Creatine has become one of the most widely used nutritional supplements. It’s one of the best-researched supplements for increasing muscle strength and power in athletes. Less known are its benefits beyond athletic performance, which extend to people with various muscle-wasting and neurological diseases.
What Does Creatine Do?
The ATP-phosphocreatine system has immense power potential. Muscle stores of phosphocreatine release energy and rapidly boost the production of new ATP energy molecules. The burst of energy needed to sustain exercise with maximal effort normally lasts for only 5 to 10 seconds after which a drop in phosphocreatine causes fatigue.
Peaks in strength and exercise capacity during short-term, high-intensity power training depends on two factors:
- ATP levels
- Phosphocreatine stores
For energy to be released and used, ATP needs to be broken down to ADP (cleaving one of the phosphates in ATP off). ADP is returned to its high-energy state of ATP in different ways during anaerobic exercise (sugar breakdown or glycolysis) vs. aerobic exercise (oxidative phosphorylation).
With high-intensity exercise, muscles rely on the anaerobic system, which uses phosphocreatine and muscle sugar stores (glycogen) as fuels. This is why the degree to which muscles will use creatine directly depends on the intensity and duration of the exercise. Muscles need the most phosphocreatine during the most intense and maximally demanding periods of exercise or sport.