREATINE IN THE DIET and SUPPLEMENTATION
Vegetarians are typically lower in creatine as creatine is found in red meat and seafood. Those who eat meat synthesize about 1 gram creatine per day and the body needs to replenish 1-3g of creatine daily to maintain muscle. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike could consider a creatine supplement. In a normal carnivorous diet with 1-2 grams of creatine, the creatine stores are 60-80% saturated, and supplementing with creatine aims to increase the stores to 100%.
Creatine monohydrate has been the most extensively studied form of creatine for supplementation (1). Studies have found that supplementing with creatine may enhance training due to a higher quality of work able to be performed, as well as duration of contraction (1). In supplementing with creatine, the amount is front-loaded to load up the supply of creatine intramuscularly. The recommended consumption is .3 grams/kilogram of body weight per day for 5-7 days, and then 3-5 grams/daily after (1). Taking creatine monohydrate with carbohydrates or carbohydrates and protein helps with retention.
BENEFITS OF CREATINE
Creatine has been shown to boost muscle mass and strength performance. The extra energy provided by extra creatine allows for a longer duration of hard work, and stronger muscles. Supplementation has been shown to improve cell signaling, helping the muscles with repair and new muscle growth (2). Muscle repair contributes to a quicker recovery time, and ability to complete more repetitions, or less down time. All of the research shows that creatine supplementation is advantageous for high intensity workouts and strength training. Vegetarians especially may want to consider supplementation due to dietary constraints and low creatine levels.
Additionally, it also recycles ATP in the brain, resulting in better memory and cognition (4).