Creatine is easily the most widely recognized nutritional supplement on earth. But ironically, while people outside the athletic community think creatine is some type of anabolic steroid, the bulk of the people inside the athletic community think all creatine does is put water in your system just to make you look bigger without any real permanent muscle gains -all the while dehydrating the rest of your body. The truth of the matter is creatine is the top selling supplement for one single reason…creatine works!
Creatine is naturally comprised of three amino acids: arginine, glycine and methionine. Amino acids are the building blocks of all muscle tissue. Your body naturally produces about 2 grams of creatine per day, which is just enough to support a normal, non-athletic lifestyle. For those of us who are active athletic types, 2 grams of creatine just wont cut it and, unless we are using a creatine supplement, we have to rely on our diet to get more. The problem is, the best natural food source of creatine is red meat which contains a measly 2 grams of creatine per pound -most of which is completely destroyed when you cook it. And believe it or not, this goes for every nutrient… not just creatine!
If you really look at the way creatine supplementation works in your body, you would see that when you take a creatine supplement, you aren’t adding a muscle-building agent to your system like you do when you take steroids. What you are really doing is ensuring that your body has the nutrients it requires to build muscle and recover efficiently. I think creatine should be a part of every athlete’s regular diet! I like to think of it as adding gas to your car; you’re screwed without it. In this scenario, adding testosterone would be like adding Nitrous!
What most people don’t know about creatine is how it really works. I’ll try to explain it in very simple terms. Creatine is naturally stored within the muscle cell and is used to replenish energy during and after muscle contraction. When the muscle contracts it uses Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) for energy. In the process, ATP loses a phosphate molecule and the result is Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP). Then, to complete the cycle, ADP combines with creatine to create ATP again. In essence, your body’s ATP supply is dependant on creatine stores.
With this said it is easy to deduce, that if you increase the amount of creatine in your body, you in turn, increase the ability for your body to provide energy to your muscles. This is especially beneficial to athletes who require short quick burst of energy -not giving their body time to create creatine naturally. Sprinters, wrestlers, football players, bodybuilders… anyone who spends time in the weight room can benefit from creatine supplementation.
Something else to note about creatine… it requires bodily fluid (water) in order for it to be stored in the muscle. As a result, the muscle tissue will increase and look larger. This is called “Cell Volumization” and although some people consider it an unwanted side effect, it is not a bad thing! In fact, in order for creatine to work, this has to take place! Unfortunately, and this happens a lot, guys mistake the muscle cell volumization for water retention. They think that using creatine will smooth out the look of their muscles and this couldn’t be further from the truth! Water retention in the conventional sense, is the storage of water in the fat cells right beneath the skin -between the skin and the muscle. Actually, because creatine promotes muscle cell volumization, it works to reduce subcutaneous water retention resulting in fuller muscles and a leaner look at the same time! This is a good thing! And, it’s what makes creatine a great supplement for both mass and cutting cycles and, if you’ve ever tried it you’d know, that the “Pump” you get while on creatine is about as good as it gets! I know of some professional bodybuilders that take creatine all the way up to contest day because the increased water in the muscles gives the illusion of having more muscle mass overall and it continues to re-hydrate your muscles during the posedowns.
Oh… one more thing about creatine. Unlike many of the other supplements on the market right now, creatine supplementation was built on science! There are literally tons of clinical studies that support the effectiveness of creatine on muscle size, strength, and stamina. Granted, like every other supplement, there are a handful of poorly put together studies that show that creatine has little to no effect as well. But the overwhelming majority of studies clearly show that it is a very safe and effective supplement.
Not only is creatine a safe and legal dietary supplement; it is one of the most effective bodybuilding tools available! In fact, it’s not uncommon for someone to put on 8 pounds of mass in just the first few weeks of using it. And it works well during diet and cutting cycles as well. You could viably consider creatine the holy grail of all bodybuilding supplements! It’s the one that started it all and it won’t be going anywhere any time soon!
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