Creatine is found in amino acids (glycine, arginine, and methionine). It is synthesized from these amino acids in the liver, pancreas and kidneys. Muscles take up the majority of the creatine found in the body. It is in the muscle that creatine is converted to phospocreatine, which is necessary for ATP production. Research shows that taking creatine supplements can increase muscle creatine by 20 to 30%. Increasing the amount of creatine found in the muscle also increases the amount of phosphocreatine, which aids in producing greater amounts of energy. This is because phosphocreatine is the limiting factor in energy production in high intensity anaerobic exercise. Thus, it is believed that supplementing the body with creatine enhances athletic performance.

How to Take It

Pediatric

Despite the growing numbers in grades 6 through 12 using creatine, safety and effectiveness have not been tested in those under 19. Therefore, use of creatine supplements is not recommended for children or teens.

Adult

Manufacturers of sports supplements tend to put the following dose on labels of their products: 5 grams of creatine monohydrate four times per day (20 grams total per day) for one week. The muscles will then be “loaded” with creatine and a maintenance dose of 2 to 5 grams per day is adequate to sustain stores of creatine in the muscles. It appears that the absorption of creatine is enhanced when it is taken together with carbohydrate foods (such as fruits, fruit juices and starches).

The doses previously mentioned have been tested frequently in athletes. It is important to note, however, that it is not known whether these dosages have the same effects in non-athletes.

Precautions

Because of the potential for side effects and interactions with medications, dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable healthcare provider.

Side effects of creatine include weight gain, muscle cramps, muscle strains and pulls, stomach upset, diarrhea, dizziness, high blood pressure, liver dysfunction, and kidney damage. The weight gain is thought to be due primarily to water retention. Creatine should not be used by anyone who already has problems kidney function, high blood pressure, or liver disease. Taking creatine supplements may prevent the body from making it’s own natural stores. The long-term consequences of this are not known.

A 2001 report by the Food Safety Agency of France (AFSSA) raised questions about creatine supplements possibly putting users at greater risk for cancer, particularly if such supplements are taken for long periods of time. However, the European Commission and the Council for Responsible Nutrition in the United States both determined that AFSSA’s claims are unsubstantiated and not based on any scientific evidence of a connection between creatine and cancer. All three organizations do agree, though, that risks of long-term use of creatine are not known at this time.

Creatine supplements containing contaminants from the production process have been reported. Be sure to buy products made by established companies with good reputations, and who distribute their products through trustworthy and knowledgeable establishments.

Use of creatine as a food supplement is on the rise. Despite its usefulness, creatine is found to have some side effects albeit few. The most common side effect is weight gain due to more water in the muscle and increase in the lean-muscle tissue. Other side effects observed were dehydration, muscle cramps, nausea, diarrhea, gastrointestinal distress and seizures. For persons with existing kidney or renal disorders, creatine was found to cause renal stress because of more stress on the kidneys.

The long-term effects of taking creatine over a long period of time haven’t been established yet. Its side effects when used along with other medications or supplements also haven’t been determined yet. Hence it is better to be well informed about the likely side effects of creatine before using it, especially in the “loading” method. Most creatine supplement products sold over-the-counter have the precautions and the likely side effects listed on the label. Manufacturers also provide information when requested. There are several websites over the Internet that provides useful information about creatine supplements and their side effects.

Negative Creatine Side Effects

No serious side effects from creatine have ever been recorded in research. A common misconception is that creatine is an abusive steroid-like substance that can kill you. With a little education, most people can realize the falsity of their claims.

The most common negative side effect is an increase in water weight. An increase in water weight can make you appear to be bloated. It will look like you just got done eating Christmas dinner. And because your muscle will retain more water, they might feel softer to the touch. Your muscles will still be hard and impressive to a normal person, but after you rest for a few hours and try to flex, your muscles might not be as rock hard. There are possibly other unknown negative side effects associated with creatine, but due to a lack of research there is not much available.

Another negative side effect of creatine is when you get off the cycle. If you take creatine for 4 months and then stop taking it, you will notice a sharp decrease in your energy level and appearance. Your body might deflate slightly as you lose the excess water weight.

Positive Creatine Side Effects

Now onto the good stuff. Do you ever feel fatigued or tired? Do you wake up and decide you do not want to work out because you are too tired to lift weights or go run? Well, if you answered yes to any of these questions then creatine is for you. Creatine is an energy booster. It is not like drinking coffee or an energy drink, by taking daily creatine supplements your body will get used to having more energy throughout the day, leaving you enough energy to wake up, hit the gym, and provide that boost you need to lift an additional rep.

Another positive side effect of creatine is how it will make you look bigger. I am assuming that is a look you want if you are reading this blog. When you take creatine your body retains more water, making you look fuller. It will make your chest and arms appear to be bigger because of the water in the muscles.

By taking creatine you will be able to work out longer and lift more reps than usual. This is a very positive benefit of taking the supplement. You will gain weight (some water weight but most muscle weight). If you are a skinny person now and are looking to bulk up, then it is highly recommended that you take creatine along with other supplements to help speed along the process. Not only will you increase your weight rapidly, but you will gain more confidence as you watch your body bulk up.

If you take creatine and begin experiencing any serious negative side effects we recommend that you stop taking it immediately and consult a physician. Overall creatine can be a very safe and productive supplement. It is one of the few out there that have little to no negative side effects.

Sources: UMM, Creatine

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