There are a number of nutritional supplements on the market today. The uses of these supplements range from general health and well-being such as vitamins and natural substances in the body, to those used for fitness and sports performance. The majority of supplements that are used for fitness and performance purposes have been thoroughly tested for their effectiveness and assist in workout and sports performance. One of the most effective nutritional supplements on the market for fitness and performance is called creatine. Here we will cover this effective nutritional supplement including how it works and what it most useful for.
What is Creatine ?
Creatine is a natural substance which occurs in the bodies’ energy systems through what is known as phosphate. There are numerous energy systems within the body, all of which play a different part in how and why energy is released. These systems also work together in order to be as effective as possible when it comes to the efficiency of the energy that the body uses. The main source of energy that the body uses is what is known as ATP which stands for andosine tri phosphate. One energy system which is responsible for explosive and fast type movements, is known as the ATP-CP system. The CP stands for creatine phosphate. When energy is needed from this system, the phosphate is broken off from the creatine, allowing it to assist with this energy system. There have been numerous studies concerning what the effects of this supplement are, and how it works. So how does creatine work, and how can it assist in fitness and performance ?
How does creatine work ?
There are numerous energy systems within the human body, all of which serve different purposes, but they also work together. Creatine works through adding additional phosphate bonds in the immediate energy system, which is the system of ATP-CP previously mentioned. This system both initiates other energy systems, and is used for very high intensity and explosive movements. Creatine supplementation allows for an increase in the total amount of creatine that is stored in the skeletal muscle, restoring the amount of ATP that is available for use (9). This also allows for an increase in the rate of the reproduction of ATP as well. The use of creatine is also thought to possibly have an effect on what is known as the buffering capacity of working muscles as well. (15), This allows the muscle to work for a longer period. These are the general ways in which creatine works to improve health and performance for the individual. So who would benefit most from using creatine as a supplement ?
Who should use creatine ?
Ceatine works through improving the rate of fatigue (14) seen in the muscle, which has to do with the increase in the reproduction or re synthesis of ATP which is seen through using creatine (12). The effects of improving both fatigue and the restoration of energy, along with a decrease in recovery time (13) make it good to be used by individuals involved in any moderate to high intensity activities. This would include things such as: high intensity resistance training, explosive athletic activities such as football, baseball, basketball, or tennis just to name some. These activities mentioned use mainly energy systems which have a high turnover rate and can decrease in efficiency. Creatine may also assist in endurance activities such as swimming, jogging, soccer, or long distance running but the effects of creatine have previously been seen in high intensity activities, and more research may need to be done (10). .
There are different types of muscle fibers which are used for different types of activities. Those being used for explosive and short term activities are known as type two and the fibers used for endurance activities are type one fibers. The dominant muscle type that an individual has, is genetically based. Anyone that has a majority of type one fibers for endurance type activities may not benefit from using creatine.(1,10). The main effects seen through studies when creatine is used is an increase in both strength, and size when training (2,5,11), but this may not be in a direct but indirect way allowing for an increased ability to train. (3) Creatine along with activity has also been shown to possibly assist in decreasing sarcopenia which is the natural decrease in muscle fiber due to aging, (8) as well as therapeutic purposes (11). So when should you use creatine as a supplement ?
When should creatine be used ?
Because of the effects of creatine and how it works, it may be best to be used just prior to exercising or practice for an athletic event. Doing so may assist in decreasing fatigue, allowing for a faster recovery time, in turn increasing the overall rate and intensity of the activity performed. Also, due to the effects that creatine supplementation has on the energy systems of the body, it may even be effective when used during the activity being performed or when finished (7). Nutrition is also a factor when using creatine concerning its effects (4,6,16) so this should be considered as well. The individual may want to experiment concerning when to take the supplement just to see what may work best for them. This is true because each individual may respond different to activities than others. More research should be done on the best time to use creatine as a nutritional supplement.
How is creatine used ?
Just like any nutritional supplement that is out on the market, creatine comes either in capsule or powdered form. Although either option is available, the content would probably be able to get into the system faster when taken in powder form as opposed to a capsule. The amount of creatine used should be higher on training days, while using a smaller dosage on your off days from training. Most creatine products that are purchased also suggest using a loading phase (5) in order to get the best results. This is probably suggested to allow your system to gradually adjust to using the substance. Some evidence was found indicating greater effects when using a loading phase when compared to no loading phase when a random substance was used (5). So what is the final verdict on the effectiveness of using creatine as a nutritional supplement ?
There are so many nutritional supplements available, that its hard to know exactly the best one to use. It is advised that research be done prior to any purchase since some may not do what they claim to. The supplement of creatine has been studied quite intensely concerning its effects on health and performance. Areas in which supplementing with creatine will improve health and/or performance include any high intensity activity including athletic activity, or general workouts with resistance training. Since creatine is a natural substance that is part of the bodies’ energy system, this may make it safer to take when compared to other supplements. Overall, if you are an individual needing to increase your health and use resistance training, or are an athlete looking for a way to improve athletic performance, using creatine as a nutritional supplement has been shown to be safe and effective.