When we reflect upon the timeline of human nutrition and fitness, the role of creatine is not only significant but ancient. Its journey from being a component of a prehistoric man's meat-heavy diet to becoming a cornerstone of modern sports nutrition makes it a fascinating subject of study.
The discovery of creatine
Creatine's scientific discovery traces back to 1832, when French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul identified it while researching the components of skeletal muscle. He derived the name from the Greek word for meat, "kreas." This discovery paved the way for a deeper understanding of muscle metabolism and energy production, though these breakthroughs were still many years away.
Creatine and muscle contraction
By the mid-twentieth century, scientists realized that creatine might play a role in energy production within cells.* In the 1920s, scientists detected that when muscle cells are at rest, they store energy from ATP in the form of creatine phosphate. This stored energy could then ready to be rapidly mobilized during periods of high energy demand, such as muscle contraction.*
Creatine and performance in athletes
It was, however, during the Cold War era that creatine's application in athletic performance enhancement came to light. The Soviet Union reportedly used creatine supplements in the 1970s to boost the performance of their athletes in Olympic events. This practice was initially shrouded in secrecy, typical of the intense geopolitical rivalry of that era.
The Western world caught up in the 1990s, following a series of groundbreaking studies showing creatine's potential ergogenic effects. A significant surge in creatine supplement use was observed among bodybuilders and athletes looking for a way to help support their performance.*
Today, creatine is recognized as one of the most extensively researched dietary supplements. It is widely used by athletes across disciplines for its role in strength, power, and high-intensity exercise capacity.* Additionally, it might help support muscle recovery, helping athletes train harder and potentially recover faster for certain individuals.* This tale of the humble meat derivative turning into a sports nutrition superstar exemplifies the remarkable strides science has made in understanding human performance and nutrition.
As always, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. Get professional advice if you think you might need a micronized creatine supplement or are already taking one to ensure you're not exceeding the amounts you may need.