Creatine Supplementation: Does It Work And Is It Safe?
Can Supplementing With Creatine Help You Improve Athletic Performance And Ability?
Some controversies die hard. Creatine supplementation is one of them. Some say it works like gangbusters if you will excuse the cliché. Others say it does not work that well. Yet others say not at all. Some quarters have called for its banning from sports, saying it is performance enhancing. Who is right?
What Is Creatine And How Does It Work?
According to WebMD, creatine is a natural substance that turns into creatine phosphate in the body, which helps make a substance known as Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides energy for muscle contraction. Creatine supplementation increases formation of ATP.
Surprisingly, creatine was identified back in 1832 as a component of skeletal muscle, according to Wikipedia. Though some reports suggest its use as a supplement as far back as the 1960s, mainly by athletes from the then Eastern Block, it would really pick up in the 1990s. Creatine supplements would start flying off the shelves about then, with virtually every supplements maker jumping to cash in.
Really, Does Creatine Work?
Now for the money question, does creatine work? We have posted an article on this very subject (see Does Creatine Work?) But we recently came across a very interesting and well written post on this never-dying question. Here is an excerpt:
When I was a rookie weightlifter, I took creatine supplements because everyone else was doing it. I quit after a week for reasons you don't want explained. Suffice to say it involved the words "gastrointestinal" and "distress."
Apparently that's a rare reaction, because creatine is definitely a popular dietary supplement for the athletic crowd.
The reason? It works. For certain types of sports, at least, creatine supplementation can make the different between a spot on the podium and a mention in the also-ran column.
Athletic organizations such as the International Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association permit using creatine as a dietary supplement. A 1999 survey of 806 NCAA Division I athletes by researchers at the University of North Carolina and published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine found that 48 percent of men used it (compared with only 4 percent of women). However, when the survey focused on strength and power athletes, the rate of use climbed to 80 percent.
You can read the full article (highly recommended) at the Chicago Tribune Health page.
The answer as to whether creatine supplementation works goes down to the individual and product of choice. As with anything else, creatine does not work with everybody. Also, creatine supplements differ in quality and therefore you should try small doses of various reputable brands, one at a time until you find one that works for you. The question of safety too comes down to brand and individual body reaction to the supplement.