What Does Creatine Actually Do? The Surprising Truth

Creatine is arguably one of the best selling supplement products of all time, but there remain a few myths about this wonder supplement and the effects of it on the human body. Therefore, we ask the fundamental question, what does creatine actually do?

Simply put, creatine increases your body’s ability to produce energy, meaning that you can train harder, for longer and produce faster results in terms of your fitness goals. A lot of information exists surrounding creatine and its perceived effects, some of which is just downright wrong!

Knowing exactly what you are putting in to your body and the effects it can have are crucially important and so we have put together this article for you in the hope of finally answering the question of what creatine actually does.

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What Is Creatine?

Creatine is a combination of three different amino acids called glycine, arginine and methionine. It is natural, produced by the body and also found in high protein food sources such as fish and red meat.

It is involved in supplying energy for muscular contraction and therefore beneficial for athletes or sports people looking to enhance their performance.

Is creatine a steroid?

One of the biggest myths surrounding creatine is that it is a steroid. Creatine is not, we repeat, not a steroid and works in a completely different way to how steroids do. As mentioned above, creatine is naturally occurring and not a lab synthesized product unlike steroids.


How Does It Work?

This is where we get a little technical so please forgive us and bear with!

    • Creatine enters the body and binds with a phosphate molecule to form Creatine phosphate.
    • ​Adenine Tri-Phosphate (ATP) is the body’s energy source, providing energy by hydrolyzing a phosphate group.
    • When a phosphate group is hydrolyzed, energy is produced and used for e.g. lifting a weight.
    • ​The ATP is now called Adenine Di-Phosphate (ADP) as one phosphate has been lost.
    • ​ADP is fairly useless in the body unless it is converted back into ATP and this is where creatine comes in!
    • The creatine donates its phosphate group to the ADP to reform ATP therefore allowing you to train harder and longer.

So very simply put, creatine replaces some of the energy lost by the body when you work out, therefore allowing you to train for longer and hopefully see faster results in your individual fitness goals.


What Are Some Of The Myths Surrounding Creatine?

Creatine is similar to anabolic steroids

This is one of the most common myths surrounding creatine. As already mentioned previously, creatine is a natural substance, and occurs already in the body, as well as high protein food. Steroids mimic testosterone and are banned in professional sports. Creatine works differently and is not banned.

Creatine will help me build muscle even without the gym

Another common myths surrounding creatine is that if you take it and do nothing, you will still see the results you are looking for. Creatine only leads to muscle increase when combined with resistance exercise training.

It helps you to work out for longer by reducing fatigue, nothing more. There are no quick fixes to get fit we’re afraid to say!

Creatine leads to weight gain

When you start taking creatine you may seen an initial weight gain of 0.8-29. Percent of body weight during the first few days. This is due to water being pulled into the muscle.

When combined with resistance training however, creatine has been shown to result in an increase in lean body mass and a decrease in fat storage, therefore leading to a better body composition.


Are There Any Downsides To Creatine?

The risks for creatine are fairly low but it is not recommended for children under 18 to take creatine due to the fact that no studies have been done on children as to the effects.

There have also been reports of overexertion and torn muscles with creatine due to the fact that you have more energy and so push harder at the gym.


What About The Cramping I’ve Heard
People Report Of?

Creatine has been studied by various sources for nearly two decades now and studies indicate that it is safe. Although some people may experience cramps, it is not that common and as Greenhaff, a creatine researcher told Men’s Health.

“If there were any major adverse side effects, we would have seen them by now”.

To be completely safe, many recommend only using creatine if you are healthy with no kidney problems due to the fact that the kidneys excrete creatinine, a breakdown product of creatine.


Will It Work Equally For Everyone?

Creatine works best for those with low natural amounts, for example those that do not eat meat such as vegans.

Your muscle makeup matters as well and although most people have 50% fast-twitch muscle fibres and 50% slow-twitch, people with more fast-twtich will see even more results.

Conclusion

Creatine is naturally occurring substance that allows you to work out for longer by reducing levels of fatigue when resistance training. Benefits include an increase in lean muscle mass, and decrease in fat when combined with exercise, leading to overall increased sporting performance and body composition.

Downsides of the supplement can be that it is not recommended for those under 18, and can lead to over training due to the fact you do not feel fatigued which is a sign your body is under stress and it’s time to take it easy!

Creatine can also have varying results from person to person working best for those with a low natural level of creatine such as vegans.

For the vast majority of people however, creatine can be a beneficial supplement that can give you that little extra at the gym and help you push more in your exercise and nutrition plan.

This can lead to an decrease in fat, and increase in lean muscle and sporting ability which is why creatine is one of the most popular supplements on the market today.

Luke Cafferty
 

Luke Cafferty is a fitness junkie, personal trainer and blogger. He's passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a strong and well rounded physique, while inspiring you to do the same.

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