Although creatine offers an array of benefits, most people think of it simply as a supplement that bodybuilders and other athletes use to gain strength and muscle mass. Nothing could be further from the truth.

People who don’t follow the research on creatine are often stunned to find out how much research has been done, and how many uses creatine may have for health, fitness, and longevity. Why the mainstream media has ignored this fact – in favor of outlandish and poorly substantiated scare stories – is unclear, but there has always been a double standard in the mainstream media when it comes to nutritional supplements.

This article will cover much of creatine information and what creatine has to offer as a safe and inexpensive supplement with an exceptionally wide range of potential uses.

Though I will go into depth about each, creatine may :

  • improve sarcopenia (a loss of muscle mass due to aging)
  • improve brain function of healthy and damaged brains
  • modulate inflammation.
  • treat diseases effecting the neuro muscular system, such as muscular dystrophy
  • mitigate wasting syndromes/muscle atrophy
  • reduce fatigue
  • treat gyrate atrophy
  • improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
  • improve Huntington’s disease and other mitochondrial cytopathies
  • increase growth hormone (GH) levels, to those seen with exercise
  • reduce homocysteine levels
  • possibly improve the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • improve cardiac function in those with congestive heart failure
  • Creatine is proving to be one of the most promising, well researched, and safe
  • supplements ever discovered for an exceptionally wide range of uses.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is formed in the human body from the amino acids methionine, glycine and arginine. The average person’s body contains approximately 120 grams of creatine stored as creatine phosphate. Certain foods such as beef, herring and salmon, are fairly high in creatine.

However, a person would have to eat pounds of these foods daily to equal what can be obtained in one teaspoon of powdered creatine. Creatine is directly related to adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is formed in the  powerhouses of the cell, the mitochondria.

ATP is often referred to as the “universal energy molecule” used by every cell in our bodies. An increase in oxidative stress coupled with a cell’s inability to produce essential energy molecules such as ATP, is a hallmark of the aging cell and is found in many disease states.

Key factors in maintaining health are the ability to: (a) prevent mitochondrial damage to DNA caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) and (b) prevent the decline in ATP synthesis, which reduces whole body ATP levels. It would appear that maintaining antioxidant status (in particular intracellular glutathione) and ATP levels are essential in fighting the aging process.

It is interesting to note that many of the most promising anti-aging nutrients such as CoQ10, NAD, acetyl-l-carnitine and lipoic acid are all taken to maintain the ability of the mitochondria to produce high energy compounds such as ATP and reduce oxidative stress.

The ability of a cell to do work is directly related to its ATP status and the health of the mitochondria. Heart tissue, neurons in the brain and other highly active tissues are very sensitive to this system. Even small changes in ATP can have profound effects on the tissues’ ability to function properly. Of all the nutritional supplements available to us currently, creatine appears to be the most effective for maintaining or raising ATP levels.

How does Creatine work?

In a nutshell, creatine works to help generate energy. When ATP loses a phosphate molecule and becomes adenosine diphosphate (ADP), it must be converted back to ATP to produce energy. Creatine is stored in the human body as creatine phosphate (CP) also called phosphocreatine. When ATP is depleted, it can be recharged by CP. That is, CP donates a phosphate molecule to the ADP, making it ATP again.

An increased pool of CP means faster and greater recharging of ATP, which means more work can be performed. This is why creatine has been so successful for athletes. For short-duration explosive sports, such as sprinting, weight lifting and other anaerobic endeavors, ATP is the energy system used.

To date, research has shown that ingesting creatine can increase the total body pool of CP which leads to greater generation of energy for anaerobic forms of exercise, such as weight training and sprinting. Other effects of creatine may be increases in protein synthesis and increased cell hydration.

Creatine has had spotty results in affecting performance in endurance sports such as swimming, rowing and long distance running, with some studies showing no positive effects on performance in endurance athletes. Whether or not the failure of creatine to improve performance in endurance athletes was due to the nature of the sport or the design of the studies is still being debated.

Creatine can be found in the form of creatine monohydrate, creatine citrate, creatine phosphate, creatine-magnesium chelate and even liquid versions. However, the vast majority of research to date showing creatine to have positive effects on pathologies, muscle mass and performance used the monohydrate form. Creatine monohydrate is over 90% absorbable, contrary to what some companies and “gurus” have claimed. What follows is a review of some of the more interesting and promising research studies with creatine.

Creatine and sarcopenia

Creatine has been shown to increase strength and muscle mass in young adults in literally dozens of studies at this point. However, there was scant data examining its effects on older adults until more recently.

One of the greatest threats to an aging adult’s ability to stay healthy and functional is the steady loss of lean bodymass (muscle and bone in particular) as they age. The medical term for the loss of muscle is sarcopenia, and it’s starting to get the recognition it deserves by the medical and scientific community.

For decades, that community has focused on the loss of bone mass (osteoporosis) of aging adults but paid little attention to the loss of muscle mass which effects a person’s ability to be functional as they age just as much – if not more so – then a loss of bone mass. What defines sarcopenia from a clinical perspective? Sarcopenia can be defined as the age-related loss of muscle mass, strength and functionality.

One thing is very clear: it’s far easier, cheaper, and more effective to prevent sarcopenia, or at least greatly slow its progression, then it is to treat it later in life. Sarcopenia generally appears after age of 40 and accelerates after the age of approximately 75.

Although sarcopenia is mostly seen in physically inactive individuals, it is also commonly found in individuals who remain physically active throughout their lives. Thus, it’s clear that although physical activity is essential, physical inactivity is not the only contributing factor to sarcopenia.

Just as with osteoporosis, sarcopenia is a multifactorial process that may include decreased hormone levels (in particular, GH, IGF-1, and testosterone), a lack of adequate protein and calories in the diet, oxidative stress, inflammatory processes, as well as a loss of motor nerve cells.

Conclusion

Well, I hope this article helped you. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I will be more than happy to help you.

Regards,

Rounak

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