The benefits of creatine are clear and, for the most part, accepted as true: creatine helps increase high-power performance and increases muscle mass. But do you know how it works?
HOW CREATINE WORKS
The energy that allows your muscles to contract comes from ATP (adrenosine triphosphate). When the movement is complete, a phosphate molecule from ATP is broken off, turning it into ADP (adrenosine diphosphate). In order to rebuild itself, ADP pulls a phosphate molecule, creatine phosphate, from the body’s stores. This turns the ADP back into ATP, ready to supply energy for another muscle contraction. Our bodies naturally create creatine from amino acids (primarily in the kidney and liver) then transport it in the blood for use by the muscles. The problem with this is that your body has a limited supply of stored creatine. However, when taken as a supplement, you can literally add “natural energy” to your body. In other words, you can achieve more reps under heavier weight.
HOW TO SUPPLEMENT
If you eat animal protein, 5 grams a day is enough - since you’re getting creatine from red meat, chicken, pork, and/or fish. If you are a vegetarian, it may be good to “pre-load” for a week at 20 grams a day, then pull it back to 5 grams per day. Either way, cycling off after a few months is always a good idea. As for what kind of creatine to take - 95% of all creatine studies are done with creatine monohydrate, so make sure to use this form as it is the safest and most tested.
Remember, always ask your doctor before taking any supplement. If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, regularly take any prescription medication or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (which is hard on your kidneys), are over the age of 40 (kidney function starts declining slowly after 30), or have any history of liver or kidney disease, do not take creatine without the consent of your doctor.
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