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Cover slide: on Creatine and Refuting B.S.

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The Consistency Project
The Consistency Project
on Creatine and Refuting B.S.
The Consistency Project
The Consistency Project
on Creatine and Refuting B.S.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is one of the most researched supplements on the market! At the time of this writing, there have been more than 500 studies about it. 

It is a non-protein amino acid compound. This means it’s not used to build proteins in the body like other amino acids, but it has a similar chemical structure. 

Most of the creatine in your body (95%) is found in muscle cells, where most people with a normal diet have 60-80% saturation. Said another way, there is often 20-40% more storage capacity in the muscle for more creatine.

About 1-2% of this intramuscular creatine is degraded each day into creatinine and lost in the urine. This is why we need to replenish creatine – half of which tends to come from the diet and the other half is made by the liver and kidneys from other amino acids. The primarily dietary sources of creatine are red meat and seafood. A normal diet contains 1-2g/day of creatine which can meet the normal turnover… but body size, musculature, as well as training intensity and goals may change the daily needs.

Creatine’s Role in Performance

As discussed in the How to Fuel Performance episode, there are three metabolic pathways that produce the energy that allow our muscles to contract and do work. 

One of these pathways is the Phosphagen pathway, which is also known as the Phosphocreatine pathway. So, the name gives away the fact that creatine is important in it!

Energy for muscle contraction is stored in the bonds of the molecule ATP – or adenosine triphosphate. As you can see in the name, “triphosphate” indicates there are three phosphate molecules. When the molecule transforms from three down to two phosphate groups (adenosine diphosphate aka ADP), it gives off the energy we need for muscle contraction. But then the resulting molecule is diphosphate (with just two phosphate molecules).

To recycle that molecule back to the triphosphate form, it’s creatine that donates a phosphate group! That is because when creatine is stored in the muscle it is stored with a phosphate molecule so it becomes a donor to regenerate ATP from ADP.

You can imagine having more creatine (with more phosphate molecules) will influence how much energy you can produce – in this phosphocreatine pathway. Remember, this is one of the three metabolic pathways for how we create energy, and it’s limited to activities that are very short in duration and very high in intensity. Like a maximum effort 100-meter sprint lasting 10 seconds primarily relies on the phosphocreatine pathway.

And the amount of energy that can be generated will be limited if there is not enough phosphate around to keep turning ADP back into ATP.

How Big of a Performance Effect to Expect

As discussed in both the caffeine and beta-alanine podcasts, when a study claims there is a performance effect it’s important to understand how big that performance effect is. 

For example, if taking a supplement improves your mile time by a second, that’s not that compelling. There maybe a couple people in the world where an additional second on a mile time is meaningful and they are professional athletes where the difference may be a medal. To 99% of people, more performance gains (ie 30 second or more improvements) will be made with training consistency and intensity.

Conversely, if a supplement takes 60 seconds off a mile time, that is very compelling. While it is not a hard line, generally when a supplement consistently shows performance bumps >5%, this is something to pay attention to – even for the every day athlete. 

The performance effect with creatine is often in the 10-20% (!!) range for high-intensity and repetitive exercises. It is important to note, however, that not every athlete experienced performance improvements as factors like the type of training and intensity can determine it’s relevance.

What is the proper dosing strategy for creatine? Is it safe? Will I gain weight?

To find out more about creatine, check out the podcast episode linked above. (If you open in Apple or Spotify, scroll back to the date at the top of the page!).

Additional topics in the episode include:

– The type of creatine to use, how much, and if you need a loading phase

– Who should take creatine and why

– Combining caffeine and creatine

– The myths and realities of creatine like kidney damage, hair loss, weight gain, bloating, and more!

Referenced Articles

Antonio et al., 2021. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation
Bird, 2003. Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: a brief review
International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand on Creatine (2017). 

Referenced Episodes

On Beta-Alanine and Belief
On Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Heart Disease
On How to Fuel Performance
On Caffeine’s Effect on Performance
Quick Bites #9, Additives Edition

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