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Creatine: Nature's Power Supply

The Feel 21 Health Report

If you are male or female, young or a bit older - and you just want to get or stay in good shape, then you may want to take creatine.

According to Ray Sahelian, MD and Dave Tuttle, authors of Creatine: Nature's Muscle Builder, approximately 95 percent of the body's creatine is located in the skeletal muscles, while the remaining five percent is found in the heart, brain, and in men, testes.

"The human body gets most of the creatine it needs from food or dietary supplements," they write. "Creatine is easily absorbed from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream. When dietary consumption is inadequate to meet the body's needs, a limited supply can be synthesized from the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine. This creatine production occurs in the liver, pancreas and kidneys."

The body creates creatine through protein metabolism, explain Edmund Burke, PhD and Daniel Gastelu, MS, MSF, in their book, Avery's Sports Nutrition Almanac.

The Creatine and ATP Connection

Creatine is used primarily as fuel for energy, and it has an intimate relationship with adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is universally known as the energy currency of the cell. Creatine is responsible for catalyzing muscle contraction. Explain Sahelian and Tuttle, "Creatine is an

essential player in one of the three primary energy systems used for muscle contracton. It exists in two different forms within the muscle fiber: as free (chemically unbound) creatine and as creatine phosphate. This latter form of creatine makes up two-thirds of the total creatine supply."

As the muscle is contracting, the adenosine triphosphate cleaves off a phosphate molecule, thus becoming adenosine diphosphate. Essentially, creatine phosphate donates its phosphate molecule to the adenosine diphosphate, turning it back into adenosine triphosphate, ready once again to be used for muscular contraction.

The longer term effect of abundantly circulating creatine in the body is continuous recycling of ADP into ATP, resulting in the allowance of more muscular contraction for longer periods of time. This then enables longer workouts with repetitive weightlifting routines, leading to larger muscles and gains in strength in a shorter time than what could be derived without creatine supplementation.

"This greater ATP resynthesis also keeps your body from relying on another energy system called glycolysis, which has lactic acid as a byproduct," explain Sahelian and Tuttle. Lactic acid is responsible for creating the burning sensation felt during exercise; muscle movement stops when there's too much lactic acid buildup. But, when you take creatine, you regenerate ATP continuously, preventing too much lactic acid production.

Creatine is also a natural aid in muscle building, point out Burke and Gastelu. A placebo-controlled study of two groups of football players showed that those taking 15 g of creatine daily for 28 days had a significantly greater increase in muscle mass (5.3 pounds verus 3.9 pounds in the placebo group). This study was published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, in 1998.

Write Burke and Gastelu, "it stands to reason that if creatine lets your muscles perform more work at a higher intensity, you're going to be able to stimulate even more muscle growth with creatine than you would without creatine."

Creatine, it is postulated, seems to enhance the body's capacity to make myosin and actin, which are two prominent muscle proteins; these two proteins must be in adequate supply for muscle cells in order for them to continue their ability to contract.

For you to utilize creatine effectively, you must start out in what is known as a loading phase, which basically means ingesting enough creatine to first saturate the muscles with the substance. The loading phase requires the user to ingest approximately 20 to 25 grams of creatine daily, perhaps in four or five divided doses of five grams for five to seven days. Following this loading phase is the maintenance phase - product labels should dictate how many scoops of creatine powder or capsules this requires.

According to Burke and Gastelu, those people who have the lowest levels of creatine in their muscles to begin with achieve the most pronounced effects through supplementation with creatine. Believe it or not, they point out, women have slightly higher levels of creatine than do men, and not so surprisingly, vegetarians have lower levels of creatine. This group will likely receive benefits from supplementing with creatine, as this substance is naturally occurring in meat.

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This article is reprinted with permission from Vitamin Retailer magazine and is provided for educational purposes only by your local retailer. No part of this article is intended as medical advice. Always consult your health care provider for any medical problems.

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