A nitrogenous organic acid, creatine, is mainly produced in the kidneys and liver of vertebrates and stored primarily in skeletal muscles as well as in brain. It is also distributed in blood and other tissues. Creatine supplies energy to cells by converting adenosine diphosphate to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in brain and muscle tissue. pH buffering in tissues is also done by creatine. In human beings, creatine is synthesized by utilization of amino acids – arginine and glycine. Daily endogenous production of creatine in young adults is approximately 1 gram per day. An omnivorous diet also supplies creatine at the same rate i.e. about 1 gram per day. Various neurological disorders can be seen in people with genetic deficiencies affecting creatine biosynthesis. (1) Oral creatine is used by people to enhance muscle mass, increase sports performance, beneficial for congestive heart failure, mitigating disorders related to brain etc. Topically, it may benefit sun damaged skin and help reduce signs of ageing. (2)
What Are The Benefits Of Taking Creatine?
The following are the benefits of taking creatine:
- What Are The Benefits Of Taking Creatine?
- Promotes Growth Of Muscles
- Beneficial For People Doing High-intensity Exercise
- Assists Cells In Our Muscles To Produce More Energy
- Supporter Of Additional Muscular Functions
- Beneficial Effects On Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease
- Can Be Effective In Other Neurological Disorders
- Enhances Functioning Of Brain
- Affects Blood Sugar Levels And Reduces Risk Of Diabetes
- Keeps You More Active
- Beneficial For People Suffering From Knee Osteoarthritis
- Effective In Fibromyalgia
- Can Be Beneficial In Managing Fatty Liver Disease
- Good For Bone Health
- Beneficial For Our Heart
- Can Enhance Functioning Of Skeletal Muscles In Mcardle Disease Or Myophosphorylase Deficiency
- May Be Beneficial For Patients Of Muscular Dystrophy
- Can Be Used For Gyrate Atrophy Of Retina And Choroid
1. Promotes Growth Of Muscles:
For increasing muscle mass, creatine is considered to be a very effective supplement. Significant gain in muscle mass and lean body weight can be brought about in just five to seven days of consumption of creatine supplement. Long term usage of creatine promotes growth of muscle fibers by stimulation of significant biological pathways, weight gain and improved gym performance. As per a six week training program, those who were taking creatine were able to increase their muscle mass by two kilograms more as compared to those who went without it. A comparative review of popular supplements taken by players revealed creatine as the best, safer and an inexpensive supplement. (3)
2. Beneficial For People Doing High-intensity Exercise:
By aiding ATP production, creatine brings about improvement in performance during high intensity exercise. By positively affecting factors like ability to sprint, ballistic power, fatigue resistance, strength and endurance of muscle, performance of brain, recovery of muscle force and muscle mass, creatine benefits you irrespective of your levels of fitness. A review revealed that it brings about almost 15% improvement in performance when you are doing high intensity exercise. (3)
3. Assists Cells In Our Muscles To Produce More Energy:
By increasing phosphocreatine stores in our muscles, creatine can supply extra ATP energy. While we exercise, ATP is used to give energy to our body. The rate at which it is used up is much faster than it is produced. This hampers an individual’s capacity to perform persistently at maximum strength.
4. Supporter Of Additional Muscular Functions:
For increasing muscular mass, creatine supplement is considered to be very effective. By affecting various cellular pathways, creatine brings about muscular growth. It promotes the synthesis of proteins that are related to the production of new muscle fibers. Creatine supplements can also contribute to cell volumization i.e. increase the amount of water in the cells of our muscles, thereby rapidly increasing muscular size. Creatine can also activate the Akt/PKB pathway and enhance levels of IGF-1 and these in turn indicate our body to increase muscle mass. Moreover, studies have revealed that creatine supplement can bring about decrease in the levels of myostatin, that inhibits growth of muscles.
5. Beneficial Effects On Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease:
Parkinson’s disease is characterized by impaired speech, shakiness, muscle control loss and death of brain cells primarily due to reduced levels of neurotransmitter dopamine in our brain. Creatine supplements when given to mice was able to reduce the fall in dopamine levels by almost 90%. To maintain muscular strength and functionality, Parkinson’s patients are often engaged in weight training. A combination of weight training and creatine supplement was found to be more effective in improving muscular function and strength in human beings than training only.
6. Can Be Effective In Other Neurological Disorders:
Lower levels of phosphocreatine in the brain leads to a variety of neurological disorders. In a study done on mice suffering from Huntington’s disease, it was seen that creatine was able to increase brain phosphocreatine levels by 72%. This in turn was beneficial in regular functioning and averting death of cell by twenty five percent. Animal studies have shown potential positive effects of creatine supplements on epilepsy, spinal cord injuries and Alzheimer’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and ischemic stroke. In ALS, creatine was able to bring about decrease in loss of muscles, enhance motor functioning and increase rate of survival by almost 17%. If conventional medicines are supplemented with creatine, they may have better impact on neurological diseases.
7. Enhances Functioning Of Brain:
As our brain needs substantial quantity of ATP energy for performing a variety of tasks, creatine supplements can enhance brain stores of phosphocreatine. This in turn leads to production of more ATP in brain. It may also enhance brain health and functioning by giving a boost to the brain dopamine levels and enhancing mitochondrial functioning. It was seen in a study that when elderly patients were given creatine supplements for two weeks there was substantial improvement in their ability to recall and remember.
8. Affects Blood Sugar Levels And Reduces Risk Of Diabetes:
In a study done for 12-weeks, impact of creatine on blood sugar levels post a high carbohydrate based diet was analyzed. It was seen that people who took creatine supplements and exercised as well, were able to control their blood sugar levels more effectively as compared to those who just exercised. This could be a key marker for the diabetes risk. A research suggested that creatine may impact blood sugar levels by increasing the levels of the molecule GLUT4 that transports blood sugar to our muscles.
9. Keeps You More Active:
Creatine supplements have the potential to curb tiredness and fatigue. In a study done on traumatic brain injury patients over a period of six months, creatine supplementation was successful in bringing about decrease in dizziness by almost 50 % as compared to the control group. Moreover, eighty percent of the patients in the control group reported fatigue compared to just ten percent of those who took creatine. Creatine was also found to be effective in giving a boost to the energy levels and decreasing fatigue in those suffering from sleep deprivation. Athletes who experienced fatigue during a cycling test and those who were fatigued while exercising in high temperatures benefitted when given creatine supplement.
10. Beneficial For People Suffering From Knee Osteoarthritis:
This is a condition caused by gradual degeneration of the cartilage cushioning of our knee joints. Factors like age, certain sports, weight, gender, genetics, certain illnesses etc. contribute to knee osteoarthritis. The symptoms are pain, stiffness and less mobility. (4) A study analyzed the effect of creatine supplementation along with strength exercises on postmenopausal women suffering from knee osteoarthritis. They participated in a resistance training program involving the lower limb for 3 months. Some of them were given either creatine in the dose of 20 g.d initially for a week and then 5 g.d. Creatine supplementation along with strengthening exercises was successful in bringing about substantial improvement in the lean mass of lower limbs, joint stiffness and physical function as well as quality of life in these women. (5)
11. Effective In Fibromyalgia:
Fibromyalgia is a health condition characterized by persistent widespread pain in muscles, disturbed sleep, fatigue and memory issues. (6) A four month long study was done to see the effect of creatine on symptoms of fibromyalgia. The patients were divided into two groups, one received creatine monohydrate and another formed the placebo group. Creatine brought about increase in the levels of phosphoryl creatine within muscles and enhanced functioning of the muscles in lower and upper body. It was concluded that creatine can serve as an effective dietary supplement in enhancing muscular functionality in people suffering from fibromyalgia. (7)
12. Can Be Beneficial In Managing Fatty Liver Disease:
Several studies done on rats and in vitro have revealed the effectivity of creatine supplementation in averting accumulation of fat in liver. It also could avert advancement of the disease. In livers of rats and in hepatocyte cell culture, creatine supplementation could regulate gene expression related to oxidation of fatty acid. So, creatine has promising therapeutic potential related to fatty liver disease management. (8)
13. Good For Bone Health:
A study analyzed the combined effect of creatine supplementation and resistance training on bone health of forty seven women post menopause. Two groups were formed, one underwent resistance training and took creatine supplement, whereas the other combined resistance training with a placebo. Resistance training was done thrice a week and creatine supplements were taken in the dose of 0.1 grams per kilogram of body weight daily. This continued for a year. Creatine supplementation along with resistance training was able to maintain bone density of femoral neck and increased the subperiosteal width of femoral shaft, an indicator of strength related to bone bending. (9)
14. Beneficial For Our Heart:
Creatine supplement along with strength training in adults have been found to be beneficial in lowering levels of homocysteine, considered to be a cardiovascular risk factor. A study was done on 60 male university students. They were divided into three groups, one receiving creatine supplements, another a placebo and the third formed the control group. For the first five days, creatine supplement was given in the dose of twenty five grams per day and thereafter five grams a day. The creatine and the placebo group did resistance training during the study. Study results revealed that the creatine group had substantially lower homocysteine levels. (10) Creatine supplementation is also beneficial for congestive heart failure patients. A twelve week study was done on 20 congestive heart failure patients, suffering from the condition for more than 6 months. They were daily given 20 grams of creatine vs. placebo in the initial six weeks and then crossed over for the rest of the weeks. It was concluded that creatine supplementation along with congestive heart failure medicine is beneficial in increasing muscle strength and body weight. (11)
15. Can Enhance Functioning Of Skeletal Muscles In Mcardle Disease Or Myophosphorylase Deficiency:
This a metabolic disorder characterized by intolerance toward exercise, quick fatigue, pain in muscles, cramps that are painful. (12) A five week study was done on 9 patients of McArdle disease to check whether oral creatine monohydrate could bring about improvement in their exercise intolerance. For five days, they were given creatine in high dose i.e. 150 milligrams per kilogram of their body weight which was followed by 60 mg per kg of creatine daily. Improvement in functioning of skeletal muscles was seen in 5 patients following creatine intake. (13)
16. May Be Beneficial For Patients Of Muscular Dystrophy:
Creatine supplements are beneficial in increasing muscular strength in people suffering from different types of muscular dystrophy. In a review of 12 studies involving 266 patients, it was seen that both short term and long term consumption of creatine brought about 8.5% increase in muscle strength and an average of 1.4 pounds increase in lean body mass as compared to that of placebo. (14) A study was done on 30 boys suffering from Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DD) wherein they were given creatine supplementation for four months. Their strength of handgrip improved in the dominant hand, fat free mass increased and there was also decrease in bone breakage marker. (15)
17. Can Be Used For Gyrate Atrophy Of Retina And Choroid:
A progressive disorder leading to gradual vision loss, gyrate atrophy’s pathogenesis is linked to improper formation of creatine stemming from hyperornithinemia which subsequently decreases phosphocreatine levels in cells. Creatine supplement in the dose of 1.5 grams daily was given to seven gyrate atrophy patients for a period of one year. Improvement was seen in the diameter of Type II muscle fibers, visual constriction did not increase during the therapy and also the progression of gyrate atrophy was much slower. (16)
How Do You Take Creatine?
The following ways can be used to drink creatine powder to reap maximum benefits (17):
1. Form A Creatine Consumption Routine:
First select a creatine powder. You can go for the one that is completely pure or you can select a powder with added sugar. Liquid creatine should be avoided as adding of water sets in the process of degradation. You can start with a bigger dose and then choose lower doses for maintenance. Creatine loading helps in getting quicker results i.e. quick increase in muscular mass and strength. But as it may have an impact on insulin levels, people predisposed to sugar related problems should avoid high doses. Finally, you need to take creatine daily at the same time, so that the body gets ample time to metabolize it before the next dose.
2. Creatine Loading:
Mix 5 grams of creatine with one quart or four cups of water and drink it immediately. Drink more water i.e. one or two cups to avert dehydration. You can take it with any juice or electrolyte-based energy drink. Repeat the same dose three more times in a day so that total daily consumption is 20 grams. You can take one dose at breakfast, then at lunch, during dinner and at bedtime. This has to be done for initial five days at a stretch and then reduce to a maintenance dose of 2 or 3 times a day.
3. Body Weight Based Creatine Consumption:
In the first week, you should consume .35g of the supplement per kg of your body weight. The total amount can be divided into four doses. In the second week, you need to make it .15 g per kg of your body weight. The total amount can be divided into 2 or 3 doses.
Is It Bad For A Teenager To Take Creatine?
Although a study done on athletes below the age of 18 has revealed the use of creatine by many of them to enhance performance, but its safety for people under the age of 19 has not been tested properly yet. So, in general it is not recommended for children and teenagers. As creatine usage is also associated with dysfunctioning of liver and hypertension, creatine supplements should not be given to teenagers. (18) In a case related to an 18 year old football player creatine was found to be associated with very high blood pressure. (19)
What Foods Are High In Creatine?
The food sources of creatine include (20):
1. Game Meat:
meat of wild boar, venison, rabbit, moose, buffalo, elk, ostrich, bison, wild duck and squab are considered to be the richest sources of creatine. They give you added benefit of being rich in polyunsaturated fat, low in calories and higher in lean body tissue.
2. Domestic Meat:
Domestic or free range meats are better sources of creatine as compared to meats produced commercially. Some of the creatine rich lean meat sources include turkey breast, lamb chops, chicken breast, veal loin and Cornish hen. Center loin and the tenderloin of pork are lean cuts rich in creatine.
Wild fish are considered good sources of creatine. 3-ounce of cooked wild fish provides you with 1 to 2 grams of creatine.
How Much Creatine Can You Take In A Day?
- For adult athletes 10 to 35 grams of oral creatine is considered good enough as a loading dosage for a short while i.e. 4 to 10 days. This has to be followed by a daily maintenance amount of 2 to 9 grams.
- For children having problems related to metabolism of creatine, daily oral consumption of 400 to 800 mg of creatine per kg body weight, is considered appropriate for a period of up to 8 years. 4 to 8 grams can also be taken safely for twenty five months. (21)
Is It Safe To Have Creatine?
- Oral consumption in the right dose is considered to be safe for a period of five years. Ingesting high doses could be harmful for the liver, kidneys and heart. It may cause nausea, diarrhea, cramps in muscle as well as pain in stomach.
- Creatine supplements may cause dehydration as they make the muscles withdraw water from rest of the body parts. So, you must drink additional amount of water and abstain from exercising in heat.
- Creatine should not be taken along with caffeine or ephedra, an herb, as it can have adverse effects like stroke.
- For children, 2 to 5 grams of creatine taken orally for 2 to 6 months is considered to be safe.
- It is not considered to be safe for people suffering from bipolar disorder as it may aggravate mania in them.
- Creatine is also not considered safe for people suffering from kidney disease or conditions like diabetes that can lead to kidney disease. (21)
What Happens When You Stop Taking Creatine?
Discontinuing creatine consumption is associated with muscular weakness, tiredness, loss of weight and reduction in natural synthesis of creatine. (22)
1. Muscular Weakness:
Our muscles are storehouses of creatine. This creatine is then used for metabolic pathways related to energy synthesis which is needed for muscular contraction and movement. As creatine boosts muscular strength, discontinuing its consumption leads to muscular weakness in general and during workouts in particular.
2. Tiredness Or Fatigue:
As brain stores 5% of creatine that helps in energy production further required for production of neurotransmitters and brain hormones, sudden discontinuation can alter or hamper production of these compounds. This in turn can induce fatigue. Specially, if you are suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, discontinuing creatine will worsen your symptoms.
3. Loss Of Weight:
Creatine leads to muscle hydration making the muscles look full and can make you gain weight. Once you stop creatine, water retained in your muscles is lost which in turn can result in weight loss. Within few days you can lose about 5 to 7 pounds.
4. Reduction In Creatine Production:
Creatine supplementation may affect the amount of creatine naturally produced by our body. As presence of excess of creatine in the body may signal creatine producing organs to believe it is over producing creatine. In such situation when you discontinue creatine, the body may take certain time to resume the quantity it produces normally.
Which Is The Best Creatine?
Creatine monohydrate is considered to be the best as it is cheaper but effective at the same time. Micronized creatine monohydrate is good as it quickly dissolves in water and can be easily digested. Creatine nitrate which is stronger than creatine monohydrate, may not be suitable for many. (23)