If you’re interested in fitness in any way, you’ve probably heard of creatine powder on more than one occasion. Like many people, you may find yourself wondering what it does and how it works at the cellular level. Understanding the science of creatine is actually fairly simple – and quite interesting, too.
What Is Creatine, Anyway?
Creatine is very popular supplement among athletes and bodybuilders who want to feel and look their best. It is a molecule that is made naturally within the body or synthetically in a laboratory. All-natural creatine powder supplements are by far the best, and they’re made of three amino acids called arginine, methionine, and glycine. Synthetic versions are made of sarcosine, a derivative of salt, and cyanimide. There are many forms of creatine out there, but the best and most easily absorbed is creatine monohydrate.
Understanding Muscle Energy
Every time you use a muscle, the contraction of that muscle requires energy at the cellular level. Your body must deliver energy to your muscle cells in order for them to continue working. The fuel that your body uses is called ATP, which stands for adenosine triphosphate. When the ATP is delivered to the muscle cells, it donates a phosphate to fuel contractions. When it loses that phosphate chain, it turns into adenosine diphosphate, or ADP.
The ADP stores in your body are virtually useless until they can absorb another phosphate chain and become ATP once again. That’s where creatine comes into play. Once your body converts creatine monohydrate to creatine phosphate through the use of enzymes, the creatine phosphate can donate its phosphate chain to the ADP, effectively converting it back to ATP, which can then be used to fuel muscles. Simply put, it’s a chain reaction that lasts as long as your body’s stores of creatine.
Other Benefits of Creatine
Aside from its ability to deliver energy to muscle fibers, creatine serves a number of other purposes. Because it draws water into the muscles, that water can absorb lactic acid, a molecular byproduct that causes muscle fatigue and pain during the recovery process. Creatine can also help to facilitate fat loss by adding lean metabolically-active tissues. What’s more, your brain cells also use ATP as a fuel source, so when there’s plenty go to around, you’ll feel more focused and alert.
Science and Safety
One of the biggest concerns surrounding creatine powder is its overall safety. Scientists are adamant that, like many other supplements, there is no benefit in taking more creatine than your body can use. It may even significantly increase the risk of side effects, such as significant water weight gain and health issues caused by edema, or excessive fluid in the tissues. Scientists also warn against the dangers of consuming creatine with caffeine. The caffeine itself inhibits the synthesis of creatine phosphate and also works counteracts some of the effects due to it’s diuretic properties. There is also some evidence to suggest that taking creatine together with caffeine increases the risk of stroke.
Creatine powder is one of the most common and most effective sports nutrition supplements available today. While scientific research is still rather limited, scientists do understand how it works in theory. The best evidence, though, is the athletes and bodybuilders themselves who have enjoyed amazing muscle growth.