Benefits and Side Effects of Creatine Supplementation

creatine monohydrate supplementWhat is Creatine?

Creatine monohydrate is a naturally occurring nitrogenous organic acid found in vertebrates that helps supply energy to cells by increasing the formation of adenosine triphosphate. While creatine can be made in a lab, it can also found in high protein foods like fish, eggs and meat. Creatine is naturally produced from the amino acids glycine and arginine.

Approximately 95% of the human body’s creatine is located in skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscle can only contain a certain threshold before the creatine stops having an effect. Excess is removed via the kidneys. Due to its relative safety and legality, supplementation it is popular among athletes. It’s estimated that Americans in consume more than eight million pounds of creatine monohydrate every year.

What is Creatine Used For?

While creatine has a range of uses, it’s most commonly used by strength and power athletes to improve performance. It is also used by individuals afflicted by syndromes preventing them from metabolizing their own creatine.

The effects of creatine can vary. It is not particularly effective for enhancing endurance. Creatine is allowed by most athletic organizations, including the International Olympic Committee. It is difficult to test for since it’s naturally found in the body, making any hypothetical bans difficult to implement.

Creatine is an important component of energy production, which allows muscles to do their job more effectively. It’s for this reason that the effect of supplementation varies so much between users.

How to Take Creatine

Creatine monohydrate is the cheapest and most effective form for supplementation. Micronized creatine monohydrate dissolves in water more easily, which can be more practical. While creatine is not recommended for consumption by children or teenagers, it is generally considered safe for adults. Nevertheless, combining creatine with other medications is not recommended, nor is its use with caffeine or ephedra, both of which are diuretics.

The benefits are best realized when combined with a diet high in carbohydrates. Studies have shown that diets high in carbohydrates, combined with ingested creatine, can lead to up to 60% higher levels than simply ingesting creatine by itself.

When beginning supplementation, users typically start with a “loading dose.” The loading dose is twenty grams per day for a total of five days, followed by a dose of two grams per day to maintain creatine levels. When on a supplementation regimen, users are encouraged to also drink at least 64 ounces of water per day.

For those interested in creatine for non-performance related reasons, the number and size of the loading dose can vary substantially. For example, those that are suffering from heart failure should expect to maintain a loading dose of twenty grams for up to ten days instead of the usual five.

Creatine Benefits

Creatine is primarily used by athletes and people suffering from syndromes that make it difficult to naturally metabolize creatine. Research has established a strong correlation between creatine use and physical performance, as well as the presence of anticancer properties. Creatine has been shown in at least one study to protect DNA from oxidative damage from various sources, such as exercise.

Individuals suffering from diabetes might also benefit from supplementing.

There are studies showing high levels of triglycerides being reduced by creatine, and it has also been shown to increase muscular endurance. While there is certainly room for more research to fully understand all effects, it seems to have a very positive effect compared to placebos.

Factors such as the fitness level and age of the person, the type of sport, and the dose all influence the effects of taking creatine. Supplementation doesn’t not seem to enhance performance when it comes to aerobic exercise, not does it seem to benefit older people. Fitness level matters as well, as highly trained athletes typically see no benefits.

While there’s some evidence that loading may be more effective than continuous use, there’s still uncertainty about who can benefit from creatine and at what dose.

Creatine Side Effects

In rare cases, when a pre-existing condition is present, side effects can include damage to kidneys, especially when combined with other medications or ephedra. In the short term — and especially during the loading phase — effects can include stomach pain, diarrhea, muscle cramping, and nausea.

Creatine requires water, so drinking extra water to prevent dehydration is essential.

Sources:

  1. Creatine Supplementation Decreases Oxidative DNA Damage And Lipid Peroxidation Induced By A Single Bout Of Resistance Exercise
  2. Creatine But Not Betaine Supplementation Increases Muscle Phosphorylcreatine Content And Strength Performance
  3. The Effects Of Supplementation With Creatine And Protein On Muscle Strength Following A Traditional Resistance Training Program In Middle-aged And Older Men
  4. The Effects Of Pre Versus Post Workout Supplementation Of Creatine Monohydrate On Body Composition And Strength

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