The Denver Broncos stormed the football field in Super Bowl XXXIII. They hoped that their long season would conclude with a championship trophy and with a shiny ring for each of them. They realized how hard they had worked all season at lifting weights, at running, and at following a good nutritional plan that included creatine to give them the power to win. When the game concluded, the Broncos hard work and supplementation with creatine had paid off. Creatine, one of the variables here, has been both praised and criticized by health experts. Creatine is a muscle-enhancing supplement used by professional and non-professional alike with growing demand, as they seek to become faster and stronger.
Chevreul, a French scientist, discovered creatine in 1832. He named creatine after the French word for flesh. Creatine is a substance that is chemically combined from the amino acids of methionine, arginine, and glycine. It is scientifically called methylguaindo-acetic acid (Phillips 49). The diagram below is the chemical make-up of creatine.
This combination of amino acids enhances the bodys abilities, and decreases the time needed for body tissues to return to full strength after exercise. Creatine helps build lean body mass which allows still greater force to be used; provides energy so duration of exercise or work can be lengthened; and speeds recovery so exercise frequency can be increased (Phillips 52).
Meat, fish, and most animal products contain the protein creatine, which is then produced by the bodys liver, kidneys, and pancreas. However, it is also synthetically produced in pill, liquid, and powder forms for those wishing to supplement the naturally occurring creatine in their bodies (Lapp 1).
Anyone can consume creatine as part of their daily regimen to enhance their out put. Many people take it to get an extra edge over others while some use it to motivate themselves. Patrick Prata, the manager of a supplement warehouse, has stated, It is used as a motivation to help people get back in the gym and to reach goals faster (Riding 2).
The amounts of creatine that people consume vary considerably, but one of the best-known routines is to consume twenty grams daily for a week long period. After that week, five grams daily is recommended for maintenance (Phillips). Taking more than that amount is not reasonable as the body needs balance, and too much is bad (Creatine as a Sports Supplement 2). For example, excess usage would destroy the balance between creatine and carbohydrates.
The process creatine goes through in order to provide energy to the body is very complex. Creatine is first becoming helpful to our bodies when it enters our liver because when it goes through our liver it passes from the blood into the muscular tissues. However, for it to take effect, the heart has to continue to pump the creatine throughout the body. When this complex process has finished, the creatine has turned into an energy-mimicking supplement (Creatine Fights Muscle Wasting Diseases). When the creatine is flowing throughout the blood stream it chemically bonds with the ADP, adenosine di-phosphate, turning into ATP to provide more energy by having the muscles contracting. The ATP, adenosine tri-phosphate, is the whole power source behind creatine. Throughout this whole procedure creatine helps put the body in a more anabolic state where protein synthesis can occur. The more protein synthesis the greater the gains will be (Creatine Everywhere...2).
Creatine also helps buffer lactic acid build up, which is the burning feeling that
one receives in their muscles after working out intensely. Scientifically it is a complicated process-basically the creatine bonds with a hydrogen ion and that helps delay the build up of lactic acid (Creatine Everywhere...3).
People with muscular dystrophy and other muscular degrading diseases have found that creatine has been helpful in maintaining their muscle tissues. In a study done by Mark Tarnopolsky, he found that ten days of creatine supplementation in powder form boosted hand, foot, and leg strength by ten to fifteen percent (Creatine Fights...1).
Creatine has also been shown to be very useful for vegetarians. Vegetarians do not eat the red meat where creatine is found, such as herring, the biggest supplier of natural creatine, pork, salmon, tuna, and other meats (Williams, Kreider, and Branch 15). In turn, it is very beneficial for them to take creatine in the powder form in order to supply them with the daily need (What is Creatine 3).
The safety record of creatine is fairly good, as it has no harsh adverse side effects like that of steroids. As long as the creatine is taken in the recommended doses, it has been fairly safe to this point, but the long-term effects are unknown (What is Creatine 2).
There have been many negative theories about the effects of creatine. One theory is that creatine can lead to cancer. It is said that the use of creatine, particularly in the long-term, constitutes a potential carcinogenic risk. Frances Food Safety Agency made this statement (Report: Creatine Linked to Cancer 1). Another French company, the French Agency of Medical Security, conducted a report which claimed that creatine could cause digestive, muscular, and cardiovascular problems. This study was not well researched though, as many believe that these are just more flatulent theories (Pumped Pumped on Creatine 2).
Sarah Short, a nutrition professor, has said that creatine is still very much a wait and see product in concerns about its safety. In addition, Short said, Reports of muscle cramping, diarrhea, dehydration, and published cases of kidney dysfunction have surfaced in regards to creatine (Lapp 2). We cannot conclude that these problems are a direct result of creatine usage however, because there is a lack of extensive research on creatine supplementation. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate it (Students Use Creatine...).
Probably the most commonly reported anecdotal side effect from creatine supplementation is a greater incidence of dehydration, muscle cramps, or heat intolerance in athletes who train hard in hot and humid environments (qtd. in Williams, Kreider, and Branch 209).
Creatine supplementation may cause an electrolyte imbalance, specifically reversing the normal calcium:phosphorus ratio, interfering with the muscles contraction/relaxation mechanisms possibly causing cramping. This electrolyte imbalance may also predispose athletes to dehydration and heat-related illness. Increased fluid retention within the muscle cells reduces blood plasma volume, which may adversely affect ones ability to perform and dissipate heat (qtd. in Williams, Kreider, and Branch 210).
Because of the risk of creatine causing dehydration, it is recommended that one consume plenty of water throughout the day, especially at the time when one intakes creatine.
The main reason for people to consume creatine as a supplement is to gain muscle size and increase speed. There have been cases of men adding on ten pounds of lean muscle mass in as short as two weeks and increasing their bench press by twenty-
five pounds in ten days (Phillips 48). Creatine is effective for any weight training program, but when it comes to running, short distances are the most affected. Creatine should only be used for sprinters in running, as long distance runners could become sluggish with the additional weight. This is because creatine only gives the body short bursts of energy that last no longer than a minute (Applegate 2).
Consuming creatine without working out is not effective. The creatine is useless unless work is being done, as its sole purpose is to give the muscles more energy to go harder to make the gains in size and speed (Creatine as a Sports Supplement 2).
Creatine's most coveted rewards have been gained by Olympic champions who have supplemented with it. The 1992 summer Olympics in Barcelona was where creatine first showed through in the making of champions. Linford Christie consumed creatine while training prior to the Olympics and won the 100-meter dash in Barcelona. Sally Gunnele, the 400-meter champ, and Colin Jackson, the 110-meter high hurdle champ, both credited the use of creatine to their gold medal performances (Phillips 50). Because of the considerable success of these runners at the 1992 Olympics, many others began creatine supplementation. In the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, three out of four medal winners used creatine. Many will use it to stay on top of their respected sport (Phillips 49).
Not only have just the outstanding professionals taken creatine to increase their skills, amateurs are also using it. Chad Oliva, a seventeen-year-old high school baseball player from Florida, supplements with creatine. He takes 4.3 grams twice a day. During his short stint at the beginning of his year in baseball, he hit seven homeruns in only
fifty-six at bats. He has since received an athletic scholarship to Jacksonville. Chad credits some of his talent to his use of creatine (Bramberger 1).
Brann, age 18, is another teenager who supplements with creatine. I use creatine about thirty minutes to an hour before I lift weights, which is about four times a week, Brann has said. When I use it I feel less sore, Im able to lift for longer periods and I wont tire as much (Riding 1).
Creatine, a muscle enhancing supplement, is naturally produced in our bodies. It has its advantages in improving strength and speed, but it is not helpful in endurance activities. Nevertheless, many people are using creatine supplements to provide themselves with additional energy. When natural creatine is used up, the body turns to the carbohydrates which can be depleted. This loss causes muscle fatigue and soreness. Creatine can help the body avoid using the carbohydrates and thereby recover more quickly. Medical experts have praised the use of creatine by people with muscle diseases and people who are vegetarians. Furthermore, the safety record is good if it is used with plenty of water to prevent dehydration. The length of time creatine has been in widespread use has not been long enough to prove any long-term negative side effects. However, many positive case studies encourage the use of creatine for those who wish to enhance their speed and strength. Therefore, creatine has become a fashionable supplement. The future can only tell what researchers will conclude about the use of creatine, but at the present time, it is likely that creatine supplementation will increase.