Just what exactly is this stuff called creatine and what can it do for me?
For all of us that hit the gym regularly we want to make sure that we receive the full benefits of our hard earned work in the gym. One tool that most people into weight lifting turn to are supplements which can have benefits such as allowing us to recover quicker, build muscle and provide energy for our workouts.
The combination of our hard work, good diet plus supplementation makes us better and stronger for the next workout.
If you’re someone who works out, is into lifting or plays a sport you have probably heard of the supplement creatine. When I first started to get into lifting I was researching supplements online and I came across this supplement called creatine that claimed to allow you to workout at higher intensities for longer durations.
Of course I had my doubts with this because many of these supplements claim to give you crazy gains but usually are just ploys to get your money.
Before we get to far into creatine supplementation let’s take a step back and explore what creatine is and how it works in your body. Chemistry was definitely not a strong point for many of us in high school so I will try to keep the the remainder of this article in plain english, just at a high level what it is and what it can do for you.
Science hats on everybody!
Just what exactly is creatine?
Let’s take a look at the definition first:
“A nitrogenous organic acid, C4H9N3O2, that is found in the muscle tissue of vertebrates mainly in the form of phosphocreatine and supplies energy for muscle contraction.”
Some of the key words you will want to pull from that definition are muscle tissues, phosphocreatine and muscle contraction. Basically creatine is a chemical compound that gives our muscles energy when they need it – anything from walking up the steps to a clean and jerk.
How do our bodies use Creatine?
At the core of our muscles (and all cells in our body for that matter) we utilize a substance called ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) which is a chemical that can produce energy for our cells to use.
I’m making an emphasis on the tri (meaning three) phosphates in the name so remember that for later. When we go to do work our muscles are loaded with ATP which provides them with the energy to contract whether that is doing a sprint or a heavy set of squats – for short bursts of energy.
In order for our cells to produce energy the ATP stored in the cells produces a chemical reaction that separates the third phosphate cell from the chain of three producing energy leaving us with energy +
Adenosine diphosphate (ADP, di meaning two – because we broke off that third cell to produce the energy). Our muscle cells need ATP to produce energy so after ATP has been used and we have leftover ADP, what do we do with that now? Creatine you say? Ah yes here comes creatine to ADP’s rescue!
Creatine in scientific terms is also called phosphocreatine (remember back to the definition of creatine?) – if you take a look at the prefix to creatine you notice that is has phosphate in front of it. Remember back that when we need energy ATP separates a phosphate cell off of itself to generate energy.
Well look at what we have here – creatine with a phosphate cell ready to be handed off to anyone who needs it. ADP sure could used it because if we add that phosphate cell back onto ADP it would become….drumrolll…..ATP! More energy! Creatine hands off its phosphate cell to the ADP which in turn creates ATP – more fuel for our muscle cells to use during exercise.
It may be better to see a visual of how this cycle works, let’s take a look at the diagram below.
Our bodies use ATP for energy, so in the diagram you can see that the ATP separates off one of its phosphate cells in a chemical reaction to produce energy for our muscles.
After the ADP has split off one of its phosphate cells we are left with ADP but we’re not able to do anything with that.
Creatine comes into this chemical reaction and donates one of it’s phosphate cells to the ADP making it back into ATP – which then allows our bodies to use it as energy once again.
Now that we have ATP back in our system we can now use that again for more energy and then the cycle starts over again.
Now you can see what a crucial role creatine plays in our bodies and how it could potentially provide us with extra energy when working out.
How Does Creatine Make Me Stronger?
Now that we have have this creatine flowing around in our bloodstreams what exactly is it going to do for my muscles? Great question indeed! As you read in the previous section you know what creatine does for us but how do we benefit from using it as a supplement?
Let’s say for example you are in the middle of a workout, about to go for a heavy set of squats. As you start to squat muscles all over your body start to scream out – “help help I need energy, and a damn lot of it too!”.
This is when your body springs into action and provides juice to your muscles with ATP which allow them to contract which in turn allows you to do that heavy squat.
If you are lacking in creatine you will have less of it available in your body for the ADP to be converted back into ATP to be used as energy again. When you supplement with creatine you now have a steady source of creatine which will be able to keep the flow of energy headed toward your muscles.
Supplementing with creatine allows you to workout harder and longer which will in turn give you better gains in the gym or sports that you play.
Where Does Creatine Come From?
Our bodies can either produce creatine ourselves or receive it through our diets, mainly coming from meats – sorry vegetarians, you’re going to have to make it yourself!
How do our bodies produce creatine?
By synthesizing (to make something using chemicals) three amino acids (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amino_acid) to create creatine which then gets fed into our bloodstream for our muscles to use during exercise.
The other way we get creatine is through our diets – for most people that will be through meats, fish and/or creatine supplements. That’s basically all you need to know on where creatine comes from – our bodies make it or we eat it.
Now of course I could have gotten into a lot more detail in this guide of the science behind creatine but I won’t bore you with all of the geeky details, all you need to know is that creatine helps in providing energy to muscles when we’re doing work.
This is where the main benefit of creatine can be found – when you are doing high intensity workouts, creatine helps feed your muscles with energy so you can continue to work at that high intensity. Here on creatinehq.com you will find much more information along with many more blog posts and articles on the various forms of creatine, creatine loading plus many information on many more topics.