What Is Creatine? | Creatine Benefits and Effects

What Is Creatine? | Creatine Benefits and Effects

As athletic trainers, we spend our days training our athletes to get bigger , stronger and faster.  We constantly research and and all ways to get an edge in our training programs.  The toughest questions we fight to answer are about supplementation and what should our young athletes be taken.  The truth is many supplements can produce awesome results if taken correctly and combined with the correct training program.  However, the best answer for any supplement is research the heck out of it, consult with your parents and/or doctor and start slowly with 25% of the recommended dosage.

Remember, just like exercise is a supplement to living healthy; supplements are only an added ingredient to “the healthiest you”!

So,o here is some info on the most questioned supplement for young athletes.

What Is Creatine and Do I Need It?

Maximum Power of Creatine
Creatine is a well-researched ergogenic aid.  Scientists – and athletes – have investigated its ability to increase maximum power, improve high-intensity performance and help individuals gain fat-free mass.  You can find it in pill, powder, and liquid form as well as in some protein bars.  Given its popularity, here are answers to your frequently asked questions about creatine:

What is creatine? 
Creatine is an amino acid derivative found mainly in skeletal muscle.  It’s also found in meats – it’s estimated that meat-eaters consume about 1 to 2 grams per day.  It plays an integral role in energy metabolism for quick, intense exercise.  With its high-energy partner, phosphate, as phosphocreatine or creatine phosphate, it helps regenerate energy for intense activity lasting about 10 to 20 seconds.

What does creatine do for me?
Back in the early 1990’s, scientists realized that we could increase creatine stores in the muscles by supplementing.  Over the years, creatine has been the focus of over 500 studies and overall, science has shown that increasing our creatine stores enhances in our ability to regenerate energy for high-intensity exercise and increase maximal power.  Additionally, creatine may help trigger muscle cell growth and affect pathways that increase the ratio of protein synthesis to breakdown.

Are there any safety issues with creatine?
Research suggests creatine supplementation is safe for the average, healthy person.  There are no known detrimental effects with kidney and liver function, or with hormone levels.  Moreover, there doesn’t appear to be an association with muscle cramping, heat intolerance or hydration status.  Creatine is typically well tolerated by the gastrointestinal tract when the dose is no greater than 5 grams.  This suggests a loading dose (of 20 to 25 grams) might not be tolerated as well.  If you have kidney disease, or are pregnant or nursing, do not take creatine.  Lastly, it is possible that you won’t benefit from creatine supplementation as some people have been considered non-responders.

How much creatine is suggested? 
The most commonly studied form of creatine is creatine monohydrate.  The dose is 3 to 5 grams per day for maintenance.  Some athletes choose to load with a dose of 20-25 g/day for 5 to 7 days, decreasing to the maintenance dose (3-5g/day) thereafter.

A Registered Dietitian or a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics can assess your unique needs and provide you with personalized guidance.  If you take medication and/or other supplements, you should speak with your pharmacist to inquire about potential interactions.


American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, American College of Sports Medicine.  Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance.  J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:509-527.

Dunford, M. 2006. Sports Nutrition A Practical Manual for Professionals, 4th Ed. American Dietetic Association.

Author: K2 Strength and Conditioning

Kevin owns K2 Strength and Conditioning in Summit, NJ. K2 focuses on athletic performance training for athletes of all ages

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