You might think of creatine as a strength-building supplement. After all, it seems to be the preferred choice of those muscle-bound, gym-going types. Creatine certainly has its uses when you’re exercising, but it’s a lot more complicated than just increasing your muscle. One of its most important roles is as stored energy.
There’s a compound in the body called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). It’s what gives pretty much every cell its energy. All the chemical reactions and nerve impulses are powered by ATP. It also plays a vital role in ensuring that your muscles can contract. Obviously, that’s important for effective exercise.
So, what does that have to do with creatine? Well, creatine and ATP are pretty closely linked. When creatine is stored in the muscles and brain, it is in the form known as phosphocreatine. It can then donate its phosphates to what’s known as adenosine diphosphate (ADP), converting it into ATP. Lose phosphates again and the ATP will turn back into ADP, so it’s a continuous cycle.
In the context of exercise, creatine can give your muscles the surge of power needed for short but intense workouts. Sprints, circuit training, heavy lifting, and other kinds of exercise that don’t last long but burn lots of energy are where creatine is most useful. It doesn’t just make you stronger and give you more energy; it also speeds up your recovery time. That’s very helpful when these kinds of sessions normally only allow you a very quick break before you head into another rep.
Training that is supplemented with creatine can lead to bigger and faster muscle gain and shorter periods of recovery, and it can potentially reduce the risk of injuries and cramps. There’s also some evidence that it may alleviate bone-related issues such as osteoarthritis. And it’s not just the muscles; creatine is also found in the brain, and a dose of creatine can be a bit like a shot of caffeine for waking that brain up when you’re short on sleep.
Now, your body does produce creatine of its own accord with the help of the liver, kidneys and pancreas. You can also get enough for your general health through red meat and seafood as creatine is an amino acid found in protein. For the biggest impact on your energy levels when exercising, however, you may want to consider supplementing it.