Creatine Supplements is Bad?

Creatine supplements began to be used by athletes in the early 1980s, gaining great popularity in the following decade after extensive media disclosure of their use by athletes winning the gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Creatine supplements
Creatine supplements
 

Today, in the United States, about 50 percent of college athletes, 25 percent of NBA basketball players, and 50 percent of football professionals report consuming creatine regularly to optimize athletic performance.

It is always good to make it clear that creatine is not an anabolic steroid , popularly known as a "pump." It is also not considered doping by any international organization, including the International Olympic Committee.

In this article we will explain what creatine is, what are its possible side effects and what is the logic behind its use, whether in the gym in your neighborhood or by sportsmen in international competitions. Attention: creatine and creatinine are different things.

What is creatine?

Creatine is a substance produced from 3 amino acids and is present in all vertebrates. Our body, whether athletes or not, produces creatine through protein consumed in food. Creatine is synthesized in the kidneys and liver, being transported to be stored in the muscles.

The main function of creatine is to provide energy for the contraction of muscles. In the next few lines I will try to simplify a complex physiological mechanism. It is important to read the next part calmly so you can understand why creatine works for some athletes and not for others.

How does creatine work?

As everyone knows, our muscles need energy to function. Explosive efforts with demand for maximum muscle strength, such as in weightlifting or 100-meter run, are done through an energetic system called phosphagen.

The energy for so-called explosive stresses is provided following a chemical reaction where a nucleotide (energy-rich compounds) called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) loses a phosphorus molecule by turning adenosine diphosphate (ADP). Each time an ATP is turned into an ADP, there is release of an amount of energy that is used by the muscle to contract.

Imagine yourself now in a bodybuilding gym. You are at rest and your muscle is full of ATP. You then begin to do some kind of muscular exercise. Your muscle ATP begins to break quickly in ADP, releasing energy so your muscle can handle the weight. Your effort is so great that in a few seconds you consume all of your ATP and, from then on, you can no longer lift your proposed weight. You now need to rest a bit and wait for the muscles to get full of ATP again.

But where does creatine come in this story? Creatine is the fastest substance that can deliver back the phosphorus molecule, turning ADP back into ATP.

The correct name for creatine is phosphocreatine. In this process of ATP restoration, phosphocreatine loses its phosphorus molecule and is subsequently converted to creatinine, a molecule with no function that ends up being eliminated in the urine. Because creatinine is completely eliminated by the kidneys, it serves as a marker of renal function. When the creatinine starts to accumulate in the blood it means that the kidneys are not working well.

In fact, in large and explosive efforts all muscle ATP is consumed in approximately 3 seconds. Thanks to creatine the muscle manages to prolong his stocks of ATP for at least 10 seconds. After that time all available creatine is converted to creatinine, and ADP is no longer immediately converted to ATP.

The second way to produce ATP, through the consumption of stocks of muscle glucose (glycogen) without oxygen, arises. This mode does not restore ATP fast enough for muscle-intensive exercises that spend ATP at a frenetic pace. However, for exercises such as playing football, swimming, or medium-distance races, it is more than enough.

The third and last way to create energy is through the consumption of glucose with oxygen. This is the mode used in aerobic activities, such as running, pedaling or swimming in rhythm. In these modalities the consumption of ATP is much slower and, therefore, its replacement can also be slower.

In fact there is always an interposition between the 3 systems. When playing football, for example, we ended up using the 3 mechanisms at different times of the game. However, this is an activity that predominantly uses glucose consumption as a way to generate ATP. In bodybuilding, where the exercises last for a few seconds, we basically use the creatine system.

Do creatine supplements work?

Based on what has been explained above it is easy to understand the logic behind creatine supplementation. If more creatine is available in the body, the longer the phosphate (ATP + creatine) system can maintain power generation for explosive sports activities.

The story of creatine is very beautiful and makes perfect sense, but science is made with practical proof of theories. And then the first controversies arise.

The first works presented conflicting results. While some researchers were able to demonstrate effective gains in muscle mass and performance with creatine supplements, others were unable to show the same results. In fact, these discrepant results occurred because there were many differences between the analyzed groups, whether in age, training time, type of sport practiced, etc.

Today, after almost 20 years of research, there is some consensus among researchers. Creatine seems to provide real gain of muscle mass when associated with a routine bodybuilding program. However, up to 20% of people, it is not known why, do not have any benefit with this supplement. The effects on older women and men are less evident.

There is also no clear evidence of benefits for activities that do not predominantly use the phosphate system (ATP + creatine). Among them we can mention: running (except 100 and 200 meters shallow), swimming and cycling.

Creatine is usually sold as creatine monohydrate.

Creatine side effects

One of the great attractions of creatine is the rapid visual effect of the product. In 1 week there is already weight gain and some people actually seem to present some degree of muscle hypertrophy. However, such a fast gain usually indicates only fluid retention, which can occur in creatine supplements that have high sodium content.

Although there are no definitive studies yet, creatine supplements, when of good quality and used at the recommended dose, do not appear to be associated with any significant side effects in healthy individuals.

It has been scientifically proven that excess amino acids and proteins cause acceleration of loss of kidney function in patients with chronic renal failure, therefore, the use of creatine in these patients is contraindicated. In fact, as there are still few studies on the safety of creatine supplements, their use is advised against people who are not completely healthy.

The most common side effects of creatine are nausea, diarrhea, cramps and dehydration. There is also a hypothesis of a relationship between creatine consumption and increased incidence of kidney stones. In people with asthma, creatine can cause exacerbations of the disease.

Conclusion

Creatine provides yes, performance gain and muscle mass for non-aerobic muscle-building activities. However, a regular training program is required. It is important to emphasize that the product is not free of side effects, and not all the people that can obtain advantages with its consumption.

Currently the consensus is that creatine in doses up to 20 grams per day does not harm health, however, there is still no clear evidence of its long-term safety. Creatine should preferably be taken under supervision of a physician specializing in sports activities and a physical education professional.

Low quality formulations and poor technical control can present potentially harmful impurities to the body.
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