To supplement or not to supplement – Creatine

 

I grew up in the “No pain, no gain” era, meaning that if you wanted to become stronger, faster, whatever you had to work at it.  You had to do the reps, run the sprints, you had to sweat.  Now, however, it seems that more and more people want to skip the “pain”/sweat part of the equation and go right to the “gain” through supplementation.  One option people are considering for this short cut is creatine.

Creatine is something we already have.   It is a compound produced by the kidneys, pancreas, and liver and it plays a role in releasing energy when the body moves quickly or powerfully.  So, when you are sprinting or lifting weights creatine is involved.  It gives us the energy to do the lifting and sprinting and, like everything else, as we progress through our workout our creatine levels become depleted and our ability to keep pumping that iron or running those sprints diminishes.  In other words, we run out of energy.

The whole point of creatine supplementation is to allow the body to produce more energy and with more energy you will be able to complete another set of reps or run a few more sprints and with these additions you will become stronger and/or faster.  So, it’s not really a shortcut, it just gives you the energy to be able to put in some extra work and through that extra work you will see additional results.

Now, just because creatine is naturally produced by our bodies does not mean that taking it in supplement form is good for us.  As with any supplement you should talk with your doctor before taking it.  You should also be aware of potential side effects, such as:

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramping
  • Diarrhea

Patients with kidney disease should completely avoid using creatine, and caution is advised for diabetics and people taking blood sugar supplements.

If you chose to take creatine supplements, you should expect to gain weight.  Initially this will be due to retention of water, approximately 2 to 4 pounds in the first week, but after that it will be due to an increase in muscle as a result of being able to exercise longer and harder.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Kendra McCamey, MD

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