Feature Archive

Nature's Muscle Builder?

Creatine may help exercisers bulk up -- if taken properly.

By Dean Haycock
WebMD Feature

April 17, 2000 (Salem, N.Y.) -- It comes in a bewildering number of products, from MuscleTech and Cell-Tech to Champion Creatine Xtreme and Twinlab Creatine Fuel 5000. Day after day, weight lifters and athletes from junior high to pro leagues are swallowing gram after gram of the stuff.

It's called creatine, a naturally occurring substance found in muscles and other tissues. Proponents say the supplement can safely add muscle and improve performance. Surprisingly, a growing number of sports medicine experts say they just might be right.

Joe Tevella, 40, has been lifting weights on and off for 20 years. For the past 18 months, he's been especially dedicated, pumping iron at home four days a week -- and taking a daily dose of creatine.

"I was surprised, because usually you hear all this stuff [about supplements] and they don't work," he says. With creatine, however, he has seen definite changes. "The biggest difference is I feel a lot fresher when I work out," he says. "It has helped me get a little stronger. I have grown a little bit in size. Plus, it gives me quicker recovery."

Unlike much of what you find on the shelves of health food stores, creatine has been put to the test in well-designed, placebo-controlled studies. At the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., for instance, assistant professor Jeff Volek, PhD, RD, and his colleagues measured the effects of creatine on performance and muscle size in 10 healthy men and compared them with 9 men taking a placebo.