Before we delve into the benefits of creatine, it’s important to understand exactly what it is. While many associate creatine with sports supplements, it’s actually a naturally occurring compound made of three amino acids: arginine, glycine and methionine.
Produced predominantly in the liver and kidneys, creatine synthesis also occurs in the pancreas. There are actually two forms of creatine found in the human body, with the phosphorylated form comprising 60% and free form making up the other 40%. Your skeletal muscle contains 95% of your creatine stores, where it can be harnessed for energy.
Our creatine phosphate system plays a major role when it comes to energy, especially during physical activity. And while consuming red meat is a sound way to increase your muscle creatine stores (uncooked muscle meat contains between 3-6 grams of creatine per kilogram), supplementing can also help unlock several science-backed benefits.
BENEFITS OF CREATINE
Creatine is one of the most researched and utilized dietary supplements around. But as much as weightlifters and bodybuilders may benefit from it, you don’t need to have a body composition or muscle size goal in mind to make it a part of your routine.
Actually, as much as creatine supplementation can help your body, it can help your mind, too.
SUPPORTS CELLULAR ENERGY PRODUCTION
When you contract your muscles, the first energy supply your muscles dip into comes through the phosphagen system. This is the system you use when you need a quick surge of force—for example, you need to lift a dresser into the back of a truck. You get your energy from the small amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that’s ready in your muscles.
When you use ATP for energy, it breaks down into adenosine diphosphate (ADP), which you don’t use as energy because it doesn’t have the right number of phosphates. ADP will eventually recharge into usable ATP, but it takes a while. That’s where creatine comes in. Your body stores creatine in your muscles as phosphocreatine,which lends phosphate groups to recycle those used up parts (ADP) into a shiny new ATP.
HELPS BUILD MUSCLE MASS
Your limiting factors in the weight room are fatigue and failure, and both relate directly to how much energy your mitochondria can make. You use ATP faster than you recycle it, so using creatine to make this process more efficient will make your entire resistance training program more efficient. More energy means you can work out more intensely and get better results.
Energy aside, creatine activates several muscle-specific cellular pathways that can lead to muscle growth:
• Combined with weight training, creatine increases myonuclei, the nuclei in muscle fibers. More myonuclei means more growth. The coolest part—you get to keep the extra myonuclei you make, even if you take a break from training and lose your strength.
• Supplementing with creatine while resistance training increases insulin-like growth factor, which stimulates muscle growth.
• Creatine activates protein kinases that assemble skeletal muscle-building proteins.
• Creatine supplementation can help increase lean tissue mass and upper and lower body muscular strength during resistance training of older adults.