Creatine is very popular in the fitness industry as a muscle builder, but may in fact do much more than bulk you up. After synthesis in the kidney and liver from amino acids, creatine supplies energy to all cells in the body, not only muscle (although 95 percent of the body's total creatine is found in muscle). It works by increasing the availability/production of ATP, the main fuel source in the cell, by recycling ADP and donating an additional phosphate with aid of the Creatine Kinase enzyme (hence the commonly heard phosphocreatine) to rapidly recreate ATP.
Where Does It Come From?
About half of the creatine stored in your body stems from nutrition, meat. Vegetarians actually have lower levels of creatine as vegetables are a poor source of the nitrogenous organic acid.
Creatine can either be ingested directly as a supplement or the amino acid building blocks can be consumed (L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine) and allow the body to make what it needs. Fortunately creatine is easily digestible with up to 80 percent entering circulation. The majority of studies on creatine have used creatine monohydrate, the most digestible and easiest to obtain. Although there are several on the market, none have been studied and proven as effective as creatine monohydrate.
It's commonly thought that creatine taxes the organs, especially the liver and kidneys. The most recent meta analysis of the effects of creatine on these organs have found no adverse reactions and these claims have since been refuted.
Since creatine has a short half life in the body of about three hours, it's important to maintain dosing every three to six hours to maximize the potential benefits. Post ingestion, creatine reaches its peak blood levels in one to two hours. Any additional creatine consumed that cannot be held within the body is excreted as waste.
Not A Body Builder? It Can Still Help!
With that said, there are numerous benefits to creatine supplementation that are not associated with body builders.
Neurodegenerative diseases - Creatine supplementation has been found to increase strength in people with neuromuscular disorders such as ALS, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson's, Huntington's and may ease symptoms of depression.
Hydration - Creatine supplementation was found to improve thermoregulation and endurance through hyper hydration that can benefit athletes and individuals exposed to prolonged high temperatures.
Cardiovascular - Creatine supplementation has been found to be beneficial to the cardiovascular system by lowering levels of triglycerides and homocysteine, both markers for potential heart disease. It was also found that people with congestive heart failure have low levels of creatine in their heart (remember the heart is a muscle).
Brain power - A placebo controlled, double blind experiment found five grams per day supplementation significantly improved short term memory, fluid intelligence, and even IQ scores as compared with the placebo group. Another study found it improved cognitive ability in the elderly.
Can't Hurt To Try
Creatine is a hot topic of research and has shown promise in numerous conditions and health enhancement. Dosing of five grams spread throughout the day has shown to be the most effective at increasing circulating creatine levels for fitness, heart health, and brain health. ATP is what makes your body move, your heart pump, and your brain tick; it makes sense that more ATP would equal better health.
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