Taking Another Look At Creatine! No doubt creatine has been one of the most popular supplements since it’s introduction back in the 90s. Yet, there is still a lot of mystery and confusion regarding it. In this article, I hope to clear some of that up. I will detail what it is, it’s history, and its use in bodybuilding. We’ll also look at some of the different versions. We’ll also look at its tie into nitric oxide boosters. Here we go!
Creatine is a nitrogenous compound. You’ll find it in meats and fish. The liver, kidneys, and pancreas synthesize creatine. It’s also called methyl guanidine-acetic acid. Three amino acids fork creatine. They are methionine, arginine and glycine.
Taking Another Look At Creatine: Its History
Creatine is not at all new. In 1835 a French scientist named Chevreul discovered it. He named it after the Greek word for flesh “Kreas”. It wasn’t until 1847 that creatine was first linked to muscle tissue. Back in 1922, human studies dating back to 1910 were reviewed by a scientist named Hunter(1).
In these studies, subjects were “loading” with creatine up to 20 grams per day for 6 days. In 1926, Chanutin (2) detailed case studies where human subjects loaded 4 times a day for 10 days. Going back to the 70’s, researchers thought insulin might be involved in the uptake of creatine. This was determined yet again in 1992 by Harris (3).
It wasn’t until 1993, however, that creatine monohydrate was actually introduced as a supplement by EAS. It was called Phosphagen. Ed Byrd, an EAS co-founder and the man that gave us NO2 in 2002, was largely responsible for it’s introduction. Since then it’s pretty much taken the supplement world by storm. No doubt it has proven to be one of the most effective supplements on the market.
What Does Creatine Do?
If we’re taking another look at creatine, we need to look at what it does. Muscles store creatine as creatine phosphate. This functions as part of the ATP-CP energy system. This is also the Phosphagen system. Muscle cells contain 4 to 6 times as much creatine phosphate as ATP. In fact, skeletal muscle is a creatine requiring tissue.
ATP is the immediate energy source for muscle cells at both high and low intensities. However, it can take less than a second to burn your body’s reserve of ATP. This is where creatine phosphate ( also called phosphocreatine) comes in. Your body has a small reserve of creatine that your muscles can quickly convert to ATP.
However, this will only power an all out effort for 3 to 15 seconds. As exercise intensity decreases and the duration increases, as in a marathon type race, your body turns to other systems of energy production. The Phosphagen system is used primarily for shorter duration exercise, as in bodybuilding training.
At this point, we’ll turn this into an explanation of one of the things creatine does. Creatine as a product that can enhance muscle cell energy production. The reason for using it becomes obvious when you look at the re synthesis of creatine. There’s a regulating enzyme known as creatine kinase that breaks down creatine. This separates the phosphate molecule from the creatine molecule. Phosphate then binds with ADP, which lacks just one phosphate from becoming ATP. So basically your body can “manufacture” fresh ATP through this process. This can take up to 4-5 minutes. Don’t many bodybuilding programs require at least a few minutes rest?
So, what’s the bottom line? Well, the more creatine available, the more that can ultimately be used for energy. This allows you to train harder and longer. In turn, this can lead to better results. This includes improved performance, more muscle, more strength.
Taking Another Look At Creatine – Cell Volumizer
What else does it do? It acts as a “volumizer” by pulling water into the muscle cell. This causes it to expand, resulting in huge pumps. This is a big category right now. That’s largely due to pump products that combine N.O. boosters and cell volumizers. Creatine was really the first product to cause this effect. Some say that this is temporary and you lose your size when you go off. To a point this is true. But it’s also true for pretty much all aspects of bodybuilding, isn’t it?
If you cut back on protein, you risk losing size. When you go off your steroid or prohormone cycle, you lose size. When you stop training, you lose size. You don’t lose everything (this is also true for all aspects of bodybuilding). But you will lose something. Regardless, most people will cycle creatine then take a 4-6 week break. Once you go back on, you gain everything back and more.
Taking Another Look At Creatine: Types Of Creatine
Here are some of the versions out there, potential side effects, and how to use them. This list is not all-inclusive. There are new versions being added all the time.
Monohydrate– The original. This version originally required sugar to be ingested with it in order for it to be properly absorbed. Now, it can be mixed with almost any beverage. A loading phase of 4-5 doses of 5 grams per day is suggested. The load occurs for 4-5 days. Then, it’s just once a day. Side effects reported in some users are bloating, gas and diarrhea.
Ethyl Ester– Requires less total grams to be effective. There’s no sugar needed and no loading. This version, as is the case with most newer versions, eliminates the monohydrate effects. Available as a pill or powder. You usually take one serving ( usually 2-3 grams) twice a day.
Tri-Creatine Malate – Tri-creatine malate is a compound made from creatine monohydrate and malic acid. It’s made from three creatine molecules attached to one molecule of malic acid. Malic acid is involved in the Krebs energy cycle as an intermediate substance. It helps to provide energy to the body. Malic acid and creatine monohydrate form Tri-creatine malate. It then becomes more water-soluble than regular creatine monohydrate. This helps it deal with the side effect of gastric discomfort. Also, it’s more efficient at impacting the ATP cycle. Tri-creatine malate is also believed to offer greater bioavailability over regular creatine monohydrate.
Buffered Creatine– Here’s a currently hot one, also known as Kre-Alkalyn. This version actually has a patent on it, #6,399,631. The research on this ties into creatine’s speed to convert to creatinine. Creatinine is a waste byproduct of creatine. It’s usually produced at a fairly constant rate, gets filtered through the kidneys and passes out in the urine.
The advertising behind this product talks about creatine converting quickly to creatinine when mixed in liquid. Many creatine products encourage drinking their powder within 10 minutes of mixing for this reason. The research behind this product indicates that as the pH of creatine rises, conversion to creatinine slows. At a pH of 12, it stops altogether.
So, this version solves that problem, requires less total creatine per serving, and removes any potential gastric discomfort. With this product, you use 1-2 grams in the morning and again before training.
Micronized Creatine– This version produces smaller particles than regular creatine powder. The primary purpose is improved absorption and more complete mixing of the product.
A serving size is 5 grams, you mix one heaping teaspoon into 8oz of juice or water and drink right away. To maximize results, you should drink 8 to 10 glasses (8 oz) of water a day. There is a loading phase similar to monohydrate, as follows: Loading Phase: Day 1 through 5- Take 1 heaping teaspoon 4 to 6 times daily.
Maintenance Phase: Day 6 through 21- Take 1 heaping teaspoon twice daily. Then go off for 3 days, and repeat the cycle.
Liquid Creatine– This is not as popular as it once was. This type of creatine’s biggest complaint is the lack of stability in this form. I agree with this and don’t typically recommend this version.
Conjugated– Here we have perhaps the hottest creatine product currently on the market, Con-Cret by Promera. Most newer versions of creatine deal with a few basic issues concerning standard monohydrate: absorption, dosing levels, and removal of side effects. This product is a concentrated creatine, requiring a “micro-dose” of ¼ teaspoon.
Here again, you have superior absorption, no side effects, and less total creatine required.
Some people drink it before and during the workout.
Taken after, you still want your post-workout shake of fast-digesting protein and fast-digesting carbs but I would let a bit of time elapse before you drink it.
So, do any of these “new, improved” versions really work that much better than the standard monohydrate? Well, while I have not used all versions ( I haven’t tried con-cret yet but am planning on it), I myself see no real difference among versions. If, like me, you don’t mind loading and don’t see any side effects from monohydrate, you should find that this version still works as well as anything. However, by all means test out the different versions and see what you think, they work well too. From a cost-effective standpoint, however, straight monohydrate powder is extremely economical.
Taking Another Look At Creatine: Safety
Sadly, there is still, after all this time, a lot of misconception about creatine. Some people, including members of Congress and some sport federations, think creatine is a steroid. Ah, yes. That tired, old question. I’ve worked in the retail supplement business since 1990. To this day, people still make cracks about us “selling steroids”. And yes they actually think we have them. Yep, they’re right there on the shelf and that creatine is one of them. No, creatine is not a steroid. It will not kill you or ruin your kidneys.
As should be the case anyway, you should be drinking a lot of water as part of your daily program. This does help to flush out creatinine, the waste by product of creatine. As well, this is one reason why many people cycle products. This gives your body and wallet a break.
Also, with the new, lower dose creatines on the market, this argument really doesn’t stand up as well anymore. You can now take in much less total creatine then when using the monohydrate version. Additionally, make sound choices. Choose a quality brand with a good reputation.
In a case like this, or when looking into any product you intend to try, look past uniformed sources. This means the general media. The media loves to report on creatine risks. Is there even a hint that it could possibly be involved in the death or ailment of an athlete? They’ll jump on it. What happens when it is later shown that creatine played no role whatsoever? They don’t report that with quite the same enthusiasm. Sadly, this is true of any nutritional supplement.
Always look at the research. This is where you can get sound reliable information from. Also, this is how you should make your own choices. By doing this, you can intelligently choose what to use and what not to use.
How Does Creatine Tie Into Nitric Oxide Boosters?
Now, talking about taking another look at creatine earlier, I mentioned N.O. and cell expansion. What is N.O. and what does it do? Nitric Oxide is a gas the body produces from the amino acid arginine. It’s a cell signaling molecule. It is involved in numerous functions. Some include controlling nutrient delivery, and initiating hemodilation. This is the widening of blood channels. N.O. really enhances the “pump” sensation we get from exercise. This is in fact “cell expansion”.
Why is the pump important? Nutrients transport to the muscles faster. Waste products shuttle out faster. This allows for faster recovery between sets and between workouts. It ultimately leads to better workout performance. This is because you’re getting fuel to your muscles faster.
As mentioned in the discussion on creatine, you will see increases in size and strength with N.O. This is due to the forcing of fluid inside the muscle cells. Most products in the cell expansion category combine creatine and N.O. boosters, along with other nutrients. They are commonly in pre-workout drinks. These drinks are great if you don’t mind the caffeine which helps with training energy and focus.
Separate from this, however, is the idea of simply stacking a N.O. product with a creatine product. And, yes all the questions and answers about the gains being “temporary” apply equally to N.O. products.
Yet, this is a great stack for anyone looking for results. It is in fact one of my favorite stacks. I love the feeling I get from this combination and the results: I always see a solid 4-6 pounds from this combo. Are you one of those people that doesn’t want to use steroids? Or prohormones? Or even more basic testosterone boosters? Then, this stack is a great choice.
I advise using a stack like this for 6-8 weeks. Then take a break of 4-6 weeks. If you are using a pre-workout, you are getting some nitric oxide boosters. You may also be getting creatine. You can enhance the effect further by adding this stack. So, there you go. I hope taking another look at creatine gave you a good, basic foundation on these supplements.
1.Hunter A. The physiology of creatine and creatinine. Physiological Reviews 2:580-626, 1922
2.Chanutin A. The fate of creatine when administered to man. Journal of Biological Chemistry 67:29-41, 1926
3.Harris RC, Soderland K & Hultman E. Elevation of creatine in resting and elevated muscle of normal subjects
by creatine supplementation. Clinical Science 83:367-374,1992
Also used was the college textbook “Discovering Nutrition, by Paul Insel, R.Elaine Turner and Don Ross,
Published by the American Dietetic Association
By: Jim Brewster