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Creatine is a compound normally found in the body — mostly in skeletal muscles (95 percent) made by the liver and also obtained in protein rich foods such as meat and fish.
However, much of the creatine in meat and fish is destroyed by cooking. Although 2 pounds of red meat contains approximately 5 grams of creatine because it was destroyed by cooking, the best way to consume creatine is with a powdered supplement that has carbohydrates and other amino acids stacked with it. The creatine found naturally in the body is made from the amino acids L-arginine, L-glycine and L-methionine. Insulin is also necessary for creatine to enter the muscles effectively, so consuming carbohydrates with creatine may enhance the absorbability of creatine. It is commonly used to improve athletic and exercise performance as well as increasing muscle mass in athletes and older adults. The body of a sedentary person metabolizes 2 grams of creatine per day.
Creatine is allowed by the International Olympic committee, the National Athletic Association and professional sports and is widely used among professional and amateur athletes. It is especially beneficial in high intensity training such as sprinting or weight training or other types of explosive training because of several factors. It increases energy production, decreases muscle fatigue, reduces lactic acid output, and seems to have similar effects as anabolic steroids without the negative side effects that steroids have. The increase in lean muscle mass has been attributed to the fact that creatine helps muscle attract and hold water which gives the muscle a fuller look.
Creatine’s performance enhancing ability and muscle mass increasing ability is due to two mechanisms. The first is intra-cellular water retention and the second is creatine’s ability to enhance ATP production. Once creatine is stored inside the muscle, it attracts water and super hydrates the muscle tissue, causing a fuller look as well as an increase in strength, and reduction of muscle fatigue.
Creatine provides for a faster recovery in between sets of exercises, increase tolerance to high volume work by enhancing the body’s ability to produce Adenosine TriPhosphate (ATP). ATP is the compound that muscles use for energy production. By taking creatine you can delay the onset of lactic acid production which stops your muscles ability to contract.
Therefore by enhancing the body’s ability to minimize lactic acid production you can exercise harder and longer and take your workout to the next level. Creatine also seems to allow for better “pumps” in the workout as well. The finding that creatine benefits are enhanced by using them in a carbohydrates solution has resulted in creatine sport drinks with carbohydrates added as a pre-workout boost.
Vegetarians and others who have lower levels of creatine before beginning a creatine supplement benefit more so than others who may already have some creatine stored in their muscles. Skeletal muscle will reach a saturation point within a few days of beginning a course of supplementation.
Creatine has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels as well as treating congestive heart failure, depression, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease, disease of the muscles and nerves as well as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS, rheumatoid arthritis, and various muscular dystrophies. Americans use more than 4 million kilograms of creatine per annum.
Although the Cochrane Collaboration Analysis of 12 trials showed no notable adverse effects of creatine intake, research on the negative side effects of creatine is limited. Some possible side effects are stomach cramps, nausea, and diarrhea, loss of appetite, muscle cramps and weight gain. High doses of creatine could cause dehydration because water is drawn into the muscles and away from the other parts of the body. Other potential issues of high doses could involve kidney, heart and liver damage, therefore those with kidney, heart or liver damage should not consider creatine supplementation.
Also, adolescents who are eager to make fast gains may decide to take more than the recommended amount of creatine to enhance their athletic performance or muscle mass gains and this is not recommended. Creatine supplements should not be taken with the herb ephedra because of increased risk of cardio vascular concerns and it should be avoided by those taking prescription drugs which impact the kidneys, such as immunosuppressant drugs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen.
Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-1451 or www.janerileyfitness.com.