The Effects of Creatine
Creatine has been used in sports throughout time. Athletes have always had a fascination with being excellent at what they do. With the banning of steroids from competitive sports and the implementation of random drug testing in most sports, most athletes are still somehow hoping to gain an edge on their competition. This edge that they are using is creatine.
In order to understand how creatine works, we must discover what creatine is. Creatine is an energy producing nutrient found in our bodies. It is synthesized from three amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine. These amino acids are primarily found in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. It is also consumed in our everyday diets from fish, meat and other animal products. Creatine is not considered an essential nutrient in our diets.
In general, we consume approximately one gram of creatine per day in our diets (www.healthlink.mcw.edu).
Creatine helps provide the energy our muscles need to move, especially movements that are quick and explosive. Approximately ninety five percent of the body’s creatine supply is found in the skeletal muscles (www.pacific-nutrition.com). The other five percent is spread throughout the body, but mainly found in the heart, brain and testes. Creatine is easily absorbed from the intestinal tract into the blood stream.
Creatine was first discovered in 1832 by a French scientist, Cevreul. In 1847, it was noticed that the meat from foxes killed in the wild had ten times more creatine than meat from inactive foxes. The conclusion from this was that creatine accumulates in muscles due to physical activity. It was discovered in the early twentieth century that not all creatine consumed was excreted in the urine, but in fact, stored in the body. In 1912, researchers found that ingesting creatine can dramatically boost the creatine content of muscle. Fiske and Subbarow discovered creatine phosphate in 1927, and determined that creatine is a key player in the metabolism of skeletal muscle. Most studies focusing on creatine and sports performance have only been done since the early 1990’s (www.pacific-nutrition.com).
When we use our muscles everyday we use oxygen to make energy. This energy is created by breaking down a chemical that exists in our body known as ATP (adenosine triphosphate) into another chemical ADP (adenosine diphosphate) (www.healthlink.mcw.edu). More ATP must be produced because there is only enough ATP to provide energy for about ten seconds. Creatine phosphate comes to the rescue by giving up its ATP. This ATP can then be burned again as fuel for more muscle contraction (Clinics in Sports Medicine). Your ability to regenerate ATP depends on your supply of creatine; the more creatine in your muscles, the more ATP you can make (Clinics in Sport Medicine). This allows you to train your muscles to their maximum potential. The more work you do (weightlifting, running, swimming, etc.), the stronger you become over time.
Creatine supplementation in athletes is on the rise. It is being promoted as a muscle performance enhancer. The most common form of creatine is creatine monohydrate, which is available in powder form. A loading phase consisting of ingesting up to twenty grams of creatine monohydrate a day for five days is recommended to ensure that muscles are efficiently saturated with creatine. Any more than recommended will be exerted through urine. Body mass has also reportedly increased by approximately two percent following creatine supplementation (Performance Enhancing Substances).
Creatine is especially effective for athletes that are trying to gain between two and ten pounds. Sometimes bigger gains are seen depending on the work ethic of the athlete. Creatine definitely makes athletes bigger, but it does not make athletes more skillful or agile. Athletes who compete in sports dependent on weight, power, and short bursts of energy such as football, basketball and baseball see the biggest gains from taking creatine. Between twenty and thirty percent of all athletes taking creatine see no major gains. It has been proven in studies that creatine does not help swimmers, cyclists, or long distance runners. The reason that it does not have any effect on these athletes is because creatine gives us rapid bursts of energy. Creatine allows water to enter the muscles and this alone helps produce less muscle fatigue as well as leaner stronger muscles.(Performance Enhancing Substances).
Side effects of short term use of creatine are minimal. Some include cramping, dehydration, muscle strains and diarrhea. To avoid cramping and dehydration, drinking more than the recommended amount of fluid while taking creatine is recommended. Although there are no risks of long term use of creatine, some health care providers believe that creatine could lead to kidney damage (McKesson Health Solutions).
Creatine is one of the most popular dietary supplements in the world. The use of creatine by professional athletes has contributed to its popularity. It claims to increase muscle strength and to delay fatigue, allowing athletes to train harder and longer. Companies promoting creatine supplements also claim that creatine can help burn fat and increase muscle mass. Annual sales of creatine in the United States alone are well over $100 million (Performance Enhancing Substances). Although creatine use in athletes is expected to increase because it is not on the list of banned substances as of yet, it is possibly going to be banned from professional sports, as well as NCAA sports, as early as next year.
I feel like creatine is great and should not be banned. How are athletes going to gain a competitive edge without a supplement that will allow their muscles to train harder? I have used creatine and I am still currently using creatine. I have seen the gains in muscle mass already only after two weeks of taking creatine. Drinking plenty of water is the key. As long as you take creatine as suggested, there should be no problems. There are no known serious side effects, therefore, I don’t think that creatine should be banned. Creatine is a great supplement for athletes to gain that competitive edge!