Creatine Basics

In the body, creatine is a natural chemical that all vertebrates produce. It’s very important in the body’s energy storage process in order for the muscles to contract and retain water. Water retention is what makes the muscles stay hydrated and grow.

How Creatine Works

About 2g of creatine is produced in the liver and kidneys per day, from 3 nonessential amino acids (argenine, glysine and methionine) It’s carried by the blood and stored in the muscle cells, including the heart, and other body cells. About 95 percent of the body’s creatine ends up in the muscles where it’s turned into creatine phosphate. Creatine Phosphate is used as a small energy supply for several seconds of action which is why it works best for short-term  activities that require fast bursts of activity. Creatine phosphate also replenishes your cellular reserves of ATP (the molecular fuel that provides the power for muscular contractions.) The more ATP you have to utilize, the more work you can do.
You can supplement creatine and load it into your muscles like you load glycogen. Instead of quickly tiring near the end of any short-burst, high intensity activity, you can keep going. The extra creatine increases the pace of energy production in the muscle cell and allows the muscle fibers to work harder for longer.

Creatine & Muscle Burn

Creatine supplementation also cuts lactic acid levels in the blood causing a decrease in muscle burn. Increased amounts of lactic acid in your muscles causes muscle fatigue, as does creatine depletion.
Creatine phosphate (the form that works inside cells) also neutralizes the free radicals produced by intense exercise, thereby decreasing the amount of muscle tissue damage that causes soreness. That means each time you have a heavy/intense workout you can return to training sooner due to less muscle soreness.

Getting Creatine into Your Muscles

Creatine supplements give your muscles another fuel source, in addition to glycogen from carbohydrates. While there is a variance from person to person, the average daily intake from food is about 1 gram.
Approximately 120 to 184 grams of creatine is stored in muscle depending how much meat is in your diet. Creatine is a carni-nutrient, meaning it is only available from meat and animal products since that’s primarily where it’s stored. Red or white meat and fish are the main sources of creatine. It is also found in dairy products like milk.
Not eating meat doesn’t mean that you’re creatine deficient since the body manufactures its own. But since creatine is stored in muscles that’s where you will get it from in food, therefore, vegetarians might fall into the lower end of the range.
When meat is cooked it’s creatine content decreases so it’s hard to obtain the amount you’d want to supplement.

Side Effects of Creatine

Creatine is generally safe to take but like all things consumed there is a chance that it can cause unwanted side effects. Most cases that report negative side effects are a result of misusing the dosage or failing to take the supplement with enough water. Some  commonly reported side effects are;

The Take Away

Creatine is an amino acid that the body produces naturally. It produces a compound called ATP, which provides energy for metabolic processes. The body stores it—primarily in the muscles—for energy, power, hydration and muscle growth.
Most creatine is present in the body as phosphocreatine. After it’s been synthesized, phosphocreatine helps use and replenish ATP to provide energy that helps power the body’s cells.
The body makes it on its own, however, taking creatine supplements may help boost what the body already contains naturally.