Creatine is one of the most effective powerful supplements ever made. 95% of creatine deposits are stored in skeletal muscle, waiting for high-intensity power output. We’ll learn how creatine works and why this supplement is great for high-intensity training and performance.
Creatine is a combination of the three amino acids glycine, arginine and methionine. The creatine and phosphocreatine (PCr) system plays an important role in the energy metabolism of muscles, acting as a buffer for the concentration and production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is called the phosphocreatine system.
Think of ATP as your body’s internal battery pack. During creatine synthesis, creatine first produces ATP bound to a phosphate group. Phosphocreatine is the major form of creatine in muscle cells, accounting for 70% of the creatine concentration (right, right). Creatine kinase (an enzyme) utilizes phosphocreatine to super-fast phosphorylate adenosine diphosphate, ADP, to ATP (adenosine triphosphate) during times of acute energy demand.
Before we move on to the specifics of how creatine works, we need to talk a little bit about energy metabolism, and how your body metabolizes energy during exercise.
The limited ATP stores in skeletal muscle provide an immediate burst of energy for high-intensity exercise, usually lasting 5-10 seconds. Thereafter, energy production from ATP can proceed through three different pathways: the ATP-phosphocreatine system (phosphagen system), rapid glycolysis, and aerobic oxidation.
The oxidative system is the main source of ATP at rest and during low-intensity activity, mainly using carbohydrates and fats as substrates through glycolysis, lipolysis, and fat oxidation.
Glycolysis occurs under both aerobic and anaerobic conditions. In cells that use aerobic respiration as their primary energy source, pyruvate formed by this pathway can be used in the citric acid cycle. It then undergoes oxidative phosphorylation and is converted to carbon dioxide and water.
Under anaerobic conditions, pyruvate is converted to lactate through anaerobic glycolysis.
Glycolysis is one way cells produce energy. Because glycolysis does not require oxygen, it is the first step in anaerobic respiration (right).
During strenuous exercise, the muscles lack oxygen supply, and the oxygen will produce lactic acid through glycolysis and release energy for the resynthesis of ATP. This is known as the anaerobic pathway of energy metabolism.
In the absence of oxygen, the body relies on adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and glucose or glycogen in muscle cells for energy, including the so-called phosphogen (immediate) energy system and the glycolytic pathway to produce a limited amount of energy.
Think of glycolysis as having two phases. The first phase, the “investment” phase, consumes two ATP molecules. The second “reward” phase produces four ATPs, two NADHs, and two pyruvates.
Thus, glycolysis consumes two ATP molecules and produces four ATP, two NADH, and two pyruvate per glucose molecule. Pyruvate can be used in the citric acid cycle or as a precursor for other biological reactions (right).
This is one of the ways the body produces energy and ATP. The last system, the phosphogen system is where creatine comes into play.
The phosphogen system consists of energy stores – ATP and creatine phosphate.
The amount of ATP stored in the body is very small. During high power output activities such as sprinting, cycling, or weightlifting, allowing 1-2 seconds of maximum effort is sufficient. Muscle cannot get ATP from other tissues; it has to be manufactured. Therefore, for this, ADP (an inorganic phosphate) and an additional energy source are required to rebuild the ATP molecule through rephosphorylation of ADP. An additional source of energy is creatine phosphate. The storage of PCr can generate high energy, which can be sustained for an additional 5-8 seconds of maximum effort. Thus, the phosphogen systems (ATP and PCr) combine to provide energy for up to 10 seconds of maximum effort.
The phosphogen system is extremely important in power training such as throwing, hitting, jumping and sprinting.
The system is quickly replenished during recovery; in fact, it takes about 30 seconds to replenish approximately 70% of phosphagen, and 3 to 5 minutes to replenish 100%. This means that during intermittent work (resting after short periods of activity), most of the phosphogen can be replenished during recovery, allowing repeated use (right).
The more creatine stored in skeletal muscle cells, the easier and faster the rephosphorylation of ATP. This results in more high energy and power output.
Creatine can give you more power output and strength during high-intensity exercise and training. If you’re looking for a way to maximize your endurance and power output, creatine is an extremely effective choice for performance enhancement. Research has shown that creatine produces anabolic effects and plays a role in energy metabolism in the brain, further strengthening its place in supplementation regimens and having numerous beneficial therapeutic applications.
Looking for the best form of creatine to help you through your workout?
Kre-Alkalyn® by Swolverine is a patented pH correct form of creatine phosphate. By adding phosphocreatine (PCr) to muscle cells, the body can increase its immediate energy supply by boosting ATP production, thereby increasing power output and strength. High-intensity training programs require the body to be subjected to intense aerobic and anaerobic conditions. By supplementing your body with creatine, you’ll greatly improve your athletic endurance and performance, resulting in shorter times, higher peak power, and greater capacity to lift weights.
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