Creatine is a food supplement used by many athletes. But what are the effects and why is it important in sports nutrition? In this article, Nutrimuscle explains in detail the effects of creatine.
What is creatine?
Creatine is a non-essential amino acid derivative present in the body and certain food products, notably meat. Long considered a doping product, creatine had a bad reputation until the 2000s. Today, it is no longer on the list of products prohibited for athletes, and everyone can benefit from its effects.
What are the effects of creatine?
Increased energy and muscle mass
Once stored in the muscles, creatine produces energy. Indeed, a precursor of ATP, creatine is essential during short and intense efforts, which require a lot of energy. With creatine, an athlete's muscle power increases by around 4%.
Creatine increases muscle mass. Indeed, it stimulates protein synthesis and boosts the natural secretion of anabolic hormones. In addition, it increases the number of stem cells present in the muscles.
Scientific studies show that after a 12-week creatine treatment, three times greater muscle hypertrophy occurs as well as a strength gain 40% greater than a result with a placebo. On average, it causes muscle gain of 4.3 kg.
Impact on cognitive performance
In the context of exams or brain development, creatine optimizes concentration and learning. In children with learning difficulties, there is a marked improvement in memory and better language development. In students, creatine may be ideal before exams. By using it over several weeks, brain creatine increases by around 10%, resulting in an improvement in intellectual performance.
Creatine also has a protective action on the brain. This activates the protective genes of the nervous system, increases energy reserves and slows the onset of fatigue. It is therefore useful at all ages, including the elderly to protect them from brain degeneration.
Age-related diseases (Parkinson's, Huntington's, Alzheimer's) and the risk of stroke are less likely to occur with creatine. This eliminates substances toxic to neurons (glutamate, homocysteine, cholesterol, free radicals), responsible for the appearance of degenerative diseases.
Protection of the body and strengthening of the immune system
Creatine protects against many diseases including myopathies, neurodegenerative diseases, cancers, type 2 diabetes and rheumatic diseases.
In addition, it has an antioxidant effect on the body. Heavy metals that circulate freely in the body without a protective molecule have an oxidizing effect on cells. Creatine coats iron molecules, increasing the production of uric acid. The oxidative effect due to physical activity is reduced by 30%.
Creatine has been shown to be effective in several treatments for congestive heart failure. These include gyral atrophy, insulin insensitivity, cancer cell proliferation and cholesterol.
Its action on the brain also protects it from neurotoxicity, depression and bipolar disorders. It also helps fight stress.
Better muscle recovery
Supplementing with creatine helps improve and accelerate muscle recovery. Indeed, creatine minimizes muscle catabolism and promotes the storage of muscle glycogen. In addition, it protects cells from free radicals thanks to its anti-oxidant action. It therefore contributes to muscle recovery and muscle building.
Are there any harmful effects?
It is important to remember that creatine is not a doping product because the body naturally possesses it. However, there are beliefs about this amino acid derivative and that it may have side effects. Among these beliefs, we find in particular the fact that it causes hair loss, that it cannot be consumed with caffeine or that it promotes kidney problems.
Creatine facilitates water retention, which allows the production of muscle mass. However, it is not responsible for dehydration and to date there are no clinical cases based on this idea. Generally speaking, athletes need to hydrate more due to protein ingestion.
If you stick to the dosage, there is no risk of side effects. In case of excessive use of creatine, you may experience digestive problems or even more severe stomach aches. If in doubt, always refer to a doctor.