Creatine supplementation represents one of the most significant advances in the history of sports supplementation. It has been scientifically proven to significantly enhance strength, aid recovery and accelerate gains in lean muscle mass. For example, in one university study, test subjects who were given creatine for 12 weeks in combination with a weight-training programme, gained 24 percent more strength in bench press and 32 percent more strength in the squat. They also gained twice as much lean muscle.
To understand the importance of creatine, one needs to know about adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is basically the “power” behind your muscles. ATP is consumed by a muscle cell within the first few seconds of activity. It is then resynthesised by the body using three energy systems, the first of which is known as the creatine phosphate system. Supplementing with creatine ensures that your muscle cells are loaded with creatine phosphate to maximise the energy available from this first energy system.
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Creatine is available as a sport supplement in several formulations. The most basic and least expensive is creatine monohydrate. Recent advances in sports supplementation have seen the emergence of a whole family of creatine compounds including creatine malate, creatine ethyl ester and creatine gluconate. These different formulations are designed with the objective of improving what is known as the “delivery mechanism”. The delivery mechanism refers to the efficiency by which creatine is transported to and absorbed by the muscle cell.
Creatine can either be taken in a “loading cycle” or “non-loading cycle”. The “loading cycle” is usually five to seven days to quickly saturate the muscle cells with creatine. This is followed by a maintenance cycle of up to 12 weeks. The “loading cycle” is used mostly by bodybuilders and strength athletes. However, with the “non-loading cycle”, the same muscle content of creatine is achieved over approximately 28 days.
The suggested daily dose when “loading” is 20g divided across two to four doses per day and during maintenance, 10g per day, depending on the type of creatine used. “Non-loading” is 10g per day, depending upon the type of creatine used.
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