Anytime an athlete is considering the use of a supplement they should consult a physician first. Although my supplement reviews will relay the results of valid and reliable research, results from these studies are only relevant to a completely healthy individual with no underlying health concerns or special considerations. Also, I do not personally recommend that any young athlete consume anything outside of a normal healthy diet. My reviews are not opinions, just science.
Figure 1. model of creatine molecule
As one of the most effective supplements on the market, creatine is used widely across all sports for its performance enhancing benefits. It is especially effective for anyone trying to gain muscle and improve strength. In other words, athletes who participate in sports that reward size and strength may benefit from its use. Even endurance athletes (e.g. marathon runner) can benefit from its use when properly plugged into a well-planned training program. Athletes should always consult a doctor before trying any supplement.
Probably the most important thing about creatine is that it has been proven time and time again to be as safe as it is effective. The general consensus across studies reviewing the use of creatine is that it has no common negative side effects. A small percentage of individuals (roughly 5%) consuming creatine in clinical studies did report some gastrointestinal issues. That equates to about 1 in 20 people reporting some level of stomach distress.
So what will creatine do exactly? For the average individual? Not much. This is because people generally receive enough from a balanced diet. When the body does not consume enough it is able to synthesize the requisite amounts from specific amino acids found in normal everyday foods. However, individuals that lack the ability to properly synthesize creatine, such as those with neurodegenerative diseases (i.e. muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s), could use the help supplementation provides. Athletes with large amounts of muscle engaged in intense training, will also see benefits from supplementing creatine (Kreider et al., 2017).
The main benefit of creatine is increased muscular energy. If you want to know the science of it read THE SCIENCE section below. Otherwise, all you really need to know is that creatine is used by the body in high energy demand tissues such as the brain and skeletal muscles (Kalhan, Gruca, Marczewski, Bennett, & Kummitha, 2016). Think of it as an energy shot on a celluar level. Kreider et al. (2017) states that creatine is also good for recovery. You may know that one of the main benefits of exercise is the adaptations our bodies make as a result of the stress we put it through during a workout. Well, creatine seems to help with that as well. By improving our capacity to exercise, creatine supplementation allows our body to endure greater stress which in turn forces our body to make more adaptations (Kreider et al., 2017).
Many studies point to the fact that creatine draws water into muscles cells making them larger. This of course causes a moderate increase in size and weight. If you’re on a quest to gain size, creatine should probably be in your arsenal. Creatine is no wonder drug by any means, but we do know it helps in the right circumstances. It is also reassuring to know that research states that it is safe when used correctly. Nevertheless, I can’t stress enough how important it is to talk to your doctor before consuming any type of supplements (even the “safe” ones).
In short, creatine’s primary purpose is to combine with phosphagens to form phosphocreatine. The hydrolysis of phosphocreatine creates an energy that can be used to help resynthesize Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is used by the body to create free energy for metabolic activities.
Kreider (2017) tells us that among other things, creatine supplementation will possibly help prevent injuries, enhance exercise tolerance in the heat, protect the brain and spinal column from traumatic injuries and speed rehabilitation during musculoskeletal injuries.
Kalhan, S. C., Gruca, L., Marczewski, S., Bennett, C., & Kummitha, C. (2016). Whole body
creatine and protein kinetics in healthy men and women: effects of creatine and amino acid supplementation. Amino Acids, 48(3), 677-687. doi:10.1007/s00726-015-2111-1
Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., & Lopez, H.
L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of
creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal Of The International
Society Of Sports Nutrition, (14)1-18.