Have you heard of creatine? If you are an athlete or pay attention to your endurance levels and muscle mass, you are likely familiar with this word. For others, this term may not be so familiar. We will go into more detail on this, but for now, creatine is mostly found in cells of the muscles and the brain. It is connected to the energy in the cells and simply put it helps with performance and gaining muscle. A question that is often asked is the following: can women be supplementing creatine? Throughout this article, we will learn more about creatine, how it works in the body, and whether women should be taking it.
What is Creatine?
As a nitrogenous organic acid, creatine is in part responsible for supplying the cells of the body with energy. This is particularly true when it comes to cells in the muscles, creatine is their main source of energy. Creatine is made up of three amino acids: L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine. Scientifically, creatine is shown as the formula CNCH₂CO₂H. It can be found in vertebrates not only in muscle but also brain tissue. These are the two primary locations creatine will be seen in the body. It is responsible for not only forming but also recycling adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is also known as the main source of the cell’s energy.95% of the body’s stores of creatine will be found in the muscles. The muscles can only store so much of it and once this maximum level is reached, the body breaks it down and it is excreted from the body.
For us to better understand creatine, we need to have knowledge of amino acids. They are organic compounds made up of amine and carboxyl functional groups with side chains. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen are the main components of amino acids. These organic compounds combine to create proteins. The building blocks of life are amino acids and proteins. When the body breaks down proteins in digestion, the leftovers are amino acids. The body uses them to create proteins which help the body perform many functions including growing, repairing body tissue, breaking down food, and so much more. The body can also use amino acids as a source of energy.
Types of Creatine
When it comes to supplementing creatine, we first need to look at dosage recommendations. A loading phase is common which increases the storage of creatine rapidly. To take this approach, it is recommended to consume 20 grams (split into 4 servings/day, 5 grams each time) every day for a week. After this loading period, to maintain these levels in your muscles continue taking approximately 3-5 grams per day. You can skip the loading phase if you wish but it will take about a month to get to the maximum storage level.
Next we will look at the various types of creatine. It can be incredibly overwhelming when you begin looking at the supplements available today. There are many ways creatine can be presented when it comes to supplementation.
Creatine ethyl ester – this type of creatine is not as effective as other forms. It does not absorb into the body well so for the most part it is not recommended for use.
Creatine monohydrate – this is the most common form of creatine. Most of the research you will find will be on this type.
Buffered creatine– this type of creatine has been manufactured with alkaline powder. There really are not any advantages to it, studies do not show any added benefits by choosing this type over the more popular monohydrate type.
Creatine hydrochloride (HCl) – this type is believed to be more soluble than others but science says that there has not been enough research on its use in humans to prove to be effective.
Liquid creatine – this type, in comparison to powdered forms, is not as stable. It has been shown that liquid creatine can break down before consuming and therefore isn’t effective.
Creatine magnesium chelate –this type of creatine has magnesium attached to it. Unfortunately, there is really no advantage to consuming this kind of creatine. Studies do not show it to be any more effective.
You can see from this list that the monohydrate type of creatine shows to be the most effective. We hope that this list helps you understand what you’re looking at when shopping for supplements. We will dig into a specific type of monohydrate creatine in a little bit. Before we get to that, let’s look at how creatine works in the body.