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Creatine and Athletic Performance
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Creatine supplementation has been shown to enhance the ability to maintain power output during repeated periods of high intensity exercise. Athletes in virtually every sport have reported improved athletic performance. For instance, greater home run production by baseball players, increased strength and power by football players, faster times by sprinters, and longer lasting energy by basketball players. When used properly, most athletes will experience a significant increase in strength and power.
Creatine supplementation in controlled scientific studies in amounts as high as 20 grams per day have been shown to enhance the body's ability to maintain power output during frequent and intense exercise. Sports involving short bursts of energy - like multiple sprint sports - seem to experience the greatest benefit of improved athletic performance. Another benefit of creatine supplementation for athletes may be when high intensity exercise is combined with lower intensity exercise or rest. Team sports such as baseball, basketball, football, hockey and individual sports like wrestling, tennis, track and field and sprinting all consist of short explosive muscle contractions followed by short periods of rest or recovery periods. ATP stores are depleted and replenished by the utilization of the phosphocreatine and creatine stores in the muscle. The greater the total creatine pool, the greater the efficiency of the ATP/CP energy cycle.
Creatine supplementation and Muscle Building
Creatine supplementation can help the athlete train harder for a longer period of time. Therefore, increased intensity of muscle training will generate faster muscle growth and strength. An example of increased intensity of muscle training can be found in a study done by Conrad Earnest and co-workers. The study was conducted on weight trainers at Texas Southwestern Medical Center and The Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas. Creatine supplementation and maximum strength was measured in experienced athletes who consumed 20 grams of creatine per day for 28 days. The average increase in bench press strength was 18 lbs. The average bench press repetitions each athlete could perform at a weight equaling 70% of their 1-rep. maximum increased from 11 reps to 15 reps. The subjects in this study also increased lean mass an average of 3.5 lbs over the 28 day period. Increases in lean muscle tissue verses water retention was observed and attributed to increased muscle overload and greater muscle tissue growth stimulation.
Are there Side Effects
There have been no indications of adverse side effects from long term creatine usage in existing creatine literature. Currently, long term studies are under way to try and measure the effects of long term chronic use. Until these studies are completed, excessive creatine supplementation should not occur.
Creatine that is not stored in the total creatine pool, as either creatine or phosphocreatine, is processed out of the body by the kidneys as creatinine. Creatinine is a natural by-product of creatine production and considered a waste product by the body. Creatine supplementation in excess of the required amount needed to saturate the creatine pool is processed out of the body through the kidneys in the same manner.
What about muscle cramps?
There has been a great deal of attention to the issue of muscle cramps and creatine usage. It has been proposed by some athletes and sports professionals that there may exist a possible association of creatine supplementation and the increased incidence of muscle cramps. To date, research has not shown association between pure creatine monohydrate supplementation and muscle cramps. The main cause of muscle cramps is an imbalance of the electrolytes, calcium and magnesium in the blood or the muscle tissue stemming from insufficient fluid intake. Thus, creatine monohydrate users should use only creatine monohydrate free of impurities while also consuming a minimum of 2 liters of water per day up to as much as 5 liters per day depending on the duration and intensity of the exercise.
It is possible to prevent muscle cramping by consuming sufficient amounts of fluids and isotonic electrolyte drinks prior to, during, and after exercise. A balanced diet will also contribute trace elements, vitamins and minerals which are key to efficient metabolism and electrolyte balance. The bottom line is that lack of sufficient fluid intake and/or nutritional deficiencies cause cramping, and not creatine at reasonable doses.
Are there differences in Creatine supplements?
Pure creatine monohydrate is a fine white, tasteless, odorless powder that disperses easily in water. While many creatine products look exactly alike, there may exist major differences in the quality of the products. Creatine monohydrate is produced by reacting sarcosine sodium salt, a derivative of acetic acid with cyanamide, an organic amide. Using inferior starting raw materials or incomplete reactions can lead to the presence of impurities. There are three known impurities that may exist in inferior creatine monohydrate products: creatinine, dicyandiamide, dihydrotriazine.
Creatinine is a by-product of creatine production. Ingested creatinine is waste for the body and is excreted by the kidneys. While most likely not harmful, your body excretes this as waste, there is no reason why you should ingest more of a waste product.
Dicyandiamide is a by-product of creatine production. Ingested dicyandiamide is waste for the body and excreted by the kidneys. Again, while it may not be harmful to your body, it is of no benefit and must be processed out by the kidneys. You do not want this in your creatine product.
Dihydrotriazine (derivative) is often found in various creatine products. This substance is an impurity of non-optimized creatine production and consequently widely spread over creatine products. Dihydrotriazine is a compound with unknown pharmaceutical and toxicological properties. You definitely do not want a substance in your body.
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