Creatine is one of those substances that has a lot of myths around it. Some people think it’s an illegal drug (it’s not) and others think it’s bad for your kidneys (no scientific evidence) or that users will put on weight (you don’t have to).
Creatine is a natural substance; it is present in the body as phosphocreatine or free creatine and is used as a fuel. It is produced from amino acids in the liver and kidneys but canalso be obtained from the diet. In an adult, about 1-3g is required a day where 50% is obtained from the diet and the other 50% is produced by the body. Those on plant-based diets or those with insufficient protein/amino acid intake can be deficient in creatine.
Creatine works by a range of physiological processes. The important use for athletes is by using it as a supplement, which can boost fuel stores needed for energy, especially if the diet is poor in it - e.g. plant based diets.
Creatine supplementation is legal and is one of the few supplements that the IOC accept as being advantageous and is WADA compliant. Creatine supplementation is achieved by one of two strategies. The first is chronic intake of 2.5 -5g a day. The second is preceding the 2.5-5g a day with an acute loading strategy to kickstart the process. The only drawback to creatine supplementation is weight gain but this seems to be restricted to the acute loading strategy.
- Safe - no evidence of harm to the liver or kidneys.
- Increased muscle mass if combined with resistance training, strength, and physical performance.
- May protect against anti-oxidative stress to mitochondria and therefore aerobic capacity.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Possible protective effect on bone strength.
- In older people, creatine mitigates against falls by maintaining muscle mass, increases sit to stand performance and, if used with resistance training, can potentially reduce fat mass.
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