Creatine and muscle growth
By David Bradley
Creatine is an organic acid containing nitrogen. It occurs naturally animals from fish and chimps to cats and dogs, and rats and people, vertebrates, in other words. It helps to supply energy to muscle cells and so has become the b@stard child of the steroid age for body builders hoping for a quick bulk up.
Creatine was first isolated in 1832 from skeletal muscle by Michel Eugène Chevreul who named it for the Greek word for flesh, kreas. It was as early as 1912, well before Charles Atlas, that scientists discovered that eating a daily dose of creatine could boost the creatine content of the muscle. It was not until the late 1920s that it was determined that larger than normal amounts (i.e. creatine supplements, as opposed to conventional dietary sources), in the form of its phosphate salt plays a key role in the metabolism of skeletal muscle.
Creatine, is found naturally in the body and is present in meat and fish. But, it is its availability over-the-counter legally as a synthetic amino acid powder to help build muscle and speed recovery from injuries and general training that have led to its infamy.
Creatine first hit the mainstream during the 1980s and gained notoriety at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, when it was alleged by the London Times that athlete Linford Christie, a 100m gold medal winner, had utilized creatine in his training regime prior to the Olympics. Bodybuilding Monthly subsequently outed another gold medalist Sally Gunnell, a 400m hurdler as another alleged creatine user. Other athletes also apparently tested positive and a recent poll claims that more than half of top athletes have used creatine.
Kidney damage and short-term problems such as muscle cramping and dehydration are commonly reported by heavy creatine users, leading some medical professionals to call for a ban on its sales as a health supplement.
Other commonly used amino acids and related materials include glutamine, which supposedly reduces fatigue, builds muscle and gives users an immune system boost, trypthophan or 5HT, which supposedly boosts adrenalin production, making fighters fightier and runners sprintier, and, of course, whole protein powders, which are claimed to reduce recovery times and help fuel hypertrophy, or muscle growth.
For more information on how muscles contract, check out our report from the Royal Society meeting on the subject.
Creatine has recently been in the news for the possibility of it leading to a new treatment for Parkinson’s disease.
If you are looking for additional information about the creatine chemical structure please use its InChI code to search ChemSpider or another structure database site.