Creatine is one of the most efficacious ergogenic supplements ever created. 95% of all creatine deposits are stored within your skeletal muscle, waiting to be used as for high-intensity power output. We’re going to learn about how creatine works and why this supplement is great for high-intensity training and performance.
How Does Creatine Work
Creatine is a combination of three amino acids, glycine, arginine, and methionine. The creatine and phosphocreatine (PCr) system play an essential role in energy metabolism of muscle acting as a buffer for adenosine triphosphate (ATP) concentration and production. This is what’s known as the phosphocreatine system.
Think of ATP as your body’s internal battery pack. During creatine synthesis, creatine generates ATP first binding to a phosphate group. Creatine phosphate is the predominant form of creatine within the muscle cells, accounting for 70% of creatine concentration [R, R]. During times of acute energy needs, creatine kinase, an enzyme, uses creatine phosphate for the ultrarapid phosphorylation of adenosine diphosphate ADP to ATP – adenosine triphosphate.
Before we continue and learn the specifics of how creatine works, we need to talk about energy metabolism, and how your body metabolizes energy during exercise.
There are limited stores of ATP in skeletal muscles, which can provide an immediate burst of energy for high-intensity exercise, typically lasting between 5-10 seconds. After this, energy production of ATP can occur within three different pathways, the ATP–creatine phosphate system (phosphagen system), rapid glycolysis, and aerobic oxidation.
The oxidative system, the primary source of ATP at rest and during low-intensity activities, uses primarily carbohydrates and fats as substrates, through glycolysis, lipolysis, and fat oxidation.
Glycolysis occurs in both aerobic and anaerobic states. In cells that use aerobic respiration as the primary energy source, the pyruvate formed from the pathway can be used in the citric acid cycle. It then goes through oxidative phosphorylation and converts into carbon dioxide and water.
In anaerobic conditions, pyruvate converts to lactate through anaerobic glycolysis.
Glycolysis is one method that cells use to produce energy. Because glycolysis does not require oxygen, it is the first step in anaerobic respiration [R].
During strenuous exercise, your muscles lack oxygen supply, which produces lactic acid through glycolysis and releases energy for ATP resynthesis. This is known as the anaerobic pathway of energy metabolism.
Without oxygen, the body relies upon adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and glucose or glycogen in the muscle cells for energy, comprising what’s called the phosphagen (immediate) energy system and glycolytic pathway to produce energy in limited quantities.
Think of glycolysis as having two phases. Phase one, the “investment” phase, which consumes two ATP molecules. The second, the “payoff” phase produces four ATP and two NADH and two pyruvates.
Therefore, glycolysis consumes two ATP molecules, producing four ATP, two NADH, and two pyruvates per glucose molecule. The pyruvate can be used in the citric acid cycle or serve as a precursor for other biological reactions [R].
This is one of the ways the body can produce energy and ATP. The last system, the phosphagen system is where creatine comes into play.
The Phosphagen System
The phosphagen system, consists of energy stores – ATP and phosphocreatine.
The amount of ATP stored within the body is small. It’s sufficient to allow for 1-2 seconds of maximal effort, during high-power output activities, such as sprinting, cycling, or lifting. Muscles cannot obtain ATP from other tissues; it must be manufactured. Therefore, to do this, ADP an inorganic phosphate, and an additional energy source is needed to reconstruct the ATP molecules by rephosphorylation of ADP. The additional energy source is phosphocreatine. The storage of PCr can produce high-energy for an additional 5-8 seconds of maximal effort. Thus, the phosphagen system (ATP and PCr) combined, can provide energy for up to 10 seconds of maximal effort.
The phosphagen system is extremely important during explosive training efforts such as throwing, hitting, jumping, and sprinting.
The system is rapidly replenished during recovery; in fact, it requires about 30 seconds to replenish about 70% of the phosphagens and 3 to 5 minutes to replenish 100%. This means that during intermittent work (short periods of activity followed by rest periods), much of the phosphagen can be replenished during the recovery period and thus be used over and over again [R].
The more creatine storage within skeletal muscle cells, the more readily available and rapid rephosphorylation of ATP. Thus, generating more high-energy and power output.
How Does Creatine Work: Takeaway
Creatine can provide you with more power output and strength during high-intensity exercise and training. If you’re looking for a way to maximize your endurance capacity and power output, creatine is an extremely effective option for performance enhancement. Studies have shown that creatine produces an anabolic effect, as well as plays a role in the energy metabolism of the brain, thus further strengthening its position within your supplement protocol, with numerous and beneficial therapeutic applications.
Looking for the best form of Creatine to help you crush your workouts?
Swolverine’s Kre-Alkalyn® is a patented pH correct form of creatine phosphate. With the addition of creatine phosphate (PCr) into the muscle cells, the body increases its immediate energy supply, by facilitating the production of ATP which increases power output and strength. High-intensity training programs require the body to go under strenuous aerobic and anaerobic conditions. By supplementing the body with creatine, you will induce a greater improvement in exercise endurance and athletic performance, resulting in improved times, more peak power, and stronger lifts.
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