Creatine, a nitrogenous organic acid, is a natural component of skeletal muscle in vertebrates, including human beings. It helps to supply energy to our muscle cells, and when taken as a dietary supplement, increases the bodyâ€™s capacity for work. As the creatine supplement is popular among athletes that want to gain muscle mass and improve their performance, there is an ongoing debate surrounding the use of creatine supplements today. Even though sport-governing bodies have not banned the supplement yet, some countries have placed a strict ban on its use.
Creatine was first identified in 1832 by French scientist and philosopher, Michel Eugene Chevreul, who named it after the Greek word for flesh, kreas. Soon afterwards, a German scientist, Justus von Liebig helped promote a commercially available extract of meat, on the grounds that it would give the body strength for extra work. The secret ingredient in this enigmatic meat extract was, of course, creatine!
This important acid can be found in our muscle tissues, supplying much-needed energy for muscle contraction to our bodies. The acid finds a way in each time we consume meat or fish; in fact, almost half of the creatine stored in our bodies originates from food.
Creatine functions as part of a coordination based on arginine/phosphoarginine and operating in lots of invertebrates. By the presence of this energy shuttle, the ATP/ADP ratio is kept high. This ensures that the level of free ATP energy stays on top, while also minifying the loss of adenosine nucleotides; thus also preventing cellular dysfunction.
The human body mainly synthesizes creatine in the liver, using parts from three amino acids, namely arginine, glycine, and methionine. Ninety five percent of this creatine is later stored in our skeletal muscles, while the brain, the heart, and the testes get to keep the remaining five percent. Itâ€™s important to note that genetic deficiences in the creatine biosynthetic pathway may often result in severe neurologic imperfections.
The endogenic synthesis of creatine in the human liver is adequate for normal functioning of the human body. In other words, vegetarians do not suffer from creatine deficiency even though vegetables do not contain creatine. However, scientific studies show us that an addition of creatine intake to a vegetarian diet does indeed enhance physical performance. Chemical synthesis with plant-derived amino acids is the method employed in obtaining vegetarian creatine; in fact it is the only method we know of at this time.
Scientists continue to investigate the benefits of creatine supplementation in treating muscular, neurological, and neuromuscular diseases. Studies have already revealed that creatine is effective in extending the lives of mice with the degenerative neural disease: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; and can cause modest improvements in the power output of people with a range of neuromuscular disorders.
In the human body, creatine is broken down to creatinine, before taking the exit route which eliminates the acid through the kidneys. Creatine also acts as a means of diagnosis as doctors and health facilities determine kidney functioning by routinely measuring blood creatinine. As an e.g. renal failure is indicated by high creatinine serum levels.
Leaving out the cases of creatine abuse, studies have shown that short-term creatine supplementation in healthy individuals, increasing the activity of myogenic cells, is actually quite safe. Yet, there is still a debate over the incidence of muscle cramping which may result as a side-effect of creatine use. Moreover, scientific research has also revealed that creatine supplementation increases both total and fat-free body mass.
Following the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, creatine received great mass media attention when it was discovered that a number of the athletes had used it as a supplement. The Times in August of that same year reported that the 100 meters gold medal, Linford Christie, had utilized it as a dietary supplement prior to the Olympics, while an article appearing in Bodybuilding Monthly labeled the 400-meter hurdle gold medalistâ€™s victory as a product of creatine use. It was further brought to public attention that quite a few medal-winning British rowers had used creatine while preparing for the Barcelona games.
This media attention, which generated in 1992, is still in full-swing, what with the controversy surrounding the usage and banning of creatine as a supplement, and the worldwide attention the debate has awakened.