Out of all the supplements on the market these days creatine has become one of the highest researched and been proven to be the second most effective in muscle growth, maintenance and recovery second only to whey protein. Creatine however with all its years of research is still a misunderstood supplement with many myths floating around on the internet leading many to abandon hope for it as it all becomes a bit to confusing. If you are serious about your training and want to optimise your performance I strongly urge you to continue reading and gain a better understanding of how it works and how best to supplement with it.
Creatine is a substance that is produced naturally in the body by the liver and kidneys at a rate of approximately 2g per day. Most creatine is sent from these organs to the heart and skeletal muscles. Once it reaches the skeletal muscle it is then stored as creatine phosphate.
During exercise the muscle fibres use an energy substance within the muscle cells called ATP to contract. If the athlete is pushing their body such as in strength work or high intensity exercise these ATP stores are depleted and the body then uses glycogen stored from carbohydrates to push further. This process of converting glycogen to ATP however takes atleast 20 seconds and doesnt kick in in time to allow you to push out that one extra rep. This is where creatine phosphate is utilised turning to ATP in less than a second for further energy, as it is used in the time between where ATP is depleted and before glycogen is able to create more ATP.
For example, let’s say your going for a heavy duty bench press. Your going for four to six monster reps with a heavy weight. You have enough ATP stores in your muscle to do 5 to 10 seconds of intense work, probably one or two reps. Thereafter, your body will begin to search for creatine phosphate for additional energy.
Diet alone provides very little source of creatine for the amount required for athletes pushing their bodies through intense workouts. This is where supplementation comes in to allow you to push your body that 5% further.
The second great benefit of creatine supplementation is that the strored creatine phosphate actively absorbs more water increasing the size of muscle cells. Muscle cell size is directly proportional to strength.
Now that you’re understanding the benefits of creatine the question is which one is right for you? Here is a brief explanation of each type:
Creatine Monohydrate – The cheapest creatine on the market and also the most researched. Shown time and time again in the literature to enhance muscle hypertrophy, strength gains and aid recovery. General serving is recommended at 5g per day. This is the gold standard of creatine supplementation.
Micronised Creatine Monohydrate – This creatine has had its particles split further in size so that there are more portions to it. This increases the surface area available thus increasing its ability to be absorbed. It is also considerably more expensive. This type is recommended for those with digestive issues. There have been no studies showing that it is more effective.
Creatine Ethyl Ester – This is creatine with a ethyl ester attached to it. The idea is that a normal creatine monohydrate molecule has one positively charged end, and one negatively charged end, and that can potentially cause for less absorption, and by adding an ester to it, you essentially get rid of that positive and negative end and it actually gets absorbed a little bit better. In the studies the effectiveness of this product over monohydrate is roughly 5% better however it can be 2-3 times the price.
Creatine Citrate – Similar to the ethyl ester in regards to having another molecule attached to increase absorption however studies show little to no benefit over standard creatines.
The bottom line here is don’t overpay for fancy marketing schemes. Stick with the basics as they have been proven time and time to be just as effective and your wallet will thank you.