Creatine is one of the most well-researched, and effective performance supplements, and is commonly recognised as a gym-bro bulking up tool.
The bro's know what they're talking about, and there is a positive relationship between muscle creatine uptake and performance.
It's well documented that creatine increases strength and muscle growth in combination with heavy resistance training and is highly effective for high-intensity sprints, and explosive power as well. It has however, been suggested that creatine supplementation may cause a change in substrate utilization during aerobic exercise resulting in an increase in steady state endurance performance.
BUT... THERE'S SO MUCH MORE
Creatine is produced in the liver and kidneys in small amounts, so the bulk of creatine needs to come from our diet, and understanding that creatine is found naturally in animal protein is an important dietary factor to consider.
95% of creatine is stored in skeletal muscle, and the remaining 5% is distributed in the brain, liver, kidneys, pancreas and testes.
There is also evidence to suggest that individuals can be responders or non- responders. Responders showed the greatest percentage of type 11 muscle fibres, as well as the lowest initial levels of creatine. Vegans and vegetarians seem to respond particularly well to creatine supplementation, due to low, or no, creatine from dietary sources.
A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF ENERGY
Creatine plays a role in energy production on many levels and is a central molecule involved in amino acid metabolism, and its important to note that creatine has multiple cellular and molecular targets. Its not only about muscles!
To create energy, we break down a three-phosphate compound called ATP ( adenosine triphosphate)into a two-phosphate compound called ADP( adenosine diphosphate). In order to regenerate ATP, we must find an extra phosphate to recycle ADP into ATP, and this is where creatine comes in.
Our stockpile of creatine which is stored in our muscles and brains is called phosphocreatine. This stored molecule is a combination of creatine and phosphate and it is this phosphate bond that is donated to ADP in order for this ongoing energy cycle to continue successfully.
Creatine exerts direct antioxidant activity and researchers have reported a decrease in markers of muscle damage. Supplementation after strenuous exercise and during injury recovery have shown positive results.
CREATINE AND THE BRAIN
While the muscles can rest, the brain has no days off and it uses a large proportion of our daily energy. As with physical performance, when nutrient supply is insufficient, the brain also runs out of energy.
Creatine is especially beneficial for sports that involve a heavy cognitive load such as motor racing and esports, it has also been reported to improve throwing accuracy in sports such as rugby.
The impact of creatine on brain injury such as concussion, has only been studied in small, non-controlled trials, but research does suggest that creatine supplementation may improve blood flow to the brain, maintain ATP levels in the brain, and decrease free radical damage following concussion.
NEED SOME 'SPARK' ?
In everyday life however, lack of sleep, ageing, life stress and a heavy work or study load all require optimal neurological functioning as well.
Neurological and cognitive function seem to improve with higher brain creatine levels. Supplementation may improve neuropsychological performance.
Studies looking at creatine supplementation found that creatine improved mental (central) fatigue. Using a double-blind placebo-controlled paradigm, they showed that creatine supplementation of 8g/day for 5 days reduced mental fatigue when subjects were asked to perform a simple mathematical equation. The results measured increased oxygen utilisation in the brain.
Creatine is found specifically in brain regions with high activity, one of them being the hippocampus. In clinical trails, supplementation of between 2-6g per day appears to have antidepressant activity. ( Miguel A. Alvarez-Mon et al. Pharmaceuticals 2021. 14(8), 821) Female participants seem to show better results. (AE Smith-Ryan et al 2021. Nutrients 13(3):877
DOSING PROTOCOLS FOR CREATINE MONOHYDRATE
There are various dosing protocols.
* A typical loading phase consists of 20g-25g/d for 7 days, followed by a maintenance dose of 3-5g/d.
* 4-5g can be taken daily without a loading phase.