Max Creatine
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Max Creatine

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A well-known supplement that's been studied extensively in regards to power output, max strength, and endurance. A brief overview:

What is it?

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound derived from glycine and arginine and found primarily in the heart, brain, and skeletal muscle. Through dietary sources like chicken, beef, and eggs, we intake roughly 1 gram a day. Researchers have been aware of creatine in skeletal muscles and the effects of exercise and diet on creatine since the late 1800, but it wasn't until the early 1990's that it went mainstream. Several Olympic athletes at the 1992 games had supplemented (legally) with creatine, and after that, it was GAME ON. A US-based supplement company, Experimental and Applied Sciences (EAS) brought the first OTC (over-the counter) creatine supplement, Phosagen.


What Does It Do and How Does It Work?


Creatine has a few of positive benefits for the aspiring athlete:


  • Modulation of energy metabolism - Creatine operates as an energy and pH buffer during exercise. Creatine kinase catalyzes a reaction between free creatine and phosphor ions (from the breakdown of ATP to ADP), resulting in phosphocreatine (PCr), which is locked into the muscle cell due to its strong negative charge. The PCr can then react and faster recovery between sets, specifically in the short duration/max effort energy system.
  • Increased protein synthesis - Supplementing with creatine has with ADP to form ATP during exercise, and during rest periods more PCr is generated. All of this equates to more energy during sets been shown to increase intracellular water retention. Not only does this have the benefit of making the muscles appear larger, it may have an anabolic effect as well. Hyper-hydration stimulates protein synthesis and inhibits protein breakdown, and cell volume has a correlation with catabolism in a variety of ailments. Numerous studies have confirmed that creatine supplementation prevents protein catabolism.
  • Buffering acidosis - This is theorized to happen through two mechanisms: one is from creatine bonded with H+ (acid) ions, and through skeletal muscle cell volumization (hyper-hydration), therefore diluting, or delaying, acidosis of myocytes.

What Type of Creatine Is This?

There's a crapload of various types and brands on the shelves out there, but keep this in mind: Most of the well controlled studies NOT funded by supplement companies have used the form of creatine monohydrate. Don't waste your cash on Dicreatine Malate, Creatine Ethyl Ester (which has significant health drawbacks), or liquid creatine (highly unstable). For the most part, just stick with monohydrate; there are some time-to-saturation benefits with forms like pyruvate, citrate, and HCL. Micronized is fine, it's just a "finer" (as in, smaller particle size) of monohydrate. A German company has a patented brand called Creapure that is sold under popular brands, and I highly recommend using this.


How Much Should I Take?

Most labeling will tell you to take 20g x5 days, then 5g thereafter. The sole reason for this would be to reach "saturation" (your muscle cells can only hold so much) faster. It's also a damn good way to experience side effects, as limited as they are. Just take 5g (generally one tiny scoop that'll be in the container, or a level teaspoon) a day, optimally in the PWO (post-workout) period. On training days, 5g preWO will also optimize creatine levels prior to training.


A possibly better option would be weight based dosing at 0.1g/kg. I like this version, as its more specific to the individual There's also this weird myth that you have to take creatine with a high glycemic carb, like grape juice. Why grape juice, and why a high glycemic carb, I don't know. It makes my brain cramp as to why these myths pop up, but they do. While high GI carbs cause an insulin spike, and in the PWO period our insulin receptors are sensitized, this really has nothing to do with creatine transport into myocytes. The transporter, CreaT, is sodium dependent, so all those other reasons are nearly baseless. There are other reasons as to why high GI carbs are fine PWO, so throwing 5g of creatine into a shake isn't a bad thing. It's just good science to know why you're doing something.


Some Common FAQ on creatine:

Will it wreck my kidneys? No. It's the most studied OTC supplement in history. It's safe. Your kidneys will be fine.
Doesn't it cause water retention? No. It causes skeletal muscle hyperhydration. There's a difference.
Does it cause muscle and tendon injury? No. Not warming up, training stupid, and being dehydrated causes that.
Don't I need to cycle it? No. "Cycling" is another bodybuilder-perpetrated myth based on the cycling of AAS due to down-regulation of hormones from exogenous sources; creatine intake, either from food or supplements, doesn't do this.


Key point: Since it causes intracellular hyperhydration, it *does* draw fluid from extracellular space to intracellular space. What does that mean? That means you need to stay hydrated. Be diligent about this, unless you want to turn into a pile of dust while doing thrusters. 99.9% of side effect associated with creatine are due to folks not drinking enough H20.

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