Since the damaging side effects of steroids have been widely reported, athletes are using alternative supplements to build muscle mass. One of the most popular choices available today is creatine.
This amino acid is produced naturally by the body, primarily in the kidney and liver, before being transported to muscles in the blood. It can also be derived from foods that contain protein, including meat and fish. Recently, creatine has become accessible in many forms and it does not require a prescription. But does it really give people a burst of strength and increased muscle mass?
The Positive Effects of Creatine
Some studies have shown that creatine does indeed provide a number of benefits for athletes and bodybuilders. Among them is the improvement of muscle mass, which is a main reason for the success of creatine’s marketing. In addition to lean body mass, creatine might increase a person’s strength for short periods of time. Available as a powder or drink mix, in energy bars and tablets, it can be found in nutrition stores and online.
Generally, a creatine supplement will be taken before a workout so that the extra strength is used for intense training purposes. As the muscle fibers are broken down through resistance, creatine works to refuel and rebuild them. Runners, especially sprinters, use creatine to give them more speed and energy for their practices and races.
Besides the physical effects of creatine, there could be a psychological change that takes place when using it. The feeling of additional strength and elevated levels of energy contribute to an altered mindset that allows a person to maximize their efforts in a workout. Of course, there is a concern that someone will attempt to do things beyond their ability and risk injury, so caution should be applied.
The Side Effects of Creatine
Creatine is taken by adolescents, as well as professional athletes and bodybuilders. This is dangerous because long-term effects of creatine have not been concluded, and often, people take excessive doses that would never be approved by a doctor. Possible side effects include weight gain, headache, fever, nausea, an upset stomach, fatigue, anxiety, a rash, and difficulty breathing.
Serious problems in the kidney and liver are also unintended consequences of creatine. It is extremely important to drink enough water to help the liver and kidneys process and avoid dehydration. People with diabetes, or liver or kidney diseases should not take creatine. Certain types of medications can react negatively to creatine because of the effect it has on blood sugar levels.
The Bottom Line
Although creatine showed increases in mass and muscle in some studies, other studies revealed that people did not see any effect whatsoever from using it. The person’s individual fitness level and situation might be a factor in determining how much they actually benefit from using creatine. Plus, studies about the possible link between creatine and the recovery of illnesses, such as heart failure, muscular dystrophy, and Huntington’s disease, are inconclusive.
Creatine is a very tempting and convenient option in building size and strength, but the truth is that medical research has not had nearly enough time to evaluate all of the positive and negative effects of it. Currently, the biggest problem is improper dosage. Taking more than your body can handle is dangerous on many levels. Put your health first and check with your doctor before starting a diet with any type of supplement.