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Creatine: What Is It?

In today's society, children as young as eleven are taking creatine to enhance their performance in the gym. Kids think that creatine is their miracle cure for bulking up. In most cases, they hear about creatine from a friend who is taking it, so the next day, they go out to GNC and buy the biggest bottle they can find without knowing what it is, what it does, or what the side effects are. First of all, every athlete you know what creatine is, before they consume it.

Creatine is a compound that is made in our bodies and can be taken as a dietary supplement. On average, a 160-pound person would have about 120 grams of natural creatine stored in their body. When an athlete is doing an intense quick-burst activity such as weightlifting, their muscles must contract, needing a quick source of energy while the force of muscle contraction depending on the amount of stored ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). When the ATP is used, it turns into ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate). Creatine increases the availability of ATP by reacting with the ADP in the body and turning it back into ATP. The more ATP in the body means the more fuel for the muscles. Creatine also helps to increase your muscle size by volumization. Volumization is the process of pulling fluid into the muscle cells and thus increasing their volume. Creatine also helps users to gain weight in this manner. These are the only major side effects. Certain side effects have been attributed to Creatine use. Fortunately, these effects are minor: upset stomach, muscle cramping, diarrhea, and dehydration. In addition, people tend to have more side effects when taking the powder as opposed to a more direct delivery method like serum or effervescent powder. Drinking plenty of water when taking creatine can minimize most of these effects. There is also some concern that creatine may place undue stress on the liver and kidneys. With normal dosage, creatine in theory should pose no long-term health risks. In fact, some studies have shown that creatine can help reduce chances of heart disease and adult on-set diabetes.

On November 12, 1999, at the 19th Annual Southwest American College of Sports Medicine Meeting, two long-term creatine studies were presented from the Exercise and Sport Nutrition Lab at the University of Memphis. Both studies showed that nine months of creatine supplementation in athletes had no negative effects on markers of renal function or muscle and liver enzymes in comparison to athletes not taking creatine. Creatine has never been proven to interfere with growth. It is true that long term studies with teenagers have not been done. In addition, for ethical reasons they probably never will be. No one wants to pump kids full of creatine for a few years only to see if harm is done. When the body is in its growth phase it is very important not to do anything that could interfere with growth. It is for this reason that it makes sense to spend some time trying to determine if creatine could in any way interfere with growth. Creatine has not been studied long enough to guarantee it does not interfere with anything. Creatine supplementation has only been around a short number of years, the long term side effects are still unknown, and is recommended that you be atleast 18 years of age before experimenting with creatine.

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