Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid occurring naturally in vertebrates. It helps to supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscles. It was first identified in 1832 by Michel Eugène Chevreul, who discovered it as a component of skeletal muscle.
Creatine is one of the products that Iovate Health Sciences International, a leading nutritional supplement company, sells. Actually, when the company started in 1995, Creatine 6000-ES was one of the first products they put on the market.
Research has shown that creatine is most effective in high-intensity training and ‘explosive’ activities. These include weight training and sports requiring short bursts of effort, such as sprinting, football, and baseball.
Creatine is usually marketed in flavored powders and mixed with liquid; it increases the body’s ability to produce energy quickly. More energy means harder and more frequent training.
A side effect of creatine is weight gain. Paul Greenhaff, Ph.D., professor of muscle metabolism at the University of Nottingham in England, says that the increase is quite rapid. The initial gain in the first week is from water and can be from two to four pounds. However, subsequent gains are in the muscles due to the increase in the workload.
Creatine is an “osmotically active substance,” so it pulls water into your muscle cells, which increases protein synthesis, Kerksick says. A study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that muscle fibers grow when a person takes creatine.
As Iovate Health Sciences International points out, the issue today is no longer why to take creatine – it’s when to take it to optimize performance. The truth is that there are a number of conflicting claims regarding the best time to take creatine for maximum effectiveness.
Option 1: Before a workout. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the chemical that creates energy within the cell structure. More ATP equals more power available to the muscles. More power leads to more activation of muscle fibers and, for example, heavier weights lifted. More weight equates to more muscle. Taking creatine before any activity boosts the amount of ATP.
Option 2: After a workout. The argument for taking creatine after a workout focuses on the fact that muscles are depleted of nutrients after strenuous activity. They are ready for a big supply of nutrients. If creatine is added to protein and carbohydrates, the body will absorb the powerful supplement and derive greater benefit from it.
Option 3: It doesn’t matter.The argument that before or after doesn’t matter is based on the assumption that there is no firm scientific evidence that favors one or the other.
The ‘after’ option appeared to receive support last year, following the results of research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. The conclusion, after a number of tests, read:
“Creatine supplementation plus resistance exercise increases fat-free mass and strength. Based on the magnitude inferences, it appears that consuming creatine immediately post-workout is superior to pre-workout vis a vis body composition and strength.”
But, a closer inspection of the actual results is not so conclusive. The fact is that when the researchers analyzed the results on a case-by-case basis, they only saw a trend suggesting that there may be a difference.
The only unchallenged conclusions from the research were that creatine is effective and that the optimal dose was between 2 -5 grams per day. Basically, it was a case of whichever option works best for you – that’s the one to use.
Iovate Health Sciences International says that it’s important that creatine and all products which contain this supplement are taken in the correct quantities, and at the optimum time. But they recognize that the variations of the human body are such that some flexibility is inevitable.
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