Thursday, December 8, 2011

Even Nana Takes Creatine

by Kris Pitcher

There's a lot of buzz about creatine lately and yes, even Nana takes it! So, what is it and do you need it? We can start with the easy part of that question. Creatine is an amino acid.

Building blocks!
Amino acids are protein building blocks. Creatine helps supply energy to cells, particularly muscles. It's found in meat and fish and our body makes it in our liver, kidneys and pancreas. Remember we can make non-essential amino acids from essential amino acids. Oh, you know I'm starting to get excited!

Our body converts it into creatine phosphate or phosphocreatine and stores it in our muscles. Until we need it for energy. (This is where the magic happens!) Then our body converts the phosphocreatine into adenosinetriphosphate, or ATP, for energy.

So creatine doesn't give you energy! It's stored to be converted into ATP - which gives you energy! If you feel a "burst of energy" when you take your creatine...there are two things happening. One, there is likely a stimulant ingredient along with it, and B (just kidding) two, there is a psychological effect because we've taken something.

Why do people take it if we get it from our food? People take it to improve performance and to increase muscle mass. When we aren't sure we are getting enough of something from our food sources, we supplement. And it's not just athletes who are using creatine.

Yes, Nana is an athlete. She lifts weights 3 times per week. But she's also an older adult. Many older adults take creatine to increase or maintain their muscle mass. Very important as we age. Plus, I love it when she says, "I need more of that white powder."

It's also used for congestive heart failure, depression, bipolar disorder, Parkinson's disease, diseases of the muscles & nerves, & to slow the progression of Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS). It's used for rheumatoid arthritis, and for muscular dystropies as well.

The use of creatine can cause stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea. It also causes weight gain due to it's muscle volumizing effect. It draws water from our body into our muscles. Our muscles are about 70% water. So, we want to be sure to drink plenty of water when we're taking creatine.

People complain about this effect, but it's doing it's job. When our muscles are fully hydrated and full of energy at the ready, we can convert that more work, recruit more fibers and increase our muscle mass. That's what we want!

In high doses it's thought to be harmful to the kidneys, liver and to heart function. But studies haven't concluded this yet. It can also cause irregular heart beat for some people.

There are many cases where loading is appropriate. It is however generally accepted that for the average user (all us athletes out here) loading is not necessary unless we might be vegetarians with very restricted diets. That being said, a typical dosing is accepted to be between 2-5 gm/day. It is best taken following your workout, combined with your post workout shake.

There's the skinny on creatine. It's up to you to determine if you should take it. It's a relatively inexpensive performance enhancing tool. And  as in most cases, more isn't better. Ladies, the 5 gm dose is for the guys. If your tummy hurts, check your dosing.

And quit worrying about the weight gain. Your goal is to add a few pounds of muscle this year. You'll discontinue use of the creatine in plenty of time to drop that water weight before your show. My advice, stay off the scale. *Smile*

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