Many supplementary substances and products are used to build muscles. Food supplements – including nutritional foods – that are packed with creatine enjoy a big patronage. This patronage is found among those who intend building the strength of their muscles. It is also provided to those who suffer from a deficit of creatine. But, is it good to break a fast? Sections below have needful details and of course, the answer as well.
Creatine is widely popular for its ability to enhance mass of muscles in sportspeople. Adults who are non-athletes also use it for developing strength of their muscles. Clinical studies reveal the link between consumption of creatine and high performance in sports activities. Not stopping with sports, creatine is used for boosting your energy levels needed to perform activities needing high-intensity of energy. Sales of nutritional and dietary supplements in the United States stand at nearly USD 3 billion each year. Most of these supplements are found to have a healthy share of creatine.
Can it break a fast?
Intake of creatine does not amount to breaking a fast. It is a supplement with zero calories if taken without any other additives. The purest form of creatine is made of monohydrate. Creatine does not have influence on the quantum of insulin your body secretes.
It strengthens your anaerobic performance through an enhanced supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The added availability of ATP (an essential catalyst for energy transmission between cells) provides energies to various activities within your cells. In simpler terms, if your body has more creatine, expended ATP can be recycled from its broken constituents. The key produce of breaking ATP is adenosine diphosphate (ADP); it can be recycled to become ATP with the presence of creatine. As a result, your body is blessed with more energy – in the form of recycled ATP – to deliver an impressive performance.
You may also want to know how else are ATP produced. The other ways include anaerobic glucose metabolism and aerobic metabolism. The anaerobic approach is through the burning of carbs (such as glucose) through a process called glycolysis. Though ATP is produced through this, increase in hydrogen based substances makes it unwieldy to use for a longer span of time.
The aerobic approach to make ATP is through your respiration. As your breath, fatty acids become ATP through oxidation.
So, what is creatine?
It is a substance available in your body. Its presence is predominantly observed in your muscles (wherein most of creatine resides) as well as in your brain. Though it can be made through artificial means, it is also found in seafood and in red meat.
It is a nitrogenous substance (a naturally available acid) that helps in muscular contraction. Of the total mass, a human body may have about 1% of creatine. Your own body can make only upto 2 grams of it each day. Amino acids form the base from which your body makes this. It is approved for use by professional sports academies and associations including National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), International Olympic Committee (IOC), etc.
How does creatine function?
People naturally have creatine in their body. But, vegetarians may have lesser than optimal levels. Muscles can house only a definite quantum of creatine. So, the ability to absorb added supplements is limited. The key function of creatine is to make energy needed for muscles for their optimal performance.
There are many benefits associated with boosting your creatine levels. The foremost benefit is this supplement makes you stronger. Based on several studies, it has been concluded that your strength improves by upto 7 to 8% due to the intake of creatine.
Some of the other benefits it offers are- 1- making your muscles get big in size (as a result, your muscles can lift heavy weights; however, if you are planning for a weigh-in for wrestling, then consuming creatine will not work for you), 2- enhancing your ability to sprint ahead (this benefit makes creatine the go-to supplement among athletes) and 3- speeding up your healing process (it is found to minimize inflammation or damages occurring to your cells).
Apart from these benefits, it can improve the functioning of your brain. This benefit is also due to the recycled ATP made possible with the presence of creatine.
The optimal dose of creatine is 5 grams per day. But, to get this level, you may need to eat nearly 2 to 3 pounds of chicken or beef. Each kilogram of lean muscles can hold upto 3 grams of creatine. It is consumed in two stages namely, loading stage and maintenance stage. During loading stage, you can take a fairly high level of creatine. Consumption can even be upto 20 grams each day. But, this is for a very short span of time. This stage cannot last more than 10 days at a stretch. By this time, your muscles would have absorbed (or, super absorbed) creatine and are saturated with it. Now, you are advised to switch to a maintenance stage. Here, the consumption is reduced to 1/4th of the earlier stage – i.e., 5 grams of creatine.
Absorption of creatine
Clinical studies show that loading stage – mentioned above – may not be needed in the real sense. On the other hand, it is the maintenance stage which leads to a slow and steady build-up and eventual saturation of your muscles with creatine. You need to be aware that it takes a fairly long time for creatine level to reach its saturation point in the muscles.
In general, experts believe that an intake of upto 5 grams per day may be consumed for 12 months. This is likely to be considered as a safe dosage. For short term use, daily intake is advised not to cross 20 grams each day; such high dose of consumption cannot be taken for more than 2 weeks.
How long is creatine taken?
Clinical research has found that your muscles shed creatine in 2 to 3 weeks from the day you stop its consumption. Also, in nearly 7 weeks, all of the supplemented creatine will get out of your muscles. By then, your body goes back to its original production capacity of upto 2 grams of creatine each day.
There are some experts who may advise you to cycle it for 30 days. This cycle is recommended once in 15 weeks. But, scientific research tells otherwise. When you cycle off creatine, you will find your body starting to produce lesser levels of creatine; once you stop supplementing, your body will soon go back to its natural form. As mentioned above- in its natural forms, your body invariably produces upto 2 grams of creatine every day. So, the answer is not to take creatine forever or opt to cycle it off regularly.
What is the right time and form to consume it?
When you work out, your body witnesses an increase in insulin levels. So, when you consume creatine after an intensive session of exercise, your body finds it easier to take creatine to your muscles. However, those who consumed it before their work out have also harvested almost similar benefits. In sum, more clarity on when to consume dietary or nutritional supplements containing creatine is not scientifically evidenced.
On powder of capsule form: The supplement’s form is not related to the absorption efficiency of your muscles. But, if you aim to keep the costs lower, you may need to opt for its powder form. Creatine in its capsule form is more expensive.
Side effects of creatine
Creatine takes water from the remaining part of the body and supplies to muscles. It also helps your muscles to retain the water thus supplied. Hence, risks associated with dehydration are fairly high. As an extended precaution, you are advised not to workout in hot conditions.
Other side effects include cramping of muscles, pain in stomach, diarrhea, dizziness, etc. Apart from these, key side effects also include increase in body weight and spike in blood pressure (i.e., hypertension) due to the intake of more water.
Deficiency of creatine can have serious side effects. Commonly observed side effects are associated to damages caused to your bone health, brain function, cardiac disorders, etc. It is believed to have an impact on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), mental disorders such as mood swings, depression, schizophrenia, etc. But, these claims are not fully evidenced.
Application of creatine onto your skin is believed to delay aging. However, evidences to substantiate its anti-aging benefit are neither clearly documented nor defined.
Misconceptions associated with the intake of creatine
Parents of young adults often are afraid when their child starts to take creatine. They may tell you that this supplement may damage your heart or liver. But, creatine is not a dangerous supplement as it is mistakenly believed. The right age to consume creatine often becomes an essential question. There are no adverse effects triggered by intake of creatine by teens. A few studies have also proven that there are no undesired side effects with children as participants of such studies. However, some experts do advise to wait till puberty and start a dosage of creatine thereafter.
Some people claim, creatine cannot be taken with fruit juices. The risks are juice can make the supplement to collapse, yielding lesser benefits. However, this claim is merely anecdotal. Research done on this topic has found the benefits of creatine to stay intact upon consuming it with fruit juices.
A few people state that creatine cannot be consumed along with caffeine. This again is proven to be ill-founded and not validated.
On consuming creatine with carbs- Here too, there are contradicting observations. One group found it to be beneficial while another study group found no big differences. So, you can add it to your after-exercise drink, or take it along with your meal- either in the morning or night.
In sum, consumption of creatine is not equivalent to breaking your fast. This is a dietary supplement with no calories and hence does not have influence on the quantum of insulin your body makes. Creatine is a naturally available substance. Your own body makes it in small quantities every day. However, if you wish to boost your performance in sports or lift heavy objects, it is an effective supplement. Scientific studies have long revealed the association between intake of creatine with ability to perform well in sports or other energy-intensive activities.