Creatine For Athletic Performance Essay, Research Paper
The Advantages of Creatine for
Enhancing Athletic Performance
If, about 5 years ago, you were to tell an athlete there was a supplement (which was not an anabolic steroid or other bodybuilding drug) that would help bodybuilders and athletes pack on as much as 10 rock-hard pounds of muscular bodyweight (which could lead to better performance for athletes) in less then 2 weeks; increase their bench press by 25 lbs. (which also would help in enhancing performance) in a mere 10 days; “get a pump like you were loaded on Dianabol”(Phillips 48) (a pump that last for hours and hours which helps in muscle development); and, all the while, help you run faster, jump higher, recover from exercise more quickly, they would probably tell you to get lost. Well all these facts and more have now been proven to be effective on athletes. “Creatine is the safest, most effective supplement out on the market today,” says Ron Terjung, a physiology professor at the University of Missouri. Millions of men are buying the dietary supplement, hoping it is the magic pill that can transform them from scrawny to brawny. Creatine has made a strong impact on the athletic world giving many an edge on the competition and enhancing athletic performance.
The discovery of Creatine leads back to 1832. A French scientist named Chevreul, identified a naturally occurring organic compound in meat and then was later found to be manufactured by the liver, kidneys and pancreas using three amino acids. The scientist named the compound Creatine after the greek word for flesh(Phillips 8).
Creatine is a compound that is naturally made in our bodies to supply energy to our muscles. It is an energy rich metabolite that is found mainly in muscle tissue. It is responsible for supplying the muscle with energy during exercise. Chemically, it is called Methylguanido-acid. Creatine is formed from the three amino acids, argentine, methionine, and glycogen that undergo a chemical process to form Creatine. Creatine is manufactured in the liver and may be produced in the pancreas and kidneys. It is transported through the blood and taken up by muscle cell, where it is converted into Creatine phosphate; also called phosphocreatine. This reaction involves the enzyme Creatine kinase that helps bond Creatine to a high-energy phosphate group. Once Creatine is bound to a phosphate group, it is permanently stored in a cell as phosphocreatine until it is used to produce chemical energy called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP then loses a phosphate group and becomes Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP). Creatine, when present in the muscle in sufficient amounts donates a phosphate group to ADP and it rapidly retransform to ATP, which is immediately available to the muscle to be used for a fuel for exercise. During brief explosive-type exercises, the energy supplied to rephosphorylate adenosine diphosphate (ADP) to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is determined largely by the amount of phosphocreatine stored in the muscle. As phosphocreatine stores become depleted, performance is likely to rapidly deteriorate, due to the inability to resynthesize ATP at the rate required. “Since the availability of phosphocreatine stores in the muscle may significantly influence the amount of energy generated during brief periods of high intensity exercise, it has been hypothesized that increasing muscle creatine through creatine supplementation may increase the availability of phosphocreatine and allow for an accelerated rate of resynthesis of ATP during and following high intensity, short duration exercises(Kreider 1).” ATP is the primary source of fuel for muscular exercise. It is used before sugars (carbohydrates) and before fats. When muscles are used to lift weight, run or perform any type of work the ATP is broken down to ADP (adenosine diphosphate) and energy is released. The amount of ATP stored in the muscles will only fuel a maximum effort such as lifting a weight for 10 to 15 seconds. After that, the muscle must rely on Creatine Phosphate to restock its supply of ATP. Increasing the muscles supply of Creatine phosphate helps increase the rate in which the body can supply ATP. This increases the muscle capacity to do work and improves the energy level of the muscles.
Typically, the average person metabolizes about two grams of Creatine per day, and the body normally synthesizes that same amount; thus, you generally maintain a Creatine balance (Bamberger 59), but “it is not uncommon for an athlete to have what is called Creatine deficiency.”(Phillips 15) which is not being able to create enough Creatine on your own. In these cases through a more balanced diet or by supplementing Creatine in their diet they regain the balance. This leads to a point that proves in one way how Creatine has an advantage on enhancing athlete’s performance.
Creatine is naturally found in foods. For example, the average helping of beef or fish contains about 1 gram of naturally occurring Creatine. Unfortunately, Creatine is very sensitive to heat and cooking virtually destroys the effectiveness of Creatine.
The amount of Creatine needed depends on the athlete’s body weight and on the number of days Creatine has been supplemented. Creatine should be loaded in relatively high amounts for the first six days of supplementation and then may be taken in daily dosage while maintaining positive performance. Creatine can bind water to the muscle giving an athlete a more muscular appearance. Competitive bodybuilders usually drop Creatine supplementation two weeks prior to a show to insure maximum definition and vascularity.
Creatine has not yet been definitely linked to any adverse health effects, and thus has very few side effects. One side effect usually caused by over-dosage which some have complained about is stomach cramps. Reducing the intake of creatine in almost all cases has reduced cramps to little or none. Although no adverse side effects have been reported in the literature from clinical trials, concern has been raised by some physicians, athletic trainers, and dieticians regarding: 1.) a possible suppression of endogenous creatine synthesis; 2.) a possible enhanced renal stress/liver damage; 3.) anecdotal reports of muscle cramping when exercising in the heat; 4.) anecdotal reports of muscle strains/pulls; and, 5.) unknown long-term effects of creatine supplementation(Kreider 2-3).
There are three theories today which answer the question, “How do dietary supplements work?”(Phillips 13) The first theory is? when you have an adequate amount of a substance that your body needs. Take Creatine for example, “a human body normally only needs two grams a day.” That is the adequate amount or the minimum your body needs to stay healthy, but lets say you stored five grams of Creatine, which is the maximum your muscles could hold to give you a more optimal amount. The reason why an athlete would need more Creatine is that they exert more physical activity and burn more ATP than a standard person would. This makes him consume more body resources than the average person. So, adding more Creatine to your diet would give you better results. The second theory states that “not all but most supplements have a mutating effect (Phillips 15).” 1.) “By volumizing your cells to hold more resources then normal(15).” 2.) “Create a drug like effect on cellular processes(15).” With this scenario, the dietary supplement can exert a positive effect on muscle metabolism and/or performance. The third theory and most important relating to my paper states that a supplement might help you build muscle, enhance athlete performance and improve your health by simply making up for the deficiency. This has basically been what most dieticians, nutritionists, doctors, etc. have viewed supplements as a means of protecting your body against vitamin and mineral deficiencies and so on. Supplements have been widely used for decades as a means of preventing serious, even fatal diseases, which are caused by nutrient deficiencies. Thus, proving my topic by adding more Creatine to the bodies of an athlete can enhance performance by replenishing the body with the most needed resources.
It is rumored that athletes in the former USSR and Bulgaria may have been using Creatine to enhance athletic performance since the early 1970’s. While this may be true, the documented use of Creatine supplementation by athletes was with British track and field competitors who competed in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Creatine was given credit for powering several of the British athletes who won gold medals. The London Times reported (August 7, 1992) that Linford Christie, the 100meter gold medallist, supplemented with Creatine before the 1992 Olympics, and a European magazine called Bodybuilding Monthly reported that Sally Gunnele, the 400 meter gold medallist, also used Creatine. The London Times also reported that Colin Jackson, the champion British 110-meter hurdler, used Creatine before the Olympics (Bamberger 61). Shortly thereafter, U.S. champion athletes began using Creatine. Since then, scientists have elucidated more secrets on how to best utilize Creatine for optimal benefit. Now, champion athletes and bodybuilders around the world swear by Creatine’s effects. Now in the 90’s Creatine has major use in all sport categories, “At least one quarter of all major leaguers now use the substance. That number is at least as high in professional hockey and basketball, and perhaps 50% of NFL Players take Creatine. Among Olympic Sprinters, cyclists and weightlifters, those who do not use Creatine are harder to find than those who do. Bodybuilders live on the stuff. Boxers, too. Innumerable ordinary weekend athletes use it. It’s everywhere (Bamberger 62).”
When I was a sophomore in high school, I was first introduced to this miracle drug called “creatine.” Many of the guys on the football team were taking this, and soon did I. I did not really know what this white powdery substance was, but all I know is that it seemed to jump my weight up 10 pounds within about three weeks. My weightlifting max’s seemed to be increasing and I was full of energy. Some of us would “load” just before a football game to give us that extra boost of energy. To us, it seemed like legal steroids with no side effects. Creatine seemed to improve performance for short-duration activities like our 40 times, bursting off the snap of the ball, and our weightlifting max’s. What I found was in order to make creatine effective, you must work out at least three times a week consistently. Most people do not notice any difference until about three weeks into the cycle. A recent study followed 19 men who lifted weights regularly over 12 weeks. Those taking creatine registered an average 6.3 percent gain in fat-free body mass, compared with a 3.1 percent gain in those not taking the supplement(Timberline 1).
In 1981, an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. l. Silila. Reported that supplementation with Creatine in a group of patients suffering from a condition called Gyrate Atrophy (a genetic ailment of the eyes caused by a metabolic inability to efficiently metabolize ornithine and synthesize Creatine). Improved the test subject’s strength, increased their bodyweight by ten percent, and partially reversed the Type II muscle fiber atrophy associated with this disease(Silila 867). One athlete in this group of test subjects improved his best time in the 100-meter sprint by two seconds.
In 1993, a study peer reviewed and published in Scandinavian Journal of Medicine, Science and sports (Balsom 143) demonstrated that Creatine supplementation could significantly increase body mass (in only one week) and that it was responsible for improved performance in high-intensity intermittent exercise.
Over the past 4 years, at least 20 separate university studies have demonstrated that Creatine monohydrate supplementation increases athletic performance; strength; recuperation; speed in the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter sprints. A lot of factual, scientifically proven data shows Creatine monohydrate works. It produces fast and significant results even in the most rigorous trials(Casey 31).
The goal of the bodybuilder and most athletes is to use progressive resistance exercise to force the muscles to adapt and grow in size and strength. This increased workload or progressive resistance can be achieved in several ways: by increasing the force of contraction through increased resistance such as when lifting a heavier weight, by increasing the duration of time that the muscle is under tension or contracted, and by increasing the frequency of exercise.
Creatine helps in all three ways: it helps build lean body mass which allows still greater force to be used; provides energy so the duration of exercise or work can be lengthened; and speeds recovery, so exercise frequency can be increased. I have also personally benefited from the use of Creatine. I have benefited from all of the above, but have also gained more personal respect and confidence for myself from the results I have accomplished with the use of Creatine.
Balsom, P. “Creatine Supplementation and Dynamic High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise.” Scandinavian Journal of Medicine, Science and sports 3 (1993): 143-149.
Bamberger, Michael. “The Magic Potion.” Sports Illustrated 4 (1998): 58-61.
Casey, A. “Creatine Supplementation Favorably Affects Performance and Muscle Metabolism During Maximal Intensity Exercise in Human.” American Journal of Physiology 271 (1996): 31-37.
Creatine. Available [online]. Address. http://www.vitamin-planet.com/nutrition/creatine.htm
Creatine Monohydrate Frequently Asked Questions. Available [online]. Address. http://www.rnlist.utl.pt/~rmlbgs/atpfaq.tex
Phillips, Bill. Sports Supplements Review. Golden, Colorado: Mile High Publishing, 1996
Kreider, B. Richard. “Creatine Supplementation.” (Internet) http://www.afpafitness.com/Creatine3.html
Silila, I. “Supplementary Creatine as a Treatment for Gyrate Atrophy of the Choroid and Retina.” New England journal of Medicine 304 (1981): 867-870.(Internet)
Timberline, David. “Muscles for Sale: Is Creatine Right for You?” (Internet) http://www.accenthealth.com/mh/intheknow/1999/creatine.html
What is the Deal with Creatine? Available [online].
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