What is Creatine and what are its benefits?

What is creatine? The creatine is a tripeptide molecule  with three amino acids (L-arginine, L-glycine and L-methionine) , endogenously produced in the liver and kidneys and obtained from an omnivorous diet at a rate of about 1 gram per day.

It’s not a vitamin, nor a mineral … nor a steroid! It can be found in foods such as meat, eggs and fish , with uncooked beef 5g of creatine per 1.1kg of meat. [1-4]

What is creatine?

Creatine is phosphorylated by creatine kinase to form phosphocreatine and transported through the blood to sites with high energy needs, such as skeletal muscle and brain. While a person has on average 120 grams of creatine, about 60% of total creatine can be found in the form of phosphocreatine, while the remaining percentage is free creatine. (Doubts about the types of creatine? Read in the other article of Dr. Ines Fernandes which are).

This phosphocreatine, by increasing the muscle’s ability to form ATP (a molecule that is considered the energy unit in our body), allows us to produce energy quickly and support cell function and muscle contraction for a longer time – if we did not have creatine, the Muscle contraction would only take a few seconds! [5-8] So this is what creatine is.

What is creatine: what are the benefits?

Supplementation and what is creatine has been increasingly recognized by the scientific community as a key factor in increasing energy production and lean mass in athletes . It is a highly researched molecule, with more than 200 studies to date, and its effectiveness is more than proven. It is extremely safe for most people and offers a variety of health benefits with neuroprotective and cardioprotective properties. [5-7, 9] See below the main benefits:

1) Musculoskeletal system

Phosphocreatine, when transported to muscle, is used to deliver type IIb (fast twitch fibers) muscle fibers immediately and to ensure that the muscles can make more contractions and do not become prematurely tired. [10-12]

A supplement with creatine causes the muscles to store more phosphocreatine, allowing even more muscle contractions, more repetitions, endurance, and a more intense work with more strength and muscle gains. Actually, what is creatine? The  creatine is the reference supplement to improve power , with studies demonstrating a 12% power increase to 20% and power of 12% to 26% power with creatine monohydrate. [13-17]

It is also known that our mitochondrial and exercise production functions diminish over time, and some studies show that a creatine supplement can prevent and lessen this ‘burnout’ . Thus, there is the hypothesis that creatine has beneficial effects in the treatment of sarcopenia(generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass and muscle strength with aging), especially when coupled with an adequate training regimen.

What is creatine: Benefits also in post-exercise muscle regeneration

Consequently, in recent years, what is creatine has also been studied in other contexts, namely in post-exercise muscle regeneration. Studies have shown that, although their protective effect is not very large, it does indeed create a degree of protection against muscle wasting by decreasing myostatin levels, improving cell signaling of certain cells and reducing protein degradation. After a resistance training, which can be excessively tiring, creatine helps reduce muscle cell damage and inflammation , helping to promote a complete recovery. [18-22]

Moreover, a scientific review with more than 150 studies shows that individuals who take creatine supplementation have an increase in lean mass by about 2.2% and, consequently, total body mass and body volume, as well as a decrease of 3.2% in body fat! A study in women found up to a 60% increase in lean mass as compared to a group without supplementation! [23-26]

But although almost all studies suggest that adequate creatine supplementation increases body weight by approximately 1 to 2 kg, we can not forget that the muscle is 73% water and with creatine supplementation, there will be an increase in water retention within of cells, especially at an early stage – if we gain ten pounds to use creatine, about 7.3 kg are water!

However, long-term weight gain seems to be largely due to an increase in muscle mass. [24,27] However, it should be noted that not everyone benefits in the same way from creatine supplementation . Of course, vegan and vegetarian people have slightly lower levels of creatinecompared to people following an omnivorous diet, and by adding creatine to food, because they are more sensitive to what creatine creatine is, they will increase slightly higher in total creatine and phosphocreatine and greater overall benefit. [28-32]

The researchers also found that creatine greatly increases levels of alkaline phosphatase (an important marker for bone growth), and that may have benefit as adjunctive therapy in bone fractures or in the treatment of osteoporosis. Also, what is creatine and the fact that it delivers more energy? This causes the person to move more and the bone tissue needs daily stimulation of the compression force to stay healthy. It can be said thus that creatine can help indirectly in the preservation of bone mass and prevention of osteoporosis. 

2) Neurological system

It has been found that creatine works as a neuroprotective substance, protecting and enhancing the survival of nerve cells when subjected to noxious stimuli.

More and more studies show that creatine is essential in brain function, both in congenital deficiencies related to the production and storage of creatine, in neurodegenerative disorders, in cranioencephalic trauma and even in a normal brain. During the processes of energy metabolism, there is production of several reactive oxygen species. These molecules are neurotoxic (responsible for causing damage to the cellular structures), and can lead to the death of the most sensitive cells, mainly found in the heart and brain. [1-5]

The benefits of what creatine is doing causes cells to have more energy reserves and consequently more neuroprotection against these insults, helping to increase the ability to survive the metabolic and physical trauma associated with these conditions, and to improve function specifically short-term memory and mental fatigue. [6-9]

In fact, what is creatine for the neurological system is currently being studied as a possible therapeutic option in Parkinson’s disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. [10-12]

3) Cardiovascular system

Since cardiac cells are dependent on ATP levels to function properly, several studies have decided to analyze various cardiac parameters before and after creatine supplementation.

It is known that in people suffering from heart failure, creatine levels will be decreased and. as such. the muscular metabolic response to exercise will also be lower. This causes a great limitation in the day-to-day life of people with chronic heart failure, causing them to have less resistance and muscle strength and easily fatigue.

Although creatine supplementation does not appear to have benefits in heart rate or ejection fraction of the heart (amount of blood present in the left ventricle at the end of the diastole and expelled during heart contraction), [13,14] this seems to increase performance and anaerobic capacity slightly. This is because, as in heart failure there is a lack of energy components, supplementation with “energy precursors” like creatine will actually increase energy levels and improve strength and endurance, allowing a more functional life in these people. [11, 15-17] Even in athletes, there are studies that demonstrate the advantages of creatine to improve anaerobic capacity in sprints compared to placebo. [18-20]

Another aspect has been regarding homocysteine. This amino acid is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, with elevated levels of homocysteine ​​associated with vascular damage and diseases such as hypertension. Creatine strongly influences homocysteine ​​concentrations and creatine supplementation may decrease plasma homocysteine ​​levels by about 25% , protecting the cells from vascular damage caused by this molecule, although further studies are needed to confirm these facts. [21-24]

creatine

4) Metabolic system

Although data are limited, some studies suggest that creatine may increase levels of growth hormone , similar to the response that occurs when exercising intensively.

In a study in which healthy, resting male subjects ingested 20 grams of creatine in a single dose , levels of GH increased to 83 ± 45% were found after 6 hours. [25] However, there was also great inter-individual variability in the hours at which the GH peak occurred and during exercise itself, creatine supplementation curiously suppressed growth hormone secretion of 5-35% . [26] While it is true that creatine has anabolic properties in muscle, its influence on the effect on growth hormone still needs to be better studied. [27,28] A peak in testosterone levels also appears to occur in some studies, but this situation also needs to be better analyzed. [29,30]

However, it is known that one of the mechanisms of creatine to increase anabolism is through increased systemic methylation, a key process in the regulation of gene expression and protein synthesis. The molecule SAM (S-Adenosyl Methionine) is the main involved in this process of the body’s methylation and the effects of what is creatine will cause an increase in methylation and anabolism of the whole body. [31-33]

What is creatine: Benefits in the treatment of diabetes

Creatine may also help treat diabetes because, despite having no apparent influence on fasting blood glucose, it causes an 11-22% reduction in postprandial peak blood glucose, improving glucose tolerance. However, although it is known that there is an increased expression of glucose transporters and the availability of muscle glycogen, the exact mechanism of how this happens still needs to be better studied. [34-36]

Because creatine improves symptoms of other pathologies involving lack of energy , it is being investigated whether this may help in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia . [37, 38] In these diseases, there are lower levels of phosphocreatine and ATP compared to healthy individuals, and people could potentially improve with the use of creatine supplements.

Studies with supplementation of 400 mg / kg / day in children and adolescents with post-trauma brain lesions demonstrate a reduction of fatigue levels from 90% to about 10%! [39] It can further improve symptomatically in depression, especially in women, by increasing serotonin levels. However, as in other situations, further studies are needed to confirm this.

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