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The History of Creatine

No one really invented creatine. More precisely, creatine was discovered. In 1835 a French scientist named Michel-Eugène Chevreul discovered a component of skeletal muscle that he later named creatine after the Greek word for flesh, or Kreas (1). A few years later (1847), a German scientist named Justus von Liebig observed that physical activity increases the amount of creatine contained within the muscles of animals. Liebig's finding led him to advance the hypothesis that muscular activity utilizes certain nitrogenous molecules as sources of energy (2). These nitrogenous molecules later became known as amino acids, of which, creatine is one. Intriguingly, as an extension of his findings, Liebig helped formulate an extract of meat, which he asserted would help the body perform extra "work". In fact, "Liebig's Fleisch Extrakt" could quite reasonably be considered the original creatine supplement. Therefore, although creatine may seem like something new to the world, the scientific community has recognized it as a natural constituent of muscle for over 150 years. Near the turn of the century the first studies examining the effects of creatine feeding were conducted where it was noticed that not all the creatine fed could be recovered in the urine. This result indicated that the body (i.e., skeletal muscle) was retaining most of the ingested creatine. In fact, skeletal muscle, as well as being the largest sink for dietary creatine, is also the richest natural source of the nutrient. Thus, whenever we take a bite of steak (skeletal muscle) creatine is made available to our muscles for absorption from the blood stream. It is estimated that those eating a normal omnivorous diet (non-vegetarians) receive approximately one gram of creatine each day from their diets. In essence, creatine supplementation simply takes this natural process of creatine ingestion one step further. When dietary intake if creatine is insufficient to meet our daily energetic needs, the body can also produce its own source of creatine. The body produces creatine from three amino acids, arginine, glycine and methionine. The first step in creatine synthesis primarily takes place in the kidneys with the union of arginine and glycine to produce guanidinoacetic acid or GAA. GAA is next transported through the blood stream to the liver where it is converted into creatine with the addition of a methyl group from a version of methionine known as S-adenosylmethionine. From the liver, creatine is again transported in the blood stream to the tissues of our body-principally skeletal muscle. Importantly for this discussion, excessive creatine ingestion inhibits creatine production by the body. In conclusion, creatine is nothing new to this world. Creatine is, and always has been, a natural constituent of skeletal muscle used in energy production. In fact, naturally found conditions of creatine deficiencies give rise to states of disease. By the way, those of you looking for creatine in a pharmaceutical catalogue will find it under the scientific designation of a-methyl guandinoacetic acid (a methylated version of guanidino-acetic acid). As you can see, there's absolutely nothing mysterious about creatine...


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