Can a Creatine Supplement Improve Performance?
Creatine was discovered decades ago for its role in boosting short term energy in athletes. It replenishes ATP so the muscles have more of a store of energy to draw from in times of need.
Many supplements have thus been created to increase the levels of creatine on muscles. But can these creatine supplements really get creatine from the mouth to the muscles?
How Does the Body Absorb Creatine?
Everything that enters the human body (with the exception of air) through the mouth must invariably enter the stomach. There the stomach dissolves everything in preparation for entering the intestines.
Those familiar with creatine supplementation have heard of “creatine bloating” which occurs in the stomach when creatine is converted into the inert creatinine. This is not just a painful side-effect, but lessens the overall effectiveness of the supplement.
Any creatine remaining in the stomach will be absorbed into the blood stream in the intestines. There it is transported to skeletal muscles. Any creatinine in the bloodstream will be filtered out by the kidneys.
Doesn’t the Body Make Creatine?
The body naturally makes creatine in the kidneys and liver. Each person has a natural equilibrium of creatine that they tolerate and any excess will be converted into creatinine and expelled.
However, the creatine levels can be increased over time through supplementation. Usually this carried out through a loading period (usually around a week) with maintenance supplementation taking place for several weeks after.
But Will This Improve Performance?
Dozens of legitimate studies have concluded that creatine supplementation does increase muscle mass. Part of this is through more water retention, but actual muscle recovery and gains happen as well.
Supplementing with creatine is beneficial for athletes that need quick bursts of energy, such as sprinters, weightlifters and the such. The added muscle mass is also beneficial for these athletes.
However, creatine has little effect on endurance sports. It will replicate ATP, but cannot provide actual energy that comes from calories.
So, What Works?
Try to find creatine supplements that are readily bioavailable, and address the problem of “creatine bloating”. Pure creatine is safer than many complex supplements which may add side-effects without increasing effectiveness
The basic form of creatine is “creatine monohydrate”, and while other forms have been created and tested, little evidence shows that they are any more effective than this basic form.