I received a request from a reader to give more detail about supplements. This post addresses creatine supplementation. Special note: ALWAYS SEE YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE ADDING ANY SUPPLEMENT TO YOUR REGIMEN. THE EFFECTS ON YOUR BODY COULD BE DAMAGING.
It was interesting to me that as I researched creatine, it appeared primarily in men's health sections of websites since it helps build muscle mass. Athletes and body builders are the primary users although there are young men using creatine in it's various forms who are just starting out in the weight room. Please, don't rely on the information about creatine in general from websites selling it. They have a vested interest in getting you to buy. I will give you a list of resources at the end to help you begin your research. So what is it, what does it do, and what are the risks?
What it is
Creatine phosphate occurs naturally in the body and is also obtained through foods high in proteins such as meats and fish. In blood tests, it will show as creatinine. The average person gets enough through these two sources for the work accomplished. It comes in powders, tablets, drink mixes, and bars. Athletes and body builders tend to exhaust their bodies' supply from their food fast. They need to be able to build lean muscle mass and recover quickly to go hard again the next day.
What it does
Basically, it aids in muscle recovery from high intensity and explosive power workouts. It naturally is part of the Kreb's cycle to produce ATP for energy in muscle contractions. When athletes use explosive movements to jump higher, run faster, rebound and put strategy into action, they use an amazing amount of energy. That energy wears out sooner than desired through normal diet. Body builders break down enormous amounts of muscle tissue that can take several days to repair and build. Supplemental creatine phosphate adds a boost to the energy and cellular repair. There are different thoughts on when to supplement; however, it looks like post-workout gets the thumbs up because the body is primed for the nutrition to build back what was broken down. Research continues to test what timing is best.
What are the risks?
Short term supplementation for a healthy individual has been shown to be beneficial and safe. However, there are risks to supplementing with creatine: muscle cramps, polycystic kidney disease, kidney failure, heart failure, Huntington's disease, ALS, andmuscular atrophy. In essence, if you have diabetes, kidney problems, heart problems of any sort, leave it alone. If you are a healthy individual, check with your doctor about whether is safe and beneficial for you and when would be best to take it. They should do a full blood panel as well as a urine analysis.
This post has taken a while because I am cautious about supplementation. Our society tends toward overdoing anything and everything. A young man in the gym where I worked had outrageously high blood pressure and kidney problems from using creatine and some other supplements. He was unwilling to see a doctor to get help with the problems created from supplementation. Either he was not a candidate for supplementation or he used them incorrectly. I can assure you that he was not an athlete nor a body builder. He took them up from advice given by guys in the gym!! This young man is a walking time bomb. If you are starting out in a sport or beginning heavy lifting, take the coaches' and athletes suggestions to your doctor for his or her review. When you add supplements to your body, you have just become a chemistry lab. The wrong chemistry can have very damaging effects. However, if you do things correctly, the results can be beautiful.
May God bless you!
Note: the powder picture above is from http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/before-after-or-whenever-the-best-time-to-take-creatine.html.
Sites to see: