As a keen physique body-builder myself, the field of supplementation is fascinating on both a scientific and functional level. Amongst the most researched supplements in the fitness industry, Creatine will be the primary focus of this article. Creatine is a metabolite that is produced naturally by the human body, that is to say it is necessary for metabolic processes in the cell’s mitochondria. It is found mainly in the red muscle tissue, but it is also present in the heart and brain. Normally, creatine is acquired through regular dietary intake of products such as meat and fish, which are high in protein; red meats are particularly high in creatine. However, when dietary intake is low, creatine can be produced from natural amino acids such as glycine, arginine, and methionine in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas.
Creatine is an amino acid, like the building blocks that make up proteins. Creatine in the form of phosphocreatine (creatine phosphate) is an important store of energy in muscle cells. During intense exercise lasting around half a minute, phosphocreatine is broken down to creatine and a phosphate molecule, and the energy released is used to regenerate the primary source of energy, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). When you respire, ATP is broken down into ADP (adenosine diphosphate) thus releasing energy for muscular contraction. The phosphate molecule of creatine phosphate replaces the lost phosphate thus allowing the energy releasing process to be perpetuated. Output power drops as phosphocreatine becomes depleted, because ATP cannot be regenerated fast enough to meet the demand of the exercise. It follows that a bigger store of phosphocreatine in muscle should reduce fatigue during repetative muscular contraction. Extra creatine in the muscle may also increase the rate of regeneration of phosphocreatine following exercise, which should mean less fatigue with repeated bursts of activity in training.
This reveals the significance of creatine supplementation; lab synthesised creatine monohydrate is easy to consume in powdered form due to its solubility in water (a property resultant from the polar nature of the molecule). Furthermore, supplementation transpires to be much easier and cheaper than sourcing creatine from the diet alone. Typically, 250g of raw lean red meat contains just 1g of creatine and the recommended dosage for an athlete is 5g daily- that’s 1.25kg of steak!
Many athletes consider micronized creatine monohydrate to be the most effective form of the supplement for building lean muscle mass and improving muscular strength. Micronized creatine is essentially creatine monohydrate gone through a fine grading process that grinds the particles down or “micronizes” them. The particles are much smaller than normal creatine monohydrate particles thus allowing diffusion across the partially permeable membrane into cells easier.