What Is It?
Creatine is an important compound manufactured by the liver. It assists muscles in producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the substance that fuels bursts of energy on the cellular level. Animal proteins are a primary dietary source of creatine. Taken in concentrated dietary supplement form, creatine is thought to extend short bursts of high-energy exercise, such as sprinting and power weight lifting. Creatine supplements may also reduce muscle fatigue. Not surprisingly, these properties make creatine a favorite supplement among athletes and body-builders.
But experts caution that it’s not for everyone. Because the extra energy creatine produces lasts only a few seconds–the body rapidly exhausts ATP–the supplement most benefits elite athletes who perform quick spurts of intense activity. It doesn’t appear to help endurance athletes, and may even slow down recreational athletes because it promotes water retention, causing swelling and weight gain. And if you already have high levels of creatine in your muscles, the kidneys will simply eliminate any excess.
Some sources suggest taking creatine to treat muscle weakness associated with congestive heart failure. Others contend it can benefit people suffering from neuromuscular disorders such as muscular dystrophy. There is limited evidence for these uses.
Because creatine has a dehydrating effect, drink plenty of water when taking it. Also, the caffeine in coffee, sodas, and other products may make creatine less effective, so try to avoid combining these products.
There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with creatine.
• It’s wise to consult your doctor before taking creatine for any purpose.
• No serious side effects have been reported with creatine supplements, but various sports associations warn that possible side effects include dehydration, heat-related illnesses, cramps, electrolyte imbalances, and reduced blood-plasma volume.
• Long-term use of high doses could potentially damage the kidneys. Don’t take creatine if your kidney function is impaired. Also, avoid taking creatine with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) because doing this may put added stress on the kidneys.
Muscle Aches and Pains 1 tsp. (5 grams) creatine monohydrate powder twice a day mixed with juice until soreness resolves
David Edelberg, MD