Does Creatine Work

by on June 24, 2012

Creatine is a natural substance that is supplied in the body by protein-rich foods. It is also naturally produced by the liver from amino acids – arginine, glycine, and methionine. Creatine is stored in muscle tissues and is used to ‘fuel’ muscle contraction, especially during high-intensity activities. Aside from natural food sources of creatine, it can also be consumed through supplements. There are different types and forms of creatine supplements available in the market. Usually, healthy young people take these supplements to increase their athletic performance.

What Studies Say?

Many resources and testimonials from thousands of users claim that creatine can help improve athletic performance. However, most studies to evaluate the effectiveness of creatine were conducted on a limited number of participants with no set standards of what exactly a favorable response is.

It is thought that creatine serves as the body’s reservoir of phosphate which is necessary for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – an enzyme that fuels the muscles during high-intensity activities. Every time the muscle contracts, it uses up one phosphate molecule from ATP for its energy. Creatine resupplies the lost phosphate thereby completing ATP and ensuring continuous energy supply. Theoretically, supplements are taken to increase creatine in the body which can be used during physical exercise.

In most studies conducted to determine the effectiveness of creatine, several factors were evaluated such as the total creatine levels in the muscles, re-synthesis of ATP, and buffering capacity of highly acidic environment during muscle contraction. Findings show that creatine may cause an increase in all these factors. Creatine supplements seem to be most beneficial for athletes who are engaged in activities that require sudden short-term increases in muscle activity. Athletes who were subjected to regimented training program have shown increased ATP supply and total creatine levels in the muscle. Except for some isolated reports, there hasn’t been enough evidence to establish increase in endurance (such as long-distance running). Studies also show that creatine seems to be more beneficial for some users. In fact, others may not respond to creatine use.

In addition, creatine also has some safety issues. There have been a number of reports of users experiencing kidney problems with prolonged use or misuse of creatine supplements. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration is conducting studies to evaluate the effectiveness and risks of creatine use, particularly its long-term effects. Furthermore, since there are no set standards that regulate its production, creatine supplements available in the market may have different purity and concentration of creatine. The varying contents of these products can have impact on its effectiveness.