This ergogenic aid allows the athlete to train harder for longer
Creatine supplements can help athletes to train harder - Tony Paladin explains how
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a substance stored in one's muscles, yielding instant energy through the cleaving of the phosphate bond from an adenosine molecule. Stored ATP is, therefore, the only fuel capable of generating 100% muscle contraction. Once ATP is exhausted, however, other fuels dominate the energy supply, all of which are converted to ATP before they are used (Carbohydrates, fats, proteins and Creatine phosphate).
The average person stores enough free ATP for 4 to 5 seconds of maximum muscular contraction: enough to do one squat, throw a javelin or run 50 metres. Because it is the only way that one can ever put a maximum load on one's muscles, muscle contractions fuelled by stored ATP is unquestionably the most effective way of building strength. However, this is also the most dangerous way to train as maximal muscle contractions carry the greatest risk of ligament, tendon and connective tissue damage.
Following 4 to 5 seconds of maximal exercise, a substance known as Creatine phosphate (CP) becomes the dominant energy yielder, permitting near-maximal muscle contractions for another 5 to 6 seconds. This ATP/CP interaction is anaerobic and uses no glycogen, glucose, fatty acids or amino acids. Maximal exercise extended past the 5 second ATP barrier into the CP system of up to 12 seconds (ATP+CP) becomes much safer as the amount of microtrauma is significantly less than ATP alone.
As an adenosine phosphate molecule is removed (becoming an adenosine diphosphate [ADP] molecule), a CP molecule immediately jumps into action, donating its phosphate molecule to replenish the ADP molecule back to an ATP, leaving a free-floating Creatine molecule. Following a muscle contraction, most of the free Creatine and phosphate join up to regenerate CP. This process, however, requires oxygen, which means that anaerobic exercise has to be stopped to allow this to happen. Following maximal exercise, this process takes about 5 minutes for 90% CP regeneration. This, therefore, means that for optimal strength gains, the athlete should ideally wait 5 minutes between sets before doing the next set - a long time!
This is where Creatine supplementation fits in as it facilitates a full load of Creatine phosphate in every muscle. It allows the athlete to train harder for longer. The oral form of Creatine monohydrate is the most digestible. The amount of intake depends on how much muscle there is to fill and how much exercise the person does.
For an athlete to warrant taking Creatine, there should be a minimum training load of 5 or more days a week and training maximal resistance at a high-intensity. Therefore, to reap any benefit from Creatine whatsoever, the athlete has to train HARD.
A recommended dose of Creatine for hard-training athletes is approximately 0.1g/kg lean mass (lean mass is FAT-FREE mass, not total body weight). Doses should be divided into smaller mini-doses that should be taken before, during and after exercise). Doses must be taken with a sugar drink (such as fruit juice) and after a meal.
Doses should not be taken on an ongoing basis as there is evidence of Creatine supplementation interfering with the body's metabolism over the long term. Overdosing should also be avoided at all costs as excess Creatine has been shown to interfere with the regulation of the kidneys resulting in water retention.
In conclusion, young athletes do not need Creatine as the only time benefit is gained with Creatine is during maximal resistance training. Young athletes do not need this kind of training and therefore no need for Creatine.
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About the Author
Tony Paladin is a qualified personal fitness trainer, spinning instructor and rowing coach. He has represented South Africa in Rowing 7 times at various World Championships and World Cups, been 12 times national rowing champion and under 23 World Championship silver medallist. He has a BSc. WITS (Human Kinetics, Physiology and Psychology) and is currently studying BSc. Biokinetics Honours.