Creatine in bodybuilding

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The biological role of creatine 

Creatine is a natural substance found in the muscles of humans and animals and is required for energy metabolism and movement. The human body contains about 100-140 g of this substance, which serves as an energy source for muscles. The daily consumption of creatine under normal conditions is approximately 2 g. Creatine is as important to life as protein , carbohydrates , fats , vitamins and minerals . Creatine can be synthesized by the body independently from 3 amino acids: glycine , arginine and methionine . These amino acids are protein components.

In humans, enzymes involved in creatine synthesis are localized in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. Creatine can be produced in any of these organs and then transported by the blood to the muscles. Approximately 95% of the total creatine pool is stored in skeletal muscle tissues.

With increasing physical activity, creatine consumption also increases, and its supply must be replenished through diet or through the body’s own natural production.

The decisive factor for achieving high results in sports is the body’s ability to release large amounts of energy in a short period of time. In principle, our body constantly receives energy by breaking down carbohydrates and fat.

The immediate source of energy for the contraction of skeletal muscle is a molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The amount of ATP immediately available is limited and decisive for sports performance.

All fuel sources – carbohydrates, fats, and protein – are first converted through various chemical reactions to ATP, which is then available as the only molecule that the body uses for energy. When ATP releases energy to provide energy for muscle contractions, the phosphate group is cleaved off and a new molecule called ADP (adenosine diphosphate) is formed. This reaction is reversible with creatine phosphate, an energy-rich substance.

Creatine combines with phosphate in the body to form phosphocreatine, which is a determinant of energy production in muscle tissue.

Effects of creatine 

Strength gain

In bodybuilding, during high-intensity exercise, the need for ATP in working muscles increases significantly – hundreds of times higher than at rest. Depleted stores of ATP and phosphocreatine must be continually replenished in order for muscle contractions to continue at peak levels of frequency and strength.

By increasing phosphocreatine by taking creatine monohydrate, you can increase the amount of ATP and thus increase muscle strength.

Increase in muscle mass 

It is not uncommon to add dry body mass from 2 to 5 kg for 1 month of admission, with systematic training and proper nutrition.

Recent experiments prove that creatine monohydrate is able to increase the repetitive maximum in the bench press by 10 kg after a week of intake, improve sprint ability. The increase in strength allows you to achieve the maximum growth-stimulating effect on the muscles.

However, it should be noted that taking creatine does not always have this effect. It can manifest itself much weaker due to the weak sensitivity of the body to creatine and be expressed only in a slight increase in working capacity without an increase in strength qualities.

Muscle quality 

In addition, creatine also improves muscle definition. Creatine monohydrate binds to water as it is absorbed into muscle cells. As more creatine is stored, more water is drawn into the muscle cell. This explains the hydrating effect of creatine on muscle cells, which are approximately 75 percent water. Bodybuilders notice that a well-hydrated muscle looks fuller, rounder and more pumped outwardly.

Scientific research shows that when muscle cells increase in volume due to overhydration, protein synthesis is increased and protein breakdown is minimized (this can also increase glycogen synthesis). This concept was first developed by EAS researchers Anthony Almada and Ed Byrd, and is now widely accepted in the sports nutrition industry.

Increased secretion of anabolic hormones 

Research shows that creatine can increase the secretion of endogenous anabolic hormones in response to exercise. These hormones are represented by growth hormone and testosterone  .

Moreover, the level of growth hormone increases only 2 hours after taking creatine. Such a delay may indicate that the release of growth hormone does not depend on creatine itself, but is of an indirect nature and arises as a result of a cellular response.

Also in studies it was determined that the supplement increased the secretion of insulin-like growth factor by 15% compared to the placebo group.  The formation of myostatin is significantly suppressed .

According to research by scientists from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa , creatine increases the level of dihydrotestosterone , an androgenic metabolite of testosterone.

Lactic acid buffer 

There is evidence that creatine also works as a lactic acid buffer. During intense work in anaerobic mode, the muscles secrete lactic acid, this substance is partly responsible for the burning sensation that occurs when the muscle is working to failure.

In recent studies led by Dr. Michael Prevost of Louisiana State University, the results (confirming the results of previous research conducted by Dr. Hultman’s team in Sweden) show that creatine can inhibit lactic acid secretion and action and improve recovery time after short-term intense exercise (for example, strength training).

Other beneficial effects of creatine 

Having analyzed in detail the main effects of creatine that are important in bodybuilding, I would also like to give a list of additional positive effects and benefits:

  • supplementation with creatine has a positive effect on reducing total plasma cholesterol, triglycerides and very low density lipoproteins (protection of the cardiovascular system);
  • creatine may have anti-inflammatory effects in acute inflammation, local irritation, and chronic conditions of inflammation (eg, arthritis);
  • the creatine / phosphocreatine system has a protective effect on the central nervous system during ischemia and in hypoxic conditions (with a lack of oxygen);
  • creatine supplementation is used to treat diseases that cause muscle wasting, creatine depletion, and neuromuscular disorders;
  • Creatine is being investigated for potential beneficial properties in inhibiting the growth of certain types of tumors in mammals. Some studies suggest that creatine may have some anti-cancer activity;
  • supplementation with creatine has a positive effect on the athletic performance of vegetarians;
  • in chronic heart failure, cardiac creatine levels decrease; Supplementation with creatine in such symptomatic patients increases the amount of energy-rich phosphocreatine in skeletal muscle and therefore performance in terms of strength and endurance. In fifty patients undergoing heart valve replacement surgery, creatine supplementation reduced arrhythmias by 75%.

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About the Author: Mildred White