The most popular supplement on the market today is creatine. Go into any supplement store and there are whole sections dedicated to creatine. It has been proven to help increase performance as well as increase muscle mass and strength. The synthetic supplement, also found in high doses in meats and seafood, has been highly scrutinized and tested and has had an amazing track record for safety and efficiency and is used by general fitness enthusiasts and professional athletes alike. But what is creatine and what does it do?
Creatine is an amino acid naturally found in the body and more specifically the muscle cells. It helps produce energy during heavy weight training or bouts of high-intensity exercise. Almost all of creatine stored in the muscles (95%) while the rest is distributed in the brain, kidneys and liver in the form of phosphocreatine. Essentially, phosphocreatine help create ATP, which is the bodies energy source for all activities. More ATP, more and better performance. Normally, ATP becomes depleted after 8–10 seconds of high-intensity activity. But because creatine supplements help you produce more ATP, you can maintain optimal performance for a few seconds longer. This increase can help gain muscle because of the following.
· Boosted workload
· Improved cell signaling
· Raised anabolic hormones
· Increased cell hydration
· Reduced protein breakdown
· Lower myostatin levels
Just like your muscles, your brain stores phosphocreatine and requires plenty of ATP for optimal function. Supplementing with creatine can improve brain function and help fight the following conditions:
· Alzheimer's disease
· Parkinson's disease
· Huntington's disease
· Ischemic stroke
· Brain or spinal cord injuries
· Motor neuron disease
· Memory and brain function in older adults
The most common and well-researched supplement form is called creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is very cheap and is supported by hundreds of studies. Until new research claims otherwise, it seems to be the best option. There are several proven ways to start supplementing creatine effectively into a diet. For a rapid increase in muscle storage of creatine, a loading phase has become extremely popular. Supplement 20 grams a day in 5-gram servings for 5 – 7 days. Absorption can increase when taken with meals. After the loading phase, 3-5 grams a day can maintain creatine levels. If there is no loading phase, 3 -5 grams a day should suffice except it can take anywhere between 3 – 5 weeks to increase creatine storage levels in the muscle.
The great thing about creatine that there is no cycling period. It can be continued to be used safely for long periods of time without any negative side effects. It has been suggested that extreme creatine has been linked to certain digestive maladies but studies have shown that there is no direct link of creatine causing any significant harm to bodily functions. The one caveat with creatine is that is does pull water into the muscle cells so mix with water and stay hydrated!