Creatine Monohydrate is arguably the most popular nutritional supplement of the last decade because it delivers real and undisputed scientifi cally proven results time and time again
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Creatine Monohydrate is arguably the most popular nutritional supplement of the last decade because it delivers real and undisputed scientifi cally proven results time and time again. Creatine’s immense popularity rivals even protein. Creatine is an extremely effective product from both a performance and cost perspective. With so many athletes using the product, it’s not surprising that many opinions and urban legends have formed regarding creatine and how it should be used.
First, creatine is not a steroid, hormone, vitamin, or mineral. It is produced by the body from the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine, 95% of the body’s creatine is stored in skeletal muscle. Small amounts of creatine are found naturally occurring in foods such as beef and fi sh, with only trace amounts occurring in vegetables. The creatine powder that you purchase at the health food store, however, is produced by a controlled synthesis process. Most creatine appears very similar, although different brands could be of entirely different quality in terms of purity. Incomplete reactions during the synthesis of creatine can cause impurities such as creatinine, dicyandiamide, and dihydrotriazine derivatives in the product. A patented process owned by AlzChem Trostberg GmbH., makers of Creapure®, yields 100% impurity free creatine and is the only creatine with quality standards high enough to be used in our products since day one in 1996.
Creatine helps the body produce fuel, namely adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the body’s energy molecule that supplies fuel for cellular functions. During anaerobic exercise (weight training, sprinting, etc.) ATP stores are depleted rapidly. However, there is a limit to the amount of ATP that can be stored by a cell at any one time. The amount of ATP contained by a muscle and its ability to produce it directly determines how long the muscle can perform. Supplemental creatine doesn’t increase the amount of stored ATP, but rather accelerates the rate at which ATP is replaced or resynthesized by the PCr (phosphocreatine) system of the cell. Creatine does make the body “retain water,” but the key here is “where.” The very large percentage of water is stored intracellularly, or inside the muscle cell, as opposed to under the skin (subcutaneously). It is subcutaneous water retention that makes people appear soft or puffy. However, intracellular water retention (“cell hydration” or “volumizing” as it’s often referred to) is actually a benefi cial “side effect” but not the direct effect of creatine supplementation. Super-hydrated cells have higher rates of protein synthesis and therefore repair themselves quicker. Supplemental creatine can help push you though “one more rep,” or get “one second faster,” and recover quicker when participating in high-intensity, muscledamaging sports.
Muscles appear to have a limit regarding the amount of creatine they can store (~160 mmol per kg of dry muscle mass). What this tells us is there comes a point when taking more creatine doesn’t improve results. The benefi t that “loading” provides is the saturation point or limit is reached quicker. Muscles that are saturated with creatine can work harder, repair faster, pump up harder, and appear much fuller. Once reached, saturation can be maintained using only about 5 g a day. The most common strategy used for loading is four to fi ve days taking 20 g per day divided into four 5 g servings. One serving should be taken immediately post workout. Females can begin with 12 g per days divided into 3 g servings. Activity level, muscle mass, diets, and many other factors can affect the amount of creatine you require for optimal performance. Take good notes the fi rst few times you use creatine because there will undoubtedly be an optimal serving size for your body, and some trial and error will be necessary to fi nd out what that is. Most people still fi nd that loading is the quickest way to begin seeing real results from creatine.
Creatine is not 100% soluble. Often, gastrointestinal (GI) distress is due to unabsorbed creatine in the gut. Cheaply produced brands containing impurities or having large particle sizes will also add to the problem. Creapure® used in CREATINE by Universal Nutrition is super-micronized for maximum solubility and absorption. Creatine has a solubility in water of 0.0085% at 4C and 1.4% at 25C ~ pH 7. 5. Although it may not be the most palatable, as you may see from those numbers, mixing creatine in warm water will greatly increase solubility. Creatine is reasonably stable for about 8 hours after mixing, but to avoid any degradation problems, you should consume it as soon as possible once mixed. If bloating has been a problem in the past, reducing the amount to 2.5 g per day will also help. The incredibly high-carb content of some of the “mega-creatine pre-mixes” can also cause GI distress in some people. Large amounts of simple carbs ingested quickly can cause large volumes of water to be drawn into the gut, creating GI distress. Using pure creatine powder with little or no carbs relieves this problem for most people. Bloating problems are usually eliminated by using high quality products and one of these absorption increasing strategies.
Of all the creatines available, creatine monohydrate offers the most bang for the buck. There are several other Creatine compounds that are deservingly gaining popularity, but for the money, creatine monohydrate is still on top. Be very skeptical of liquid creatine; creatine in liquid has been proven unstable, and there are pending lawsuits against the largest manufacturer of these products for misleading claims and comparisons to creatine monohydrate powder.
There’s really no evidence that suggests that cycling is necessary, but most people do. Two months on followed by one off works quite well. Like dosages, this timeline may not be optimal for you or your sport schedule, and some trial and error will be required to fi nd the perfect cycle. Athletes should keep using creatine until the effect becomes less noticeable than when you began. Many people become accustomed to their new level of performance and mistake it for the creatine “not working anymore.” After a short break most people are quickly reminded of just how powerful a supplement creatine really is.
Creatine has received blame for several things including muscle cramps, dehydration, and kidney failure. After all the ugly name-calling that creatine has suffered, none of these claims have ever been proven. In fact, most have been proven to be false. In an industry that sees the introduction of new products and ingredients daily, perhaps one of the best things about creatine is the amount of actual research that has been done regarding safety and effectiveness exceeds that of every other supplement. This, combined with millions of “case studies” who are pumping iron in gyms around the world, allows for a degree of confi dence greater than many of the most common drugstore products. Creatine is not on the list of IOC (International Olympic Committee) banned substances and is legal for use in Olympic competition. Considering the zero-tolerance stance of the IOC regarding doping and risk to an athlete’s health (even caffeine is controlled by the IOC), the fact that creatine is not on its banned list should also provide some reassurance as to the safety of creatine use. With the exception of protein powders, no other supplement delivers amazing results with the same degree of documented safety as creatine. For those looking to maximize strength and explosive power, creatine is still the undefeated champ!
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