By Karen Springen Men's Health
Even if you’re not a weight lifter, you’ve undoubtedly heard of creatine, one of the most researched supplements in history.
It’s a combination of amino acids produced by the liver, kidney, and pancreas. Creatine is not a steroid—it’s naturally found in muscle and in red meat and fish, though at far lower levels than in the powder form sold on bodybuilding websites and at your local ***.
How does it work? Creatine reduces fatigue by transporting extra energy into your cells, says Ari Levy, M.D., who works with patients at the Program for Personalized Health and Prevention at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is the compound your body uses for energy. For a muscle to contract, it breaks off a phosphate molecule from ATP. As a result, ATP becomes ADP (adenosine diphosphate). The problem: You can’t use ADP for energy, and your body only has so much stored ATP. The fix: ADP takes a phosphate molecule from your body’s stores of creatine phosphate, forming more ATP.
If you have more creatine phosphate—which you do if you take a creatine supplement—you can work out longer and do sets of, say, eight reps instead of six. Over weeks and months, that added workload allows you to add lean muscle mass, lift heavier weights, and become stronger. (Want the perfect workout to build muscle and torch fat? Check out the new 8-DVD metabolic training series from Men’s Health, Speed Shred.)
But should you worry about side effects? Does creatine cause you to lose weight when you stop it, or does it hurt your kidneys, like you may have heard? Here are the key myths and facts you need to know.
Creatine is similar to anabolic steroids. Myth. Steroids mimic testosterone and are banned in the Olympics and in professional sports. By contrast, the International Olympic Committee, professional sports leagues, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association do not prohibit creatine. (The NCAA won’t let colleges give it to athletes, though.)
Creatine can help you build muscle mass without hitting the gym. Myth. It shows some improvement in kids with muscular dystrophy, even if they’re not exercising, says Mark Tarnopolsky, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and medicine and director of the neuromuscular and neurometabolic clinic at McMaster University Medical Center in Ontario. “[But] the best effect in healthy humans is seen when creatine is combined with resistance exercise training.”
Creatine causes gastrointestinal upset. True—but it’s rare. Tarnopolsky says his studies show 5 to 7 percent of people experience either stomach aches, diarrhea, or both.
Creatine will help you run a faster 5K. Myth. Creatine helps athletes with more fast-twitch muscle fibers (used to swing a baseball bat) more than athletes with more slow-twitch ones (used by marathon runners). “If you’re an endurance athlete, if you’re not doing something that involves the fast-twitch muscle fibers, you don’t need to be on creatine,” says orthopedic surgeon Tony Wanich, M.D., a sports medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
Read more at Men's Health: http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/...#ixzz24NE3105E