Add Creatine, Add Muscle

May 23 2014

What is Creatine?
Creatine is an acid that is produced in your liver. It aids in the supplying of energy to cells all over the body. In particular, it helps distribute nutrients to muscle cells. It’s a protein composed of amino acids. There are three main components: L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine.

It travels through the blood by way of what is called an “active transport system.” This means that, like the energy going to the wheels in a 4x4 car, it gets distributed to the muscles that need it the most. It mostly, therefore, ends up in the brain or the skeletal muscle tissues. In fact, the vast majority of creatine (over 90%) ends up in skeletal muscle.

Creatine is used by athletes everywhere to improve their bodies’ ability to get energy where it’s needed in a highly efficient way. This means harder training, and harder muscles.

It’s not a steroid, either. The International Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Assocation both allow athletes participating in their events to use creatine, since it’s a natural substance and just streamlines body processes that are already in effect whether you need it or not.

What Can it Do for You?
Creatine’s effects cover a whole range of different areas; it’s not just about energy and muscles. In fact, it actually has a range of medical uses, including treating arthritis and Parkinson’s disease, as well as congestive heart problems—even depression. It also has positive effects on cognitive ability, as some creatine does end up in the brain.

As Chad Kerksick, an assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Oklahoma, said, “you can lift one or two more reps or five more pounds” when you’ve got a good creatine regimen going. The extra energy that it provides can make the difference between a good workout and a fantastic one.

To quantify that benefit, studies have found that creatine users find their max power and performance in anaerobic exercise improving by around 15%. Now, that’s not exactly a guarantee, but the medical literature supports the many claims surrounding creatine use—at least to a degree.

So… What’s the Catch?
There really isn’t a catch. Creatine isn’t a steroid. It’s a natural chemical that’s already in the body, and all it does is truly improve the body’s ability to carry energy and nutrients where they’re needed. It improves both energy and muscle growth. But, of course, overdoing it can lead to some serious issues. In fact, it’s recommended that you check with your doctor before you start using creatine, just in case you have one of a few conditions that can make creatine use more of a burden than a benefit.

If you experience stomach pain or nausea, you may be overdoing it. Try cutting back on your consumption. If it continues, you may have to stop using creating.

Muscle cramps and diarrhea mean similar things, though you may want to check with your doctor, as these are more often signs of a negative reaction in your body than they are of simply overdoing it on the creatine dosage you’re taking.

Warning! If you have kidney disease, don’t take creatine at all. You’ll overwork your already suffering kidneys. Additionally, because it is involved in processes that tend to not work properly in diabetics and people who need blood sugar supplements, it’s not advisable if you have diabetes or need those sugar supplements. 

Pancreas and Your Body
Creatine enters the body, predictably, through the digestive system. And like most of the nutrients that pass through your digestive system, it will leave the digestive tract and enter the liver to have the toxins removed, and to start the process of converting it into creatinine, which the body actually uses. It then passes into the kidneys for another round of toxin reduction before it actually enters the bloodstream.

The kidneys turn the remaining creatine into creatinine; it’s then execrated through the urine.

This is one of the reasons why it is generally bad for diabetics or those with kidney problems to take creatine supplements, in general. Diabetics typically already suffer from excessive urination, because the body is unable to get rid of glucose in the normal way. Creatine passing through the kidneys can cause even more excessive urination, leading to serious dehydration. This would not only reverse the effects of any creatine you might have taken to improve your workouts, it’s extremely unhealthy.

Other Than Supplements…
Creatine comes from a number of natural sources:

Wild Game
Red Meat

If used properly, creatine can be a powerful supplement that can seriously improve your ability to kill it at the gym and recover faster when you get home. Taken improperly, or if you have a condition that prevents its use, it can cause serious problems. So check with your doctor so you can determine how much creatine you can safely take to maximize its positive effects and avoid all those negative, nasty ones.