One health supplement that athletes around the world desperately search for is – Creatine. Creatine is a chemical compound that is endorsed by leading athletes around the globe. Creatine is not a steroid and it is also not related to Creatinine. Along with carbohydrate solution, Creatine is available as a leading health supplement as well as energy drink in the market. To know more about this chemical, its many benefits, sources, dosage and deficiency symptoms read this article till the very end.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a form of amino acid that is used for performance enhancement activities. Creatine consists of two types of amino acids – glycine and arginine. Creatine is synthesized in our body through the actions of – glycine amidinotransferase (AGAT) and guanidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT). This chemical enters into our brain via SLC 6A8 which is a Creatine transporter. Creatine and Creatinine are two different and unrelated chemicals.
How Does It Work?
Creatine is a natural compound that is found in muscles. Creatine is also known as – Creatine monohydrate, Creatine 2 oxopropanoate and a-methylguanidinoacetic acid. The chief role of Creatine in our body is to maintain cellular energy production by re-generating adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is needed in our body for muscle contraction and is our body’s main energy source.
Creatine (monohydrate) supplements are used to increase muscle strength & muscle size, and to enhance the overall performance of the body. This compound is also recognized by the International Olympic Committee and National Collegiate Athletic Association, along with many other professional sports bodies. It is one of the most effective performance enhancing supplements recognized by the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
However, studies also reveal that those with existing low levels of Creatine in the body (such as vegetarians) benefit more from taking Creatine Supplements when compared to others with sufficient amount of this compound in the body. This is because our skeletal muscle can only take a certain load of Creatine at a time. Taking high doses of Creatine for a long period of time will not offer any further benefits for the skeletal muscles.
Sources Of Creatine
Apart from been naturally synthesized in our body, Creatine is also found in the following external food sources – high protein food items like red meat, fish, egg and some dairy products. In the market, Creatine supplements are usually found as a white (odorless and tasteless) powder that is taken along with water or juice.
Benefits Of Creatine
The main benefit of taking Creatine supplement is for improving the athletic performance of individuals especially during high stress, intensive activities like sprinting.
As A Fuel Source
Creatine supplements are taken by sportsmen because it is a leading fuel source for our body. The supplement helps during anaerobic activities like weight lifting as it increases the Creatine phosphate reserve in our body. It also helps in increasing the hydration levels in muscle cells and this in turn helps in the synthesis of protein in the body.
For Treating Muscular Dystrophy & McArdle’s Disease
Creatine is found in the muscles and is needed for improving muscle strength. Therefore, individuals suffering from muscular dystrophy can benefit a lot from this supplement. Creatine supplements help in increasing the stamina of individuals with muscle diseases such as McArdle’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Effective For Treating Parkinson’s Disease
Few studies have revealed that Creatine might slowly reverse the symptoms of individuals suffering from Parkinson’s disease (at the early stages).
Effective For Treating Congestive Heart Failure
Some studies have also hinted at the possible use of Creatine in individuals suffering from congestive heart failure as the supplement offers more strength and endurance in such patients.
Apart from the above given benefits, Creatine may also help in treating the following conditions – depression, high cholesterol, gyrate atrophy, bipolar disorder, ailments related to muscles and nerves etc.
Deficiency Symptoms Of Creatine
Deficiency of Creatine in the body leads to the deficiency of the following – GAMT, AGAT, and SLC6A8. In short, possible symptoms include – mental retardation, seizure disorder, speech and language delays, movement and behavioral disorders like autism etc.
How To Store Creatine?
Store Creatine in a cool & dry place.
Typically, Creatine can be taken at 20 grams per day for first five days and then can be continued at a daily dosage level of 2 or more grams. Some take 9 grams of Creatine per day for a week. For those suffering from heart failure, the dosage level is 20 grams per day for ten days.
For those suffering from Parkinson’s disease the dosage level is at 10 grams per day. And for those with gyrate atrophy disease and muscular dystrophies, the dosage levels are 1.5 grams per day and 10 grams per day respectively. For children, the dosage level for muscular dystrophy is somewhere around 5 grams per day.
Overdose & Side Effects Of Creatine
Creatine supplementation if taken with adequate hydration does not offer any adverse side effects. If required quantity of water is not taken along with the Creatine supplement, individuals might suffer from stomach cramps. And if there is an overdose of this supplement the person may suffer from diarrhea. Other known but minor side effects related to Creatine supplementation include – nausea and muscle cramping. Excess intake of Creatine may harm vital organs in the body, such as kidney and liver.
Few isolated studies claim that taking Creatine along with Caffeine and Ma Huang herb may lead to stroke. Similarly, studies also suggest that Creatine may lead to irregular heart beat and purpuric dermastosis (skin related) in some individuals. Creatine supplementation should be avoided by – pregnant women, lactating mothers and those suffering from kidney ailments and diabetes.
Creatine is needed in our body for the intracellular energy metabolism process and also to maintain equilibrium between the ATP and ADP levels. During Creatine supplementation it is always important to consume atleast 64 ounces of water per day. Further, when taking Creatine supplements it is better to avoid working out in the heat. Creatine supplements should not be taken along with citrus drinks. Creatine supplementation in older adults (above 60 years) usually does not offer any benefits. In short, Creatine dosage level depends on an individual’s age and body weight. Therefore, the only safe way to take the supplement is under proper medical supervision.
Those taking Creatine may gain few extra kilos during the course of the supplementation. The weight gain is due to the capacity of the muscles to hold water and it should not be confused with muscle growth.
Creatine supplements may interact with Nephrotoxic drugs (kidney related).