What is creatine?

Creatine is one of the most popular supplements in the fitness industry. It plays an important role in energy metabolism and supplementation provides many benefits including increased muscle mass, strength, and improved body composition.

How does creatine work?

When we eat macronutrients, they get converted into adenosine triphosphate or ATP. Muscle tissue uses ATP to power contractions. When a molecule of ATP is used in a contraction, it gives up one phosphate molecule and becomes adenosine diphosphate or ADP.

Unfortunately, we have a very limited amount of ATP stored in the body; only enough to power through a few seconds of hard work such as lifting heavy weights or short sprints. Luckily, the body has the ability to recycle phosphate and create ATP out of “expended” ADP.

Creatine supplements are taken in the form of creatine phosphate. Creatine phosphate saturates the muscle with additional phosphate molecules. The body uses the extra phosphate to speed up ADP (expended) to ATP (used to power contractions) conversion. This gives muscle tissue a greater supply of ATP during high energy demands.

Creatine and Strength

Plenty of studies have confirmed the positive effects of creatine supplementation. One meta analysis examined 16 studies between 1996-2000. They found subjects taking creatine lifted 15 and 21 more pounds than the placebo group on a max bench and squat respectively1.

Another study looked at the effects of creatine supplementation on arm strength over a period of six weeks. Participants took 20 grams of creatine per day for the first week and 2 grams per day for the remainder of the study. Subjects on creatine saw a 26 pound increase in max weight lifted compared to 15 pounds for the placebo group2.

In yet another study, researchers looked into the effects creatine and beta-alanine supplementation had on strength and power. The study concluded the supplement group had significantly greater improvements in strength than the placebo group3.

The Bottom Line

There are countless studies confirming the positive effects creatine has on strength training across a wide variety of population groups. Creatine improves strength and increases body weight/fat free mass. Most studies saw positive benefits when participants took 10-20 grams of creatine per day. The benefits seen in these studies were only present in anaerobic exercise.

References

  1. Dempsey, R. L., & Mazzone, M. R. (2002). Does oral creatine supplementation improve strength? Journal of Family Practice, 945.
  2. Becque, M. D., & Lochmann, J. D. (1997). Effect Of Creatine Supplementation During Strength Training On 1Rm And Body CompositionMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,29(Supplement), 146.
  3. Hoffman, J. R., & Ratamess, N. A. (2006). Effect of Creatine and β-Alanine Supplementation on Performance and Endocrine Responses in Strength/Power AthletesMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 38(Supplement).
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