Creatine is a non-protein amino acid present in many of our organs, particularly in skeletal muscle.
This molecule was discovered in 1832 by the French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, who first managed to extract it from meat and for this reason he called it precisely creatine (from the Greek "kreas", meat).
The main food sources of creatine are in fact those of animal origin, mainly in meat, poultry and fish, which contain an average of 4-5 g of creatine per kg.
In addition to food supplementation, creatine is also synthesized by the body itself at the level of the liver and kidneys to produce about 1 g per day of this nutrient starting from the amino acids arginine, methionine and glycine. Whether it comes from food sources or produced within the body, creatine is then transported into muscle cells where it is transformed into phospho-creatine.
The latter acts as a high energy compound capable of regenerating ATP (adenosine triphosphate), an energy molecule used in all our cells. This replenishment of the ATP is extremely rapid and therefore allows for the maintenance of a high contraction force of the muscle fibers in a very short time. This increases muscle power and therefore the performance of short, intense and repeated efforts.
So the metabolism of creatine is particularly used in sports activities where anaerobic metabolism is important (eg: weight lifting, team sports, ...), as widely attested by decades of scientific research that has tested the effect of the intake of creatine monohydrate in athletes of various sports.
In fact, one of the first studies observed that after 4 weeks of supplementation with creatine monohydrate, professional weight lifters were able to significantly increase the number of repetitions on a flat bench compared to the control group (Earnest et al, Acta Physiol Scand, 1995).
Numerous studies have followed one another and have highlighted the positive effects on athletic performance of creatine also in team sports. For example, a recent study evaluated the power developed by the leg muscles of professional footballers after supplementation with creatine, observing a significant improvement in jumping performance compared to the group that received a placebo (Claudino et al, J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2014).
In general, the best time to take advantage of creatine supplementation is just before training. This is because during warming up circulation increases, ensuring a greater flow of blood and therefore also of creatine to muscle cells, which in turn are more receptive to nutrients. This receptivity of cells is further enhanced by insulin, a hormone with purely anabolic effects that causes cells to absorb nutrients.
The optimal choice of the timing of creatine intake is therefore both before training and immediately after the effort. In fact, pre-workout creatine is immediately utilized for energy and performance, while post-training creatine is very important for recovery, in particular by promoting the recovery of glycogen muscle reserves (van Loon et al, Clin Sci, 2004).
Creatine had originally been shown to be associated with kidney damage. However, a great deal of scientific studies and meta-analyzes (collected and summarized in Gualano et al., Amino Acids, 2012) have now confirmed that the short- and long-term use of doses of 3-5 grams of creatine daily is totally safe and does not alter renal function. The only side effects were found in individuals who already had an ongoing kidney disease. So this is a myth about creatine which has undoubtedly been debunked.
Daily intake: we recommend taking about 3 g of creatine in total before and after training for about a month.