What is Creatine?
Trusted by amateur and professional athletes all around the world, Creatine is the number one supplement when it comes to increasing strength, muscle mass and power output. Creatine is an organic compound that is produced naturally in the body from the amino acids Arginine, Glycine and Methionine and can also be gained from the diet, mainly meat, eggs and fish. The main role of Creatine in the body is to aid energy production by increasing the level of Phosphocreatine present in skeletal muscle. Phosphocreatine is a metabolite used to generate, circulate and replenish Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), otherwise known as the 'energy currency' of the cell.
How Can It Help?
During short bursts of extremely intense exercise, the concentration of ATP in the muscles is depleted within a matter of seconds. Creatine plays a vital role in the very first stages of energy replenishment before the body is able to draw upon its glucose and fat reserves for fuel.
If more Creatine is available, then more Phosphocreatine can be formed in the body and more ATP can be generated, which allows for muscle contraction to be sustained for a few more valuable seconds. Creatine is also used by athletes from a wide range of power and speed disciplines who want to gain lean muscle mass. Through the process of cell volumisation, Creatine is able to transfer extra fluid from the bloodstream into the muscles, causing them to inflate.
This results in harder, fuller and heavier muscles and, more importantly, serves as a stimulus for muscle hypertrophy (enlargement). According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, Creatine is the most effective ergogenic (performance-enhancing) nutritional supplement currently available to athletes for increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training.
What is a Creatine Loading Phase?
During a loading phase, much higher doses of Creatine are taken to ensure that the muscle cells are fully saturated. This should happen right at the start of the supplementation plan and should only last for five days. While not essential to see the benefits of Creatine, a loading phase will allow users to experience much faster results. A loading phase is then followed by a maintenance phase, which is required to maintain the high levels of Creatine saturation in the muscles. This phase consists of smaller doses and is used to support a long-term supplementation plan.
Are There Any Side Effects?
When taken in the correct doses, Creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects in any population tested. The only observed side effects are stomach cramps and dehydration if Creatine is taken with insufficient water (especially during the loading stage). Creatine can also cause water-weight gains of up to 5lbs in the first week of supplementation as a result of cell volumisation. This is quite common and completely harmless.