Why Take Creatine Monohydrate?

By none

Creatine monohydrate is the supplement on the minds of all athletes, bodybuilders, and even those with a chronic muscle illness of one kind or another. Never has so much been said by so many in the mainstream media about a nutritional supplement than it has about creatine monohydrate. Wrongly associated with banned steroid muscle builders, creatine monohydrate has been the victim of much unwarranted criticism, moralizing, and political debate.

What is creatine monohydrate?

First of all, creatine monohydrate is not a steroid, nor is it some sort of evil drug. Creatine monohydrate is found normally in the body. As a supplement, it is a natural, tasteless, and safe nutrient found in animal protein (about five grams per kilogram of steak, salmon, tuna, lobster, or lamb). Approximately 0.5% of the weight of high-protein foods such as steak is made up of creatine, but some of it is lost to cooking because creatine is very sensitive to high temperatures.

Grams of creatine per kilogram of food:
Herring 6.5–10
Pork 5.0
Beef 4.5
Salmon 4.5
Tuna 4.0
Cod 3.0
Milk 0.1

Many athletes use creatine monohydrate

Contrary to popular belief, creatine is not banned by the International Olympic Committee, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or professional sports leagues. Creatine use is widespread among professional and amateur athletes and has been reported to be used by high-profile professional baseball and football players. The annual consumption of creatine in the United States alone is estimated to exceed 4,000,000 kilograms per year—and growing.

Helps produce energy and increase strength

Next to carbohydrates, creatine monohydrate is the most extensively studied energy-producing nutrient. More than 80 original research articles on creatine supplementation published in journals show that creatine supplementation increases strength, power, muscle mass, and athletic performance significantly.

The March 2000 issue of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise contained two studies suggesting that well-trained athletes who took creatine monohydrate performed better. One study looked at sprinters who improved their speed over 15 meters by .03 seconds—enough to make a big difference at the end of a race. The other study on bicyclists showed that creatine supplementation enhanced the ability to use oxygen.

Creatine monohydrate has many bodybuilding and performance-enhancing benefits, including the ability to create more powerful muscle contractions, faster muscle recovery, increased lean weight gain, and increased muscle size. Creatine has also been used to treat heart failure, neuromuscular disease such as muscular dystrophy, and mitochondrial diseases such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is also used to slow the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

Creatine is an essential, naturally occurring nutrient found in the human body and plays a vital role in producing the energy needed for muscle contractions, particularly in movements that are quick and explosive in nature. Creatine appears to be more effective for repeated maximal energy bursts than for single event performance. Acute creatine loading might be more effective than ongoing use. Approximately 95% of it is found in skeletal muscle with the remainder scattered throughout the rest of the body. The highest concentrations are found in the heart, brain, and testes.

Creatine monohydrate has adenosine triphosphate–enhancing effects that dramatically increase muscle strength. Adenosine triphosphate is important in the building of new tissues, nerve transmission, blood circulation, digestion, gland secretions, and muscle contraction. It is formed in the body and all its functions are crucial for optimal bodybuilding.

Creatine monohydrate is especially popular with competitive bodybuilders because it can cause them to look about 5–10 pounds more muscular. This is because creatine attracts water into the muscles. This should not be confused with the bloating and fluid retention caused by allergies, congested organs, or other suboptimal states of health in which the fluid accumulation is outside the muscles.

Creatine monohydrate converts in the body to creatine phosphate, which supplies energy to muscles, providing greater strength and stamina. The more creatine stored in muscles, the more energy is available to activate the muscle tissue. Creatine also acts as a buffer against the buildup of lactic acid and neutralizes the free radicals produced by heavy exercise.

The human body replaces creatine lost throughout the day in physical activity through both internal synthesis in the liver from the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine, and through dietary intake. With heavy exercise, the body may not be able to make enough to prevent muscle fatigue and pain caused by lactic acid buildup. Creatine supplementation would certainly prevent this and create greater stamina, especially in activities such as weight lifting used by many different types of athletes, including bodybuilders.

Reduces toxic ammonia

Creatine supplementation can also significantly reduce the ammonia level in the blood. Ammonia is a toxic by-product of energy metabolism that increases rapidly when adenosine triphosphate becomes depleted. Ammonia can also build up if protein is not fully utilized. One of the drawbacks of supplementing huge amounts of protein for bodybuilding is the unwanted increase in ammonia levels in the blood caused by the body’s inability to use all the protein. Creatine supplementation can help the body get rid of excess ammonia and may be very valuable not only in bodybuilding but in numerous medical conditions involving diseased muscles where the ammonia buildup affects muscle function.

Side effects

Adverse reactions to creatine supplementation when used as directed are extremely rare. With literally millions of North Americans now using the product, there have never been any deaths or serious illnesses reported as a result of taking it.

In a minority of individuals, creatine use can cause muscle cramping, gastrointestinal pain, nausea, and diarrhea with subsequent dehydration. There have been some reports of creatine causing mild kidney problems (inflammation), possibly secondary to dehydration, but true kidney toxicity has yet to be reported.

You can avoid these potential side effects by making sure that you take liberal amounts of water with athletic activity. However, creatine should be avoided by people with pre-existing kidney disease or by people with diseases such as diabetes that increase the risk for kidney dysfunction. Check with your health-care provider before starting supplementation.

How much should you take?

The correct way to use creatine is to take 20 grams per day (or 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight) for five days followed by a maintenance dose of 2 grams (or 0.03 grams per kilogram of body weight) daily. Without this type of loading, similar results can be obtained with 3 grams per day for 28 days. During creatine supplementation, you should drink at least 64 ounces of water per day.

Dr. Zoltan Rona

By none| October 22, 2008
Categories:  Blog

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