In today's maze of sports supplements, it is increasingly difficult to decide what to buy, in what form (tablets, capsules, liquid, powder, ...) and how and when is the best time to apply a particular supplement. One of the kings of confusion among athletes is certainly creatine.
Although creatine has been known as a substance for many years, it was not until 1993 that EAS developed the first such preparation called Phosphagen. Five years later, MuscleTech introduced its Cell-Tech, the first creatine with a carbohydrate matrix and alpha-lipoic acid, based on the idea that high GI carbohydrates increase creatine reserves in muscle.
Creatine is a nitrogen compound that is naturally formed in the liver by a combination of 3 amino acids: glycine, arginine and methionine. In humans, the vast majority (approximately 95%) are stored in the form of phosphocreatine (creatine phosphate or CP) in the muscles, and smaller amounts are found in the brain, liver, kidneys and testicles.
What creatine is for and how it works
The primary energy substrate in a muscle cell is the ATP molecule (adenosine triphosphate). When the ATP molecule is used in contraction, it is converted to ADP (adenosine diphosphate). Since ADP cannot be used for energy, it needs to re-add the lost phosphate group to become energetically active ATP again.
This phosphate molecule is derived from creatine phosphate (CP). The described method of energy supply is very short and when the available CP runs out, the muscle must turn to other methods of energy supply.
An alternative way for muscle to get ATP is through glycogen . However, such a mode of supply results in an inconvenient by-product, which is the infamous lactic acid. Due to muscle contraction, lactic acid remains trapped in the muscle and glycogen can no longer enter the muscle. The consequence is an inadequate supply of ATP, ie. we are forced to end the series.
Conclusion: ATP recovery involving creatine has no by-products and is therefore the most desirable. The only problem is its short duration, which is why it needs to be taken in from the outside.
Forms of supplementary creatine
Creatine monohydrate (creatine + 1 water molecule) is still the most popular form of supplement and occupies a high place in terms of representation in the entire supplement industry. Contains a high content of creatine (850-880mg per 1 g of powder).
The main problem of monohydrate is the problematic solubility of its crystals. If it does not dissolve, it also means that it will not be absorbed. In addition to being ineffective, unabsorbed crystals can cause intestinal upset, abdominal discomfort, and sometimes diarrhea - very inconvenient if you plan to do heavy squats!
Another form of creatine are various salts. The idea was to increase solubility by combining creatine and inorganic acids. Eg creatine citrate which has better solubility but needs to take twice the amount of creatine monohydrate to get the same dose of creatine. The situation is similar with creatine malate, pyruvate, orotate and gluconate.
Buffered creatine is a compound of alkaline (alkaline) powder and creatine. It has been speculated that creatine in the acidic medium of the stomach is metabolized to creatinine before it reaches the muscles at all, so such a compound was intended to reverse this effect. The existing literature does not support such a theory because a number of studies have shown that creatine is absorbed unchanged.
Creatine esters are the next group. The most common is creatine ethyl ester (CEE). Esterification is one of the ways to improve the solubility of a poorly soluble substance in pharmacology, so here too it was a guiding idea. However, although CEE has overwhelmed the market, it has not had the expected effects. Although esterification increases liposolubility (ie.facilitated passage through lipid membranes in the body), reduced stability in acidic medium and accelerated degradation of creatine to creatinine Given the above, it is concluded that CEE is inferior to monohydrate.
Refers to creatine preparations where another compound is added to creatine monohydrate to increase its absorption. This second compound is a simple sugar, e.g. dextrose, and the reason behind that is - insulin! When sugars enter the body, the pancreas secretes insulin that allows these sugars to enter the cell. While the "door" on the cell membrane is open, creatine enters along with the carbohydrate molecules.
The problem here is timing. Namely, after dextrose intake, insulin is at its peak after about 30 minutes. Creatine, on the other hand, reaches its highest concentration in the bloodstream approximately 90 minutes after ingestion. Then the concentration of insulin is already low again, so creatine is late.
Third generation creatine consists of creatine monohydrate combined with substances such as L-glutamine , vitamin B and ALA (alpha-lipoic acid) . ALA is a particularly interesting ingredient. It increases insulin sensitivity while mimicking the effects of insulin.
There is no doubt that with the times to come, many more generations of creatine will emerge, each promising better results ...
How to take creatine and when it is most effective
Although some manufacturers claim that a filling phase is not required when taking their product, experience and studies show that biphasic creatine supplementation is the most effective way.
The filling phase serves to create a critical concentration of creatine in the muscle so that it is immediately available when needed. The duration of this phase is 4-7 days and during that time you should take 20-25g of creatine divided into several doses of 5g (with an interval between doses of 3-4 hours).
The maintenance phase follows. The typical dose for the maintenance phase is 5-15g per day. When creatine supplementation, the athlete should be properly hydrated, especially during the loading phase.
The body has 3 moments during the day when its affinity for creatine is highest:
In the morning, after sleep - this is the time when the body is in nutritional deficiency, and in this condition there are increased concentrations of transport molecules and enzymes that allow faster entry of substances (including creatine) into the muscle.
45-90 minutes before training is a good time to take creatine because it will take advantage of the increased blood flow through the muscle caused by training. Also, in this case, creatine has the effect of preventing the secretion of lactic acid!
In the first 45-90 minutes after training, the body is in a state of increased affinity for nutrients. Heavy training depletes glycogen reserves, so receptors become hypersensitive to nutrients, and creatine is no exception.
Despite all the above and all the benefits of creatine, a certain part of the population (20%) does not respond to creatine supplementation. This is usually due to the inability of creatine to enter cells.
In general, significant factors that have a beneficial effect on creatine entry into the cell are:
Likewise, a caffeine intake of more than about 400 mg per day, as well as a substance called genistein found in soy proteins, has an inhibitory effect on creatine transport.
To conclude ...
Despite the ever-arriving new forms of creatine supplements, creatine monohydrate remains the gold standard.The problem of its solubility and possible discomfort in the digestive system can be minimized by choosing the purest monohydrate (when the box says micronized or pharmaceutical grade creatine or creapure, it's your choice!)
When taking it, the filling phase is important because it achieves muscle saturation with creatine.
So, creatine is a supplement that has been on the market for many years with proven effectiveness and unquestionable beneficial effect for all athletes, especially for those who do bodybuilding or some of the strength sports.