Tuesday, October 17, 2006

An Introduction to Creatine

Creatine is a source of energy for muscle contraction. The body produces its own creatine in the liver, kidneys and pancreas. You also get it in your diet when you eat meat or fish. (Vegetarians may have less creatine.) The body stores most of the creatine in skeletal muscle to use when you exercise. The rest goes in the heart, brain and other tissues.
Creatine is an amino acid, like the building blocks that make up proteins. Creatine in the form of phosphocreatine (creatine phosphate) is an important store of energy in muscle cells. During intense exercise lasting around half a minute, phosphocreatine is broken down to creatine and phosphate, and the energy released is used to regenerate the primary source of energy, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Output power drops as phosphocreatine becomes depleted, because ATP cannot be regenerated fast enough to meet the demand of the exercise. It follows that a bigger store of phosphocreatine in muscle should reduce fatigue during exercise. Extra creatine in the muscle may also increase the rate of regeneration of phosphocreatine following exercise, which should mean less fatigue with repeated bursts of activity in training or in many sport competitions.
A typical loading regime for a 70-kg athlete is a 5-g dose four times a day for a week. Thereafter the dose can be reduced to 2 to 5 g per day in order to maintain elevated creatine content. This supplementation protocol will increase intramuscular creatine and phosphocreatine content and enhance high intensity exercise performance. There is now some evidence that taking glucose (100 g) with the creatine (5 to 7 g) increases the uptake of creatine into muscle (Green et al., 1996a; Green et al., 1996b). Consequently, I recommend that athletes take creatine with carbohydrate (e.g. with grape juice) or ingest commercially available creatine supplements that combine creatine with glucose. For athletes wanting to promote additional gains in lean body mass, I recommend 15 to 25 g per day for 1 to 3 months. Although many athletes cycle on or off creatine, no study has determined whether this practice promotes greater gains in fat free mass or performance than continuous use.

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