Creatine Reviews: A Wonder Drug or Money Pit?
Does Creatine Live Up to the Hype of Building Muscle Fast?
What Is Creatine?
Creatine, or more technically (α-Methylguanido)acetic acid, is a naturally occurring nitrogenous organic acid that is produced in the human body from amino acids in the kidney and liver. While ½ of the creatine in the human body is self-produced, the other ½ comes from food sources. Meats such as beef, chicken, or fish are good sources of creatine and should be incorporated into an athlete’s diet. Because vegetables do not produce creatine, vegetarians have a noticeably lower-amount of creatine in their body.
For years there have been conflicting reports surrounding the effectiveness of creatine use. For much of the past two decades, researchers have debated whether creatine supplementation was both safe and its value as a fitness-aide.
After years of studying the effects and merits of creatine supplementation, researchers have finally concluded that creatine is both safe and effective for certain athletes who want to enhance their athletic potential.
Note the phrase “certain athletes”. Creatine use has proven effective for bodybuilders, sprinters, and other athletes whose sport requires short, intense bursts of energy. Creatine use however has not provided any noticeable benefits in the performance of athletes who engage in endurance sports such as marathon running or long-distance cycling.
How Exactly Does Creatine Work?
Without getting too geeky, let’s think back to our 9th grade biology class. When you perform an exercise such as sprinting or weightlifting, your body uses an energy source called ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) to perform the movements. As your body uses the energy in ATP, the body takes all the “leftovers” and converts them into ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate). ADP is responsible for your base, biological energy functions.
Creatine helps in athletic performance by supplying the body with the right molecules so that the ATP in the body doesn’t have to “give away” it’s “leftovers” and can use the molecules supplied by creatine to remain as ATP.
In short, creatine helps ATP (your body’s favorite energy source) stay ATP.
Creatine is an effective supplement for athletes involved in high-intensity, short-duration sports. The extra energy creatine supplies the body allows the body to recover quickly from intense workouts as well as speed up the production of lean-muscle.
What About the Science?
Since creatine’s big splash into the world of supplements in the 1990’s, scores of studies have been preformed testing the claims of distributors and manufactures. While we can’t address every claim made by every manufacturer, the overall theme of “creatine will help you get bigger, faster” seems to be true. The latest studies (Burke, D.G., et al. (2008). Effect of creatine supplementation and resistance exercise training on muscle insulin-like growth factor in young adults. Int J Sports Nutr Exerc Metab. 18:389-398.; Candow, D.G., et al. (2008). Low-dose creatine combined with protein during resistance training in older men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. In press.) continue to verify these claims.
So Creatine Will Get Me Ripped?
No. Creatine will not get you ripped. Proper nutrition and a solid workout regimen will get you ripped. Creatine will aid in your muscle growth.
In other words, taking creatine will help you build more muscle, faster, than if you had done everything exactly the same, minus the creatine. To that point, creatine has the potential to be both a wonder drug and a money-pit. If you workout and eat right, you will reap the benefits of creatine. However, if you take the supplement and expect to see results without working out or eating right, you are just throwing your money away.
[box type="note"]*Note: Women who are pregnant or nursing, individuals with kidney disease, individuals with any known kidney condition, people with liver complications, and diabetics should consult their doctor before taking creatine.[/box]