The notion of health and fitness has evolved over the years. Nowadays, the prime emphasis is on getting lean and not on improving strength, exercise performance, and gaining healthy muscle mass.
Creatine is a popular supplement in the fitness industry for improving lean muscle mass, building stamina, and boosting exercise ability.
What is creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid in the body that acts as an energy source during muscle activity. Creatine is turned into creatine phosphate in the body, which helps make a substance called adenosine triphosphate that provides energy for muscle contractions.
About 95% of the total creatine in the body (internally produced as well as consumed through food or supplements) is stored in skeletal muscles. The remaining 5% is found in other tissues, mainly the heart and brain.
About half of the body’s supply comes from foods of animal origin, such as red meat, milk, and seafood, and the rest is produced is in the liver and kidneys and then delivered to the skeletal muscles (where it is stored in the form of phosphocreatine) for further use. This creatine is crucial during muscle activity as it ensures an uninterrupted source of energy. Hence, the average dietary consumption of creatine may be lower for vegans and vegetarians than for nonvegetarians.
Creatinine is a normal by-product of creatine metabolism. Due to the spontaneous conversion of creatine into creatinine, diet (high in animal protein), proper use of creatine supplements, and/or vigorous exercise can often lead to a creatinine level reading at or above the normal (>1.5 mg/dL), which is harmless in healthy individuals.
Although creatine is created naturally, the body must release stored creatine each day to keep normal levels depending on the muscle mass.
As creatine is believed to improve athletic performance, creatine supplements are popularly used to improve muscle strength and athletic performance. Various creatine supplements in the form of powder, tablets, energy bars, and drink mixes are available without a doctor's prescription. You must consult your healthcare provider to know whether these supplements are safe for you.
What are the benefits of creatine?
Creatine supplements are generally used by athletes for enhancing their physical performance and strength. Professional athletes involved in power sports, such as football, wrestling, hockey, and bodybuilding, often take creatine supplements to aid their workout routines and improve workout recovery. These supplements are allowed by various professional sports associations, including the International Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Creatine provides you with a quick burst of energy, enhances muscle mass, increases strength, and improves performance. The health benefits of creatine include
- Improving athletic performance: Creatine supplements are quite popular among people involved in various sports, such as rowing, basketball, cycling, swimming, soccer, and the high jump, to name a few. It is believed to improve exercise performance as well as boost post-exercise recovery. Creatine helps increase fat-free muscle mass, improves recovery from injuries, and helps athletes adjust to rigorous training schedules.
- Gain muscle strength: Studies have suggested that creatine supplementation improves muscle strength in both younger and older adults. Creatine may help improve muscle strength in age-related muscle loss or sarcopenia in older adults. It is particularly helpful when coupled with muscle-strengthening exercises.
- May help manage neurodegenerative disorders: Some studies suggest that creatine supplementation may help improve the symptoms in people with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and muscular dystrophy.
- Beneficial for inherited disorders of creatine metabolism or transport: Certain genetic disorders, such as guanidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT) deficiency and arginine-glycine amidinotransferase (AGAT) deficiency, take away the body’s ability to make creatine. Creatine supplementation in these cases may help relieve symptoms, such as seizures, movement problems, and language issues.
Several studies also report that people who take creatine supplements may experience less incidence of the following:
- Heat illness
- Muscle tightness
- Noncontact injuries
Some studies have indicated the beneficial roles of creatine in diseases, such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, depression, low bone mass (osteopenia), and chronic kidney disease. There is, however, a lack of sufficient scientific evidence to support these claims.
What are the negative effects of creatine?
Creatine supplements are considered safe for healthy individuals. Nonetheless, it must be remembered that nutritional supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Hence, the quality, purity, and quantity of creatine, as well as the presence of any off-label or additional ingredients in commercial supplements, cannot be guaranteed.
Side effects may include:
- Weight gain (due to water retention)
- Exaggerate preexisting kidney issues
- Breathing difficulty
- Stomach upset
You must drink sufficient water while on these supplements to prevent dehydration. You should also consult your healthcare provider before taking these supplements. Getting a nod from your doctor is even more important if you:
- Are younger than 18 years old
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Have underlying health conditions, such as kidney disease, liver disease, bipolar disorder, or diabetes
- Are taking any medications or supplements
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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Creatine and Creatine Supplements. Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17674-creatine-and-creatine-supplements
Creatine. Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-creatine/art-20347591#:~:text=Creatine%20is%20often%20used%20by,%2C%20ligaments%2C%20tendons%20and%20nerves.
Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. NIH: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407788/
Medline Plus: "Creatine." https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/873.html
WebMD: "An Overview of Creatine Supplements." https://www.webmd.com/men/creatine
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