Creatine 3 Essay, Research Paper
Today in society there is a lot of pressure on the perfect image. Image is the way that everything is judged in the world. So with that perspective in mind, the search for the “perfect body” is what everyone is looking for. But with all of the commotion that is happening, very few people want to put in a solid effort in order to achieve this “perfect body”. Others just simply don’t have the time to workout on a consistent basis. So the easy way out, as always, is searched for. Not that long ago, people were experimenting with anabolic steroids. They injected horse testosterone into their veins to increase the amount of muscle mass produced from weightlifting. The use of anabolic steroids came with many risks, which people at that time hardly knew of. Many didn’t know entirely what kind of effect it might have later in life. But after a while, some professional athletes and high profile people started showing the side effects that are associated with them. For example, Lyle Alzado, a popular star in the NFL, developed a brain tumor and died. Also one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time and famous actor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had to have an operation to repair an aortic valve in his heart. This scared a lot of people and the recreational uses of steroids decreased. With the dangers of steroids well-known people started looking for other substances to give them an edge. Bee pollen, carnitine and chromium picolinate, were among the things people tried. Of course none of these worked. But now there is a product on the market that has been proven to significantly enhance athletic performance in the areas of power, strength, and muscle mass. This substance is Creatine Phosphate.5
When the body performs exercise or work, there is obviously an expense of energy that is burnt. There are many things involved in this process. The energy that the body burns is called Adenosine Triphosphate, ATP. This molecule has very high energy bonds between the phosphates and the rest of the molecule. The body breaks these bonds in order to release the high level energy bonds for us to expend through work. Through this process a phosphate of the molecule ATP is released thus changing the molecule to a reduced ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate). Since the body has a relatively low supply of ATP, it is constantly converting ADP back to ATP.5 Creatine helps to speed this process along. Creatine phosphate is similar in structure as ATP in the perspective that they both are made up of high-energy bonds. (APPENDIX A) Creatine phosphate’s primary function is to donate its phosphate back to ATP in order to produce more energy. So with higher levels of creatine in your body, ATP is regained faster and thus there is more energy available. Another benefit of creatine is also a proton buffer, which means that it helps keep the pH levels at a normal level. At the end of working out when the muscles are having a burning sensation, from over exertion, creatine helps prolong that feeling. By keeping the pH levels in check the muscles last longer without the burning sensation, thus prolonging the fatigue from working out. Creatine also adds water to cells. This extra volume in the cell signals a reactor within the cell and protein synthesis kicks in. This extra volume and extra work for protein synthesis creates more energy. Creatine is an amino acid made in your liver and stored in your muscles.4
In the diet it is found in milk, steak, and some fish. Although scientists have known about it for about 160 years, studies on it have just started to be done due to its fame.6
After the publication of test results in 1990, the area of creatine supplementation has exploded. Now almost everyone knows what it is and someone who is using it. As was stated earlier, creatine helps speed up the process of converting ADP back into ATP. So it is logical that if the daily amount of creatine in the body is increased then it should be understood that the conversion rate of ADP to ATP would raise also.1 The daily requirement of creatine is about two grams. Most of the creatine supplement products recommend taking ten times that amount a day (four servings of five grams)for the first week or so to saturate the muscles, and five grams a day for the following three to five weeks to maintain it. In most published studies, this logical theory is correct; if you increase dietary creatine you increase stored creatine.1 But there are many questions when dealing with adding more creatine to the muscles in the body. There is the simple question of whether the organs can physically handle all of this change. Although the substance is “natural” does not mean that it should be taken in excessive amounts. Just like any dietary supplement, whenever there is excess in the system there is physical risk. The greatest one related to a specific organ, through the use of creatine, is the kidneys. It is known that continued extensive use of creatine could lead to kidney failure. Another side effect from the use of creatine is straining and cramping of muscles. Due to this fact, some professional sport teams and college teams have banned the use of creatine at their training camps in order to prevent later injuries.7
DOES IT WORK?
There have been many studies with the miracle supplement creatine. The results have been published every where from the NCAA to the prestigious Clinical Science Journal of Britain. And there have been mixed results from the studies. The majority of the results from the studies and tests have been positive. Most of the tests that were done dealt with a before and after scenario, using the same people for both tests. The typical results of the testing showed that there was an increase of performance from anywhere between five to fifteen percent depending on the exercise.1 Sometimes the results go above that by the athlete’s gaining from five to seven pounds of lean muscle in a single month and adding thirty percent to the bench press. So with such results there is a great attraction to athletes all over the world. But with all of these gains there is also controversy that these gains aren’t entirely legite because of the fact that most of the muscle gain is due to water retention.4 But with more volume in the cell from the extra water, the muscle cells are able to due more work and thus are able to make more muscle tissue as well as repair the damaged muscle tissue. From the use of creatine the most consistent results were increased recovery time, increased muscle mass, explosive power and strength. 2
But like with most good things in life there is also a bad side to it all. In some studies there were people that didn’t even respond to the creatine supplement. It didn’t react with them and made no changes in their lives. Also if the use of creatine isn’t kept on a short term basis, as it is suggested to keep in cycles of four to six weeks, and is instead done long term many effects can happen. The most prominent would be the shut down of the body in the creation of the natural creatine. The body would be used to having all the extra storage of creatine all the time that the body might mutate and chemically change and just stop making creatine. So at this point if the supplementation of creatine was ended then there wouldn’t be that extra boost of energy that was always there before and thus would result in excessive tiredness and laziness. There would be no motivation to do anything because there would be no energy to do it. In order to overcome this a lot of red meat must be consumed or creatine supplements would have to be resumed. But the greatest risk of all that is turning away most potential creatine users is the fact that the supplement is so new and that not a lot of extensive research has been done to explore what it’s effects will be in like ten years in the future. Perhaps the results will be the same as steroids and there will be heart complications and cancerous growth. And it is scary to think that creatine is such a popular drug and no one knows what it will do. This is the utmost dangerous to the use of creatine.4
IS IT FOR ME?
Although creatine supplementation has shown results in particular areas, it doesn’t help everyone. The supplements are pretty expensive and with the recommended dosage, they are done pretty fast. Creatine is not for those who are not serious about training or are a weekend lifter. Some results might be seen but they will be slim and not be significant in the long run. But if you are seriously into bodybuilding, creatine will help shed the light to the sight of quick fast gains. Also, athletes that perform short burst sprints with little recovery time will benefit from creatine. Some sports that are main targets of creatine are basketball and football. But if the sport is one of endurance, such as a marathoner or a sprinter there are studies that show that creatine supplementation may not improve your performance. This is thought because of all the extra weight that is gained, in fact works against an endurance athlete and slows them down. Also creatine didn’t seem to help in the areas of massive exertion. There were studies that showed that when there was maximal effort in muscle contractions, and maximal strength done in sets there was no real improvement. Creatine didn’t show improvements when there was twenty grams used for five days or less; when the regular dose of two or three grams was used without the initial loading period; when there were irregular recovery times between sprints; and when there wasn’t enough time to completely washout the creatine out of the person’s body.3
ETHICS OF CREATINE
This is the controversial side of the use of creatine. There are many who are for and against it’s use. Those who promote creatine stick to the basics. The main point that they use is that it is natural substance in your body. And the use of creatine is comparable to just loading up of carbohydrates. They promote it’s ability to improve your performance and take your skills to the next level. It allows you to make quick gains in speed, strength and size. All of these gains are at the expense of a few stomach cramps.7 These side effects are so minuscule compared to the gains so they are hardly even considered. But then there is the other side, which is totally against the use of performance enhancing substances. Their claims are that they are changing sport and taking away all of the hard work and skill that used to go along with sport. Now sports seem altered in such a way that it seems that it’s not even people who are playing out there on the field. The “natural” aspect of sport is being taken away for the entertainment desire of super athletes. 7 This side also focus on the fact that long term side effects on creatine are still unknown and could very well be similar to steroids. It seems as if the supplement is innocent until it is proven guilty. But it’s sad to think of the massive effect that it will have on the world if there are severe negative outcomes in the future. It could have similar destruction to society as cancer and AIDS have had. This is because creatine is the most popular supplement on the market today and can be purchased everywhere. Trainers and coaches have noticed that with the use of creatine, the muscles in their athletes seem not to be developed to their full potential. That means that there are a lot of strains and pulls of muscles, something that ten years ago would be unheard of. Also there is a concern that creatine supplementation could cause a carry over effect, where athletes who have used creatine are more likely to use dangerous or banned substances. The only way to prevent this from happening is to provide ample information to the coaches and athletes on the effects of creatine so they know the right information, and hopefully prevent carrying over.4
With the addition of creatine as an available supplement there have been many changes in the world. Now people who don’t have all the time in the world to work out and try to achieve that “perfect” body are now able to do that with the use of creatine. With it’s ability to increase strength, speed, and muscle mass; creatine will be around for quite awhile especially since it has an ever multiplying market to tend to. But with the unknown long term effects of the use of creatine, it will continue to remain the supplement of choice until a side effect is found and then the search of a new substance will start to replace creatine; just as creatine replaced steroids.