How Does Creatine Work | What is Creatine?

How Does Creatine Work | What is Creatine?

July 28, 2019 56 By William Morgan


– [Narrator] When I started
this channel a year ago
I set out with a very distinct purpose
to dispel misinformation
regarding health and training.
The same misinformation,
which I often fell victim
to when I began caring more
about my health and strength.
The first time I heard
the mention of creatine
I wasn’t quite sure what it was,
how it worked,
or if it was even safe.
– Avoid creatine.
– Do not recommend teenagers
use the muscle building
supplement creatine.
– [Narrator] Setting out to
understand whether it was safe
led me to have to understand how it works
on a biological level.
What I found out ended up
being pretty incredible.
It really changed my
perspective on the supplement
as more and more people
began requesting a video
on it in the comments,
I knew that the time
had come to tackle one
of the most misunderstood supplements
in the fitness industry.
Creatine.
First a quick refresher.
To understand how creatine works you need
to understand why exactly
it is your one rep max
is less than your 10 rep max.
One of the major reasons is
throughout a set your muscles
may seem to lose strength,
but what they are really losing is energy.
While we rest between sets
most of this energy comes back to us.
Our muscles get their energy
from a molecule called ATP,
adenosine triphosphate.
Triphosphate for the
three phosphate molecules
attached to it.
When the third phosphate
on the chain gets released,
a burst of energy is given off.
This is what powers a muscle contraction.
Your muscles begin a set,
filled to max capacity with ATP.
The problem is ATP is
an unstable molecule,
so your muscles can only
store a limited amount.
Let’s see what happens when
you hit that first rep.
Boom, you explode.
There’s enough stored energy
to cover the first few seconds
of a sprint or get you
at least a few seconds
into that big one rep max.
One, two, three.
Now what?
We’ve done three seconds and
we’re out of power all ready?
Well, not so fast because
your body has a trick
up its sleeve.
When your body uses an ATP
it only uses the third
phosphate in the chain,
so there should still be
something left over right?
There is, adenosine diphosphate.
Without that third phosphate
though they’re pretty useless
and that’s where something
incredible happens
because your body has
already planned for this.
Embedded in your DNA is a gene,
an instruction to your cells
to produce an enzyme.
That enzyme is called creatine kinase.
Enzymes exist in cells
and facilitate some sort
of cellular reaction.
Think of an enzyme like a middle man,
but what is it connecting?
Well, stored in your muscles and ready
to be deployed at a moment’s notice
is another molecule, creatine phosphate.
These molecules were sent here
by your liver and are holding
onto something just for this
moment, their own phosphate.
And this is their moment to use it.
In an instant they activate,
rapidly binding with ATP molecules,
giving up their phosphate,
reviving those ADPs into fresh ATPs,
which can continue powering your muscles.
This is why your four rep
max is still around 90%
of your one rep max.
This creatine phosphate
has managed to take
an initial supply of ATP and recycle it
to last nearly 10 seconds.
As an interesting aside,
studies have found the baseline
creatine kinase levels are higher
in African Americans than in Whites.
So, if you’re African
American you can enjoy
an explosive advantage there.
But the real limiting
factor isn’t the number
of creatine kinase connectors.
They need something to connect.
So the true limiting factor
is the creatine phosphate supply.
When it runs out your body
is forced to notch down
to its next most powerful energy system,
the anaerobic system.
Which, although good, can’t
produce the same amount
of energy as the phosphagen system.
This is why your 12 rep
max weight is so much less
than your three rep max weight.
So, you see creatine kinase
enzymes are found naturally
in our cells, along with a
supply of creatine phosphate
to revive those ADPs into fresh energy.
This is our body’s own system.
It’s called the phosphagen system.
The issue becomes that your
muscles are rarely filled
to their creatine phosphate capacity.
When you ingest a creatine
monohydrate supplement,
your body turns it into creatine phosphate
and shuttles it into these vacant spaces,
allowing your body’s
energy reviving trick,
the phosphagen system,
to be used to its full ability.
It’s no wonder that by the early 90s
Olympic athletes the world over
were taking the supplement.
Now the foods you eat
do contain some creatine
with the highest amounts in
foods such as beef and chicken.
But according to a survey the
average 19 to 39 year old male
gets just one gram in a day,
with women getting even less.
This is why if you consume five grams
of creatine supplement,
the recommended amount,
it’s been shown to be
80 to 100% bioavailable
and translates into a 15 to 20% increase
in creatine phosphate
stores in your muscles.
This added creatine in your
muscles becomes noticeable.
Many people notice their
muscles appear larger a few days
into taking creatine.
Is this muscle growth?
Not really, although you might notice
your muscles appear fuller
and you may even gain five to 10 pounds.
The reason for that is a
concept called homeostasis.
As more creatine phosphate
molecules are shuttled
into storage in your muscles,
your body needs to pack
in additional water
to store them comfortably.
So, although you aren’t
adding muscle fibers,
increasing water content in muscle cells
still increases their diameter.
One investigation found
Type I, IIA, and IIX fibers
increased in diameter by 9%, 5%, and 4%.
New research is even showing
that this cell volumization
also helps increase
skeletal muscle glycogen,
which is utilized during
anaerobic activity,
which is a system that kicks in
after the phosphagen system’s done.
This leads to the real world implications
of creatine supplementation.
A meta-analysis found that groups doing
a strength training
program without creatine
noted a 12% increase in strength,
while the groups using creatine
and doing the same program
had a 20% increase in strength typically.
There is also some research which suggests
that the cell volumizing effects
can promote a faster rate
of muscle growth but up regulating
certain genes associated
with muscle growth.
I’ve linked to this and
all the other studies
in the description.
Also on the cutting edge,
scientists are now beginning to uncover
some additional benefits in the brain.
In children with traumatic brain injuries,
creatine supplementation
dramatically reduced the amount
of headaches and dizzy spells they had.
Some rat studies are even
indicating that taking creatine
can be protective against brain injuries
if taken prior to the
infliction of trauma.
Rats which were given creatine prior
to being given brain damage
had a three to 36% reduction in injury.
It’s thought that this has to do
with maintaining better ATP
levels in the injured brain.
But, I know what you’ve all
most likely heard, concerns.
Creatine can cause hair loss,
kidney damage, liver damage.
I’m gonna be compiling these
concerns into a FAQ video
on creatine in the coming weeks.
When you look at the fact that your body
has an entire energy system which relies
on creatine phosphate and
that stores are really full,
supplementing it seems pretty obvious,
if you want the absolute best performance.
If you are just a casual lifter though,
whether you will go with or
without creatine comes down
to your own personal preference.
Is a slight boost in performance
worth the cost to you?
That’s something you’ll have to decide.
New research is always coming out though
so please remember to subscribe.
Until next time.
D Man, signing off.
(upbeat instrumental music)