Creatine has often been attributed to aid in the building of muscle fibers especially for people intent on building stronger muscles. There has been some mystery associated with the positive and negative affects additional creatine supplements may have on the body. Some suspect it may cause muscle cramping. Further research has revealed that this is not the case. The positive affects are well documented and show that creatine can, in fact, improve muscle strength and mass.
How does creatine work?
Muscles require an immediate source of energy found when a phosphate group is released from adenosine tri-phosphate, ATP to form adenosine di-phosphate, ADP. During an extensive workout routine, ATP stored in the muscle fibers becomes depleted. The body will then search for an alternative form of energy generally resulting in a build of lactic acid. When lactic acid forms in the muscles it causes pain and fatigue and muscles can no longer work as hard. Creatine stored as phosphocreatine provides a phosphate group to regenerate stores of ATP inhibiting lactic acid production.
The human body produces creatine and also absorbs creatine from foods particularly meat. The majority of this compound is stored in the muscle as creatine and some is converted to phosphocreatine. It provides a source of energy for muscles without the generation of lactic acid. In an environment where ATP levels have become depleted, the body coverts ADP to ATP by using the phosphate group from phosphocreatine. ATP continues to be available as an energy source for a continued workout. The result is a longer workout routine that continues to build muscle strength and size.
Creatine is a product of normal liver and kidney metabolism. It is transported to the skeletal muscle and converted to phosphocreatine. The body does not generate necessary levels of creatine for more intense firing of muscles required during a workout. A supplement increases phosphocreatine storage in muscle fibers. It also provides an energy source that muscles need following the workout for recovery. Muscle fibers develop small tears as the result of lifting. Following the workout, muscles incorporate amino acids in the rebuilding of muscle fibers using energy supplied by creatine.
Creatine supplements can be purchased in different forms. Creatine monohydrate is creatine bound to a molecule of water and is the most common. Phosphocreatine is also common and provides the main ingredient stored in muscle fibers. Creatine citrate is an available form and is often used because it is highly soluble in water. Each supplement provides different benefits when compared. Individuals deciding to take a creatine supplement should investigate which form provides the best source for their needs.
It is not difficult to imagine why body builders rely on creatine as a supplement to improve their workout. Despite reported negative effects, few studies support the claim that creatine supplements can be harmful when combined with proper nutrition. Creatine is a natural product of metabolism and provides a key source of energy to allow muscle fibers to work harder and longer during a workout.