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Creatine for Sports Performance

July 25, 2017   /

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in meat and fish, in vertebrates and some invertebrates. It is responsible for providing energy to muscles. Vegetarians have less creatine stores than meat-eaters, as approximately 50% of creatine comes from dietary intake. Creatine also is biosynthesized from the amino acids arginine, methionine, and glycine.

How creatine works
Creatine is an ergogenic aid that is used primarily for bodybuilding purposes. It is hypothesized that creatine increases energy to muscles by converting adenosine diphosphate (ADP) to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by the addition of an extra phosphate. It is believed that extra energy is available to the skeletal muscle during anaerobic work, and the result is increased surface area to the muscle.

The three types of creatine are monohydrate, micronized, and ethyl-ester. The majority of creatine research has focused on creatine monohydrate.

Potential benefits
In people who respond to creatine supplements, their muscles may perform better during brief all-out exercise bouts (1-10 seconds of intense work). In some studies, improvements from creatine supplementation are seen through increased lean muscle mass, increased strength and power, and improvements in speed and single-effort sprint performances, as well as anaerobic endurance.

Potential dangers
Although creatine is considered a safe form of supplementation, concern related to use may exist for people with preexisting kidney issues, as well as though who are taking ephedra or caffeine products.

Some studies also have shown that fewer that 20% of people respond to creatine supplementation. Inappropriate use is common, and may result in:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Higher rate of injuries

Reports of other side effects include:

  • Thirst
  • Mild headache
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Nervousness
  • Sleepiness
  • Depression
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Blood clots in the legs (called deep vein thrombosis)
  • Seizure
  • Swollen limbs

Use as a supplement
The following are the two scientifically supported ways to supplement with creatine. The first is through a loading phase, in which you take 20 grams (g) for 5-7 days, followed by a maintenance phase of 3-5 g/day for periods of 2-3 months at a time.

The second form of supplementation is a simple protocol of supplementing with 3-10 g creatine/day for a period of 2-3 months with no loading phase. It is generally recommended to take at least 1-2 weeks off from creatine supplementation after a 2- to 3-month course in order to maintain a proper response mechanism in the body.

Special note: To date, no sports medicine organization has recommended the use of creatine in individuals under the age of 18. In 2000, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) banned colleges from distributing creatine to their players.


References finds that not all creatine supplements meet label claims: popular sports supplement test results released online. Accessed March 16, 2009. Creatine. Accessed March 16, 2009.

MedlinePlus. Creatine. Accessed March 16, 2009.