What does creatine normally do in the body?
Creatine is an amino acid (amino acids are the building blocks of proteins) that is produced in the body by the liver and kidneys and is obtained from food through meat and animal products. Creatine (creatine monohydrate) is a colorless, crystalline substance used in muscle tissue to produce phosphocreatine, an important factor in the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy source for muscle contraction and many other functions in the body.
In the body, creatine is converted into a molecule called “phosphocreatine” that acts as a quick energy storage reservoir. Phosphocreatine is especially important in tissues such as the voluntary muscles and nervous system that require large amounts of energy periodically.
Why do athletes use creatine?
Studies have shown that creatine can improve athletes’ performance in activities that require rapid bursts of energy, such as sprinting, and help athletes recover faster after expending energy. Creatine is best for the serious bodybuilder. It helps to increase lean muscle mass rather than muscle endurance so it is not well suited for athletes participating in endurance activities. However, the increase in muscle mass may be due to water retention and not an increase in muscle tissue.
Why have I heard so much about creatine ?
Two scientific studies have shown that creatine can be beneficial for neuromuscular conditions. First, a study by MDA-funded researcher M. Flint Beal of Cornell University Medical Center showed that creatine was twice as effective as the prescription drug riluzole in extending the lives of mice with the degenerative neural disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS , or Lou Gehrig’s illness). Second, a study by Canadian researchers Mark Tarnopolsky and Joan Martin of McMaster University Medical Center in Ontario found that creatine can cause modest strength gains in people with a variety of neuromuscular conditions. Beal’s work was published in the March issue of Nature Neuroscience and the second paper was published in the March issue of Neurology.
- Want to start using creatine – is it safe?
For the most part, athletes have not experienced any adverse side effects from creatine use, although recently there have been some reports of kidney damage associated with creatine use.
- No consistent toxicity has been reported in creatine supplementation studies. Dehydration has also been reported as a problem while taking creatine.
- Athletes generally take a “loading dose” of 20 grams of creatine per day for five or six days, then continue on a “maintenance dose” of 2 to 5 grams of creatine per day.
What are the side effects?
Little is known about the long-term side effects of creatine, but no consistent toxicity has been reported in studies of creatine supplements. In a study of creatine side effects, diarrhea was the most commonly reported side effect of creatine supplementation, followed by muscle cramps.18 Some reports showed that kidney, liver and blood functions were not affected by short-term higher amounts or long-term lower amounts of creatine supplementation in healthy young adults. In a small study in people who took 5–30 grams per day, no change in kidney function occurred after up to five years of supplementation. Muscle cramps after creatine supplementation have been reported anecdotally in some studies.
• increases athletic performance
• increases muscle mass
• beneficial for muscle disorders
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