General Article

Creatine. What is it, what is it for and when and how to take it

Creatine improves sports performance, especially during intense efforts of short duration (2 to 30 seconds) in approximately 70% of the subjects.

And it is that creatine supplementation is part of the select club of the most popular and consumed sports nutritional supplements , especially present in sports that involve speed and strength.

In essence, creatine supplementation is primarily used to increase muscle mass, strength, and improve recovery after physical exertion .

For this reason its consumption has skyrocketed, not only in professional athletes, but its popularity encompasses the sphere of amateur athletes.

Even so, many questions remain regarding the effectiveness of creatine, the amount to take and possible side effects. Through this review we will try to bring you closer to the common doubts about this amino acid derivative.

Origin of creatine

Creatine is an amino acid discovered in 1932 by the French chemist Chevreul. It is present in foods of animal origin, especially in meat and fish, although it is also produced endogenously by our body. Specifically, it is synthesized in the liver, kidneys and pancreas, using the amino acids Arginine , Glycine and Methionine.

Once synthesized (or consumed through diet), creatine is 95% captured by muscle tissue and stored there . The human body consumes about 30 mg of creatine per kg of body weight per day, which is 1.5-2% of body reserves. Thus, the daily need for creatine is around 2 grams obtained from the diet (50%) and through endogenous synthesis (50%), although its amount varies depending on muscle mass and exercise intensity. that is held.

Metabolic function

At the metabolic level, creatine intervenes to satisfy the energy demands of the alactic anaerobic mechanism , a mechanism that is activated as soon as an intense muscular effort begins . Therefore, this way of obtaining energy does not use oxygen and there is no production of lactic acid.

It occupies a basic place in the resynthesis of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main form of energy used by cells. This process involves a reaction catalyzed by creatine kinase that allows the immediate availability of energy, acting as a precursor for the formation of ATP, and is converted in the body into phosphocreatine, which represents the fastest source of ATP regeneration.

During muscle contraction, ATP is transformed into adenosine diphosphate (ADP), releasing a phosphoric radical that provides energy. At this point, by adding a phosphorous atom to ADP, it is possible to re-synthesize ATP, providing new energy to the cells. Thus, when an intense effort is developed, phosphocreatine performs this function, reforming ATP from ADP.

At the end of this process, a part of the creatine is converted back into phosphocreatine and the rest into a waste substance (urine and blood) known as creatinine.

As we can see, this energy system comes into play at great speed, but it also runs out quickly. For this reason, it is effective in maximum or submaximal efforts lasting up to 30 seconds, and little or nothing relevant in prolonged efforts. In fact, with intense activity of short duration, the decrease in force developed is proportional to the depletion of muscle reserves of phosphocreatine.

Benefits of Creatine Supplementation

There are many studies that analyze the usefulness of consuming creatine as a supplement, especially focused on high-intensity sports, and without being particularly conclusive, they provide interesting data for its use, such as the fact that creatine supplementation can lead to a 20% increase in muscle phosphocreatine stores which, in turn, leads to improvements in contraction capacity and neuromuscular function, increased maximum power, increased recovery capacity between sets, increased muscle volume and reduced feelings of fatigue, this last aspect very questioned, yes.

In addition, recent studies attribute antioxidant, cardioprotective and neuroprotective activity to it, and it is also used in diseases such as muscular dystrophy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and heart failure.

On the other side of the scale, it is considered that 30% of people cannot increase their deposits with supplementation , probably because they already have maximum reserves. However, there are many experts who consider creatine supplementation for sports purposes useful only in certain cases, either when there is a reduced intake in the diet or when metabolic demands are significantly increased through the practice of intense exercise.

Creatine monohydrate is a specific form of creatine that is excellent for use as a dietary supplement. It is stable, effective, safe and easily absorbed by the body. Regular intake of creatine monohydrate helps replenish the body’s creatine stores. Until now, scientists have not found any form of creatine more effective than creatine monohydrate. Creatine monohydrate is by far the best studied form of creatine. It is also the type most accepted by food authorities around the world. In its evaluation of the safety of creatine, the European Food Safety Authority also makes explicit reference to creatine monohydrate.