Creatine is a supplement that in a short time has become one of the most popular in sports nutrition (only surpassed by protein shakes) and whose results satisfy more and more athletes.
What is creatine?
Creatine is an organic acid that acts as a source of energy for the muscles during moments of intense exercise.
Taken into sports training, this means that creatine is that reserve of energy that gives the last push in a sprint or that enables you to do one last rep of a weight lift.
There is some controversy surrounding creatine and its possible effects. Some theories claim that this substance is related to hair loss, prostate cancer or muscle cramps, but no scientific evidence has been given to corroborate these data.
What is creatine for?
Creatine is a safe supplement with a high effectiveness on the phosphagen energy system, that is, the short term energy that acts at the beginning of an intense muscular activity.
The body also makes creatine naturally (in small amounts), and it can be ingested in foods such as red meat.
Taking 3-5 grams of creatine per day, in powdered supplement form, after a high intensity workout can help you get your desired results in the short term.
This means that creatine is a kind of “fuel” that helps the body achieve greater performance in a short period of time. It is especially indicated for strength and power athletes, as well as weight lifters, since its benefits are more notable in very intense and short term exercise.
Where does it come from:
It is an amino acid derivative created from three compounds: arginine, methionine, and glycine. This combination results in a molecule capable of providing the body with energy.
Our body generates between 1 and 2 grams of creatine a day, but most of it is expelled through urine, and the amount that remains stored in the body is very low.
Creatine is not a new substance, it is present in all vertebrates and is as old as our ancestors. Therefore, taking supplements means only recharging the natural reserves that are already in our body.
Despite its long history (biologically speaking), this substance was not studied until 1912, when researchers from Harvard University (USA) discovered that creatine plays a key role in metabolism, being able to increase significantly drastic muscle tissue reserves.
After 80 years in silence, in 1992 creatine caught the attention of all audiences at the Barcelona Olympic Games, when the English sprinter Limford Christie used it (legally) and surprisingly won the gold in the 100 meters. The big sports nutrition companies were quick to commercialize the substance, which until now has not stopped growing.
Long term creatine supplementation can help you get overwhelming results in your training. What happens in the body when ingesting it is an increase in the levels of adenosine triphosphate , that is, the obtaining of cellular energy.
Another key consequence of creatine is water retention, since it is a hydroscopic element , which means that, like a sponge, it stores water molecules between the muscles, thus increasing their mass.
The theory is clear but, put into practice, what can creatine do for you?
- Improve mental performance : During intense activity, the brain uses creatine phosphate to stay focused.
- Gain muscle mass in the short term : the retention of water in the muscles helps to increase muscle mass, which would be the “sponge effect”.
- Improve Resistance Exercise Results: Recent studies from Louisiana State University (USA) suggest that creatine helps improve glycogen levels during carbohydrate loading, which can lead to a victory in the 100 flat meters or an extra repetition in your usual training.
- Protein synthesis : in the long term, creatine stimulates protein synthesis, which leads to a prolonged increase in muscle mass. On the other hand, the continuous taking of this substance will make that, in addition to increasing the volume of your muscles, you will perform workouts that previously would have left you dry. There have been 22 studies on creatine that determine that your regular users can increase their maximum one rep strength by 5%, and endurance by 14%.
It could be said that we are facing the ideal supplement for every athlete, but the reality is different. The effects of creatine are excellent in short term endurance sports such as sprinting, weight lifting, bodybuilding, obstacle courses, or a gym workout. However, it would be of little use for running a marathon or cycling stage.
Creatine: always after training
The latest research from the International Society of Sports Nutrition is clear: creatine should always be taken after exercise. In this way, the compound reaches the muscles, helping to increase their size and supporting the recovery and regeneration process.
How it is taken:
The recommended amount is 5 grams of creatine monohydrate in 400ml of water (or protein shake) after each workout.
It is very important that it is monohydrate, as it is the safest and widely researched form of creatine. It is also the least soluble, so be sure to mix it well and avoid drinking it with undissolved powder.