The notion of health and fitness has evolved over the years. Nowadays, the prime emphasis is on getting lean and not on improving strength, exercise performance and gaining healthy muscle mass. Creatine is a popular supplement in the fitness industry for improving lean muscle mass, building stamina and boosting exercise ability.
What is creatine?
Creatine (Greek: kreas meaning meat) is a type of natural substance in the body that acts as an energy source during muscle activity. The body’s needs for creatine are partly met by the creatine produced by the liver and kidneys and from the diet. Creatine is present in foods of animal origin, such as red meat, milk and seafood. Hence, the average dietary consumption of creatine may be lower for vegans and vegetarians than nonvegetarians. As creatine is believed to improve athletic performance, creatine supplements are popularly used to improve muscle strength and athletic performance. You must consult your healthcare provider to know whether these supplements are safe for you. About 95 percent of the total creatine in the body (internally produced as well as consumed through food or supplements) is stored in skeletal muscles. This creatine is crucial during muscle activity as it ensures an uninterrupted source of energy. The remaining five percent is found in other tissues, mainly the heart and brain.
What are the benefits of creatine?
Creatine supplements are generally used by athletes for enhancing their physical performance and strength. These supplements are allowed by various professional sports associations, including the International Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
The health benefits of creatine include
- Improving athletic performance: Creatine supplements are quite popular among people involved in various sports, such as rowing, basketball, cycling, swimming, soccer and high jump, to name a few. It is believed to improve exercise performance as well as boost post exercise recovery. Creatine helps increase fat-free muscle mass, improves recovery from injuries and helps the athletes adjust to rigorous training schedules.
- Gain muscle strength: Studies have suggested that creatine supplementation improves muscle strength in both younger and older adults. Creatine may help improve muscle strength in age-related muscle loss or sarcopenia in older adults. It is particularly helpful when coupled with muscle strengthening exercises.
- May help manage neurodegenerative disorders: Some studies suggest that creatine supplementation may help improve the symptoms in people with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and muscular dystrophies.
- Beneficial for inherited disorders of creatine metabolism or transport: Certain genetic disorders, such as guanidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT) deficiency and arginine-glycine amidinotransferase (AGAT) deficiency, take away the body’s ability to make creatine. Creatine supplementation in these cases may help relieve symptoms, such as seizures, movement problems and language issues.
Some studies have indicated beneficial roles of creatine in diseases, such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, depression, low bone mass (osteopenia) and chronic kidney disease. There is, however, a lack of sufficient scientific evidence to support these claims.
Are creatine supplements safe?
Creatine supplements are considered safe for healthy individuals. Nonetheless, it must be remembered that nutritional supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Hence, the quality, purity and quantity of creatine, as well as the presence of any off-label or additional ingredients in the commercial supplements, cannot be guaranteed. You must consult your healthcare provider before taking these supplements. Getting a nod from your doctor is even more important if you
- Are younger than 18 years old
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Have underlying health conditions, such as kidney disease, liver disease, bipolar disorder or diabetes
- Are taking any medications or supplements
Creatine supplements may cause increased water retention in the muscles and increased muscle mass, leading to weight gain. They may also cause other side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, rash, fatigue and fever. You must drink sufficient water while on these supplements to prevent dehydration.
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WebMD: "An Overview of Creatine Supplements." https://www.webmd.com/men/creatine