Dietary supplements play an important role in bodybuilding. They allow to supplement the nutrients and energies necessary for the good muscular development of the bodybuilder. Among them is creatine monohydrate. It is one of the best known dietary supplements in the bodybuilding world. However, its use is the subject of much debate within the bodybuilding community. So what is creatine monohydrate? What are its effects on the body? What benefits does it provide? And what are its dangers?
What is creatine monohydrate?
Creatine is a multifaceted molecule:
- Naturally present in the human body, it consists of a set of amino acids. More precisely, it is the combination of glycine, arginine and methionine. Three amino acids that make up 90% of muscle tissue and brain tissue.
- It is synthesized by the liver in a rather limited quantity. For a non-athlete, it is notably sufficient to feed the muscles. In fact, the surplus of creatine that muscle-building enthusiasts need is taken from the diet. It is also present in various animal products: meat, fish, milk and eggs.
- It is also present in the form of food supplements. It makes it possible to improve the physical performance and the muscular growth. However, it is not an anabolic steroid or a stimulant even if in certain products, it is mixed with stimulants such as ginseng or caffeine.
Who is creatine monohydrate for?
Creatine Monohydrate is intended for people whose creatine requirement is higher than normal. In order to take advantage of its ability to quickly provide energy to the muscles, athletes and bodybuilders in particular also use it.
The nutritional needs of bodybuilding practitioners are much higher because of the intensity of their training. In the bodybuilding community, creatine is considered a miracle product. Not only does it help to improve performance, it also helps to quickly gain muscle volume.
How does it work?
The human body derives energy from adenosine triphosphate or ATP. The latter then allows the majority of physiological processes such as muscle contractions to take place. ATP will hydrolyze a group of phosphates, which will provide heat. It is through this process that ATP provides energy. (https://www.britannica.com/science/adenosine-triphosphate)
After hydrolysing energy, ATP is converted to ADP (Adenosine diphosphate) because it has lost a phosphate molecule. Note that ADP has no use unless it is converted back to ATP.
It is by absorbing creatine that ADP is transformed again into ATP, thanks to phosphorus. Through this process, creatine will allow recycling of ADP into ATP. As a result, the stock of ATP increases and more exercise can be performed.
What are the benefits of creatine monohydrate?
Creatine monohydrate is primarily used to increase exercise intensity. But it also promotes anabolism.
A gain in physical performance
By acting as a fuel for the human body, creatine’s primary role is to increase physical performance. Improving the ATP stock allows for more intense exercise, but within a short period of time. (http://general.utpb.edu/fac/eldridge_j/kine6362/ancillaryfiles/becque_creatine.pdf)
It ensures an increase in energy intensity, but is not suitable for endurance. Indeed, sports activities such as bodybuilding are anaerobic activities. Unlike endurance sports, the human body draws less energy from the oxygen we breathe.
It must then find sources of energy present in the body and this is where creatine comes into play. Creatine is the perfect energy source for this kind of physical activity. By supplementing with creatine, the body will have more energy sources and it will be possible to exercise more intensely. (https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/jappl.19220.127.116.115)
Creatine promotes anabolism
The other characteristic of creatine is its power to promote muscle growth. It is besides the goal sought by the bodybuilders. Indeed, this element has the capacity to hydrate muscle cells during physical exercise.
By hydrating the muscles, creatine increases muscle volume. It is for this reason that it is also popular in the bodybuilding industry. Muscles appear larger and more massive.
But by this property, it also accelerates muscle mass gain. When muscles are well hydrated, protein synthesis increases considerably. Consequently, post-exercise recovery and muscle growth are faster.
How to consume creatine monohydrate?
Consuming creatine does not magically turn you into a “superhero”. The effects will not be noticeable after the first consumption. A cure is necessary to appreciate its effectiveness.
Saturating muscles with creatine
When creatine is ingested, it must be transformed before it is used by the body. There will be no gain in performance if you consume it just before training. To enjoy the benefits of creatine, you must first saturate the muscles with creatine.
This process is done slowly and with a small daily dose, it takes a month for the level stored in the muscles to be sufficient to provide noticeable effects.
But it is also possible to consume a higher dose for 5 days to quickly reach saturation. Thereafter, a moderate dose must be taken to maintain this level.
The storage capacity of creatine will also depend on the muscle mass of each individual.
When and how to consume creatine?
To gradually increase creatine levels in the muscles, consume 5 grams of creatine per day. This method of consumption is especially recommended for beginners or people taking it for the first time.
To quickly increase the creatine level, consume 15 grams of creatine per day for 5 days and decrease the dose to 3 to 5 grams per day.
Unlike other types of dietary supplements, creatine can be taken at any time. Consuming it before, during or after training will not provide more effect.
The creatine used by the body will be the one stored as creatine phosphate in the muscle tissue and not the one you have just ingested. So there is no better time to consume it. You can consume it at your convenience, but it is important to consume it every day.
Why is creatine monohydrate better than others?
There are several types of creatines on the market. These include Creatine Monohydrate, Kre-alkalyn, Creatine Hydrochloride and Creatine Nitrate. Manufacturers are constantly innovating by regularly offering new products.
However, to date, creatine monohydrate has been the most studied by scientists. It is also the most popular form of this dietary supplement. It is also according to studies the best adapted for everyone.
The ease of absorption of creatine monohydrate makes that the body manages to assimilate up to 99.1% of the product. So far, other forms of creatine available on the market cannot compete with this.
What are the precautions for use?
Creatine has been the subject of several debates about its negative effects on health. Fortunately, research has been done on the subject and the result is that this product is far from being dangerous to health.
Creatine and liver problems
Rumor has it that creatine consumption damages the liver and spleen. It is not uncommon to read articles raising the fact that creatine causes biliary lithiasis. This belief comes from the fact that high levels of creatinine are found after consuming creatine.
Creatinine is usually a sign of liver dysfunction. However, this is a misdiagnosis, as to date no link has been made between liver dysfunction and normal creatine intake. This is true even in the long term. (https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z) (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12701816)
Creatine and intra-compartmental pressure (ICP)
Compartment syndrome is a state of intense muscle pain when the pressure inside a muscle compartment is high. This results in a degradation of the viability of the muscles, nerves and tissues within the compartment.
An article published in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine in 2000 relates research in which it was observed that bodybuilders developed a compartment syndrome. (https://www.jabfm.org/content/13/2/134) As a result of this study, it was found that the majority of practitioners suffering from this disease consumed 25 grams of creatine per day.
What to do
Other negative effects of creatine are often raised such as gastrointestinal disorders and hydration problems. However, studies have shown that the link between creatine consumption and disease is not established.
In all cases, it is advisable to respect the recommended dose. Used in moderation, creatine can be considered the safest dietary supplement. Moreover, it is useless to ingest it in high doses, as it will not produce more effect.
It is also necessary to adopt a good diet. Creatine does not replace the nutrients contained in food. However, it is important to stay well hydrated. It is a good habit to have whether you are a sportsman or not.
Finally, if you have any doubts, it is preferable to consult a professional who will reassure you and help you choose the product that is best suited to your situation.
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