Creatine 101 — What Is It and What Does It Do

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Fitness and strength athletes are generally familiar with creatine. A large group of athletes has already used it once, or more times and if not, then at least one knows what is being said about it. Creatine is one of the most well-known supplements, but what exactly is creatine powder, and how does it work? In this article, I will explain all the ins & outs about creatines, and of course, several facts and fables about creatine will also be discussed.


What exactly is creatine?

Creatine came on the market in the mid-1990s. Soon creatine became very popular among (top) athletes, so the fame among the general public increased. Creatine is a body substance; this means that your body also produces this substance. It is made up of various amino acids such as arginine, lysine and methionine.

Our own body makes about 1 gram of creatine per day in the liver and kidneys. Our body also absorbs about 1 gram of creatine per day from food such as meat and fish. Steak, in particular, is known for its creatine content. About 95% of the total amount of creatine in our body is stored in the muscles. We consume an average of 2 grams per day. Now you’re probably thinking ‘our body makes creatine myself, why would I take it as a supplement?’ I will explain more about this immediately!


The action of creatine

To control our muscles, our bodies need fuel. The fuel used to control muscle cells is called ATP (Adenosine Tri Phosphate). To provide energy, the body converts ATP to ADP (Adenosine Di Phosphate). Creatine ensures that this ADP is then converted back to ATP. This energy delivery system is called the ATP-CP system, or creatine phosphate system. This is one of the 3 different systems that our body uses to generate energy for delivering certain performance.

Therefore, the first system is, the ATP-CP system, the second system is the lactic acid energy system, and the third system is called the oxygen energy system. Each system works differently but has the same objective, namely, to supplement ATP. Each energy system has a different speed at which this conversion takes place. The ATP-CP system speedily delivers energy. However, the energy supply here is minimal. Creatine phosphate is first converted into ATP before muscle cells can use this as energy. Our muscles contain a limited supply of creatine phosphate, and therefore this system provides no more than 10 seconds of energy. This system does not need a supply of oxygen, and therefore, we call this the anaerobic system. Anaerobically means without oxygen! The other two systems provide energy for a longer duration, in which there is a need for oxygen (aerobic system). When you make an explosive effort, your body will have to quickly supply energy, which often happens primarily through the ATP-CP system.


Creatine and our sporting achievements

For short and maximum effort, creatine phosphate is, therefore, the main source of energy. Our muscles normally contain enough creatine phosphate for a maximum effort of 8-12 seconds. Supplementing creatine has different effects on our sports performance. Because of the extra creatine in our muscles, one recovers faster from maximum exertion, and less quickly acidification and fatigue occur.

However, these positive effects are limited to explosive sports such as fitness and sprint parts. Several studies have also shown that creatine accelerates muscle mass building while following a strength training program. This is explained by the swelling of the muscle fibres in creatine use, and this is an additional incentive for the individual muscle fibres to grow.


Does creatine have drawbacks?

Yes! In about 20-30% of users, it hardly works. This supplement’s effect depends on the amount of creatine that your body has naturally already stored in the muscles. The lower this initial value, the greater the effect of using creatine supplements. If you naturally have a lot of creatine in your body, you will have less creatine use as a supplement!

It’s not a panacea, of course. It can help athletes break a ceiling because it postpones acidification and restores our body more quickly. However, you are still dependent on a healthy diet and a solid training schedule. Before you start using creatines, I recommend that you draw up a good dietary schedule and make sure you do exercises correctly.


Facts and fables about creatine

Various truths and falsehoods are being proclaimed about the use of creatine. But what is true and what is not? Below I discuss some creatine facts and fables.

The more creatine you use, the greater the effect will be

This is not true! According to researchers at St. Francis Xavier University, it’s enough to get 5 grams of creatine a day. The rest is not absorbed by the body and immediately excreted again. So it’s a waste of your money to use more.


You must use a loading phase when using creatine.

Coming back to the previous research, we can conclude that this is also a fable. During a loading phase, where it is claimed that you have to use 10-20 grams of creatine per day, your body does not absorb everything. So this is a shame since your body only needs 5 grams a day. In this article, we will tell you more about this creatine loading phase.


Creatine is bad for your kidneys and liver.

Creatine is not bad for your kidneys and liver unless you have a medical condition on one of these organs. A study by Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, which followed American Football players for 5 years, shows that creatine does not hurt your kidneys and liver. During this study, they even used 15 (!) grams per day.


Creatine will keep your moisture.

Creatine is stored in the muscles together with water. This ensures that your muscles are fuller when you take a creatine supplement. But do you get a “thicker moisture head”? This, too, is nonsense. When you use quality creatine, your body does not retain any extra moisture.

However, this can occur when using poorly produced and inexpensive creatines. This has nothing to do with the working substance itself, but with sodium (salt) in the product. This will keep you holding moisture.


Creatine should be taken with fruit juice.

Taking creatine with sugar indeed accelerates the absorption. However, as discussed in an earlier article here, you can also combine creatine with a protein shake and oatmeal. So you don’t necessarily have to take it with a carbohydrate drink, provided you get enough carbohydrates over the rest of the day.


Liquid creatines work best.

The opposite is true. The disadvantage of liquid creatines is that it is converted into creatinine. This happens if it lasts too long, and creatinine is worthless. I recommend using powdered creatine.


You get enough creatine from food.

As explained earlier, your body only gets 1 gram of creatine per day from food. Of course, certain foods naturally contain extra creatine, yet the absorption of our body remains limited. Supplementing with a quality supplement can therefore be very valuable.

Creatine supplements

Creatine can be a valuable supplement if you want to progress in fitness (or other explosive sports). The points discussed in this article can be used to get the most out of your creatine use.

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