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The ABC's of Creatine

© Ray Sahelian MD, Dave Tuttle
 (Excerpted from Creatine: Nature's Muscle Builder, Avery Publishing Group, 1996)

Since then, there have been literally thousands of studies published on creatine. However, most of the studies focusing on creatine and sports performance have only been done since the early 1990s. It is these studies that we will focus on in this book.

Who Can Benefit From Creatine?
Although the research on creatine and exercise performance is relatively new, so far it appears that the greatest benefits occur in those sports which involve short, intense bursts of energy. That is because these sports rely most heavily on ATP as an energy source. Athletes in bodybuilding, powerlifting, martial arts, sprinting, and track and field events such as javelin and shot-put will greatly benefit due to greater strength. So would wrestlers, swimmers, football, hockey, basketball and tennis players. We doubt that creatine will be of any benefit for people who comfortably cruise on a cart around the golf course and occasionally get up to putt. Other sports where creatine is not likely to be of any significant benefit include bowling, skeet shooting and certainly billiards.

It is still unclear whether athletes involved in endurance activities such as marathon running or long-distance bicycling will benefit from creatine supplementation. Stroud mentioned anecdotal reports that people in these sports may benefit, although other studies show that creatine either does not help or may actually be counterproductive. The difficulty in these situations appears to center on the increased muscle mass which creatine provides. While that's great if you're a bodybuilder or wrestler, it can be a detriment if you have to carry all that weight around during a marathon or triathlon. It becomes a tradeoff between the increased strength you get from creatine and the increased muscle mass. Further research will provide us with more definitive answers as to what role creatine can play in endurance-type sports.

90 And Still Pumping?
Older individuals with decreased muscle mass could also benefit from creatine supplementation. Since creatine boosts strength and protein synthesis, it should help to reduce the muscle wasting that can occur with disease and the aging process. A new study by Earnest also shows that creatine can reduce cholesterol and lipid levels in the blood, which would be a major health benefit for everyone. Therefore, creatine may one day help a large segment of the population to become more physically fit on the inside and outside.

Is Creatine Safe?
Experiments with the administration of creatine to humans have been going on for over a century. Dr. Paul Balsom of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, is one of the world's leading experts on creatine. He states in a review article published in 1994 in Sports Medicine that "to the best of our knowledge, the only documented adverse effect that has been associated with creatine supplementation is an increase in body mass."

We suspect that most athletes will gladly accept this "adverse effect."

One caution we'd like to make is that the studies which used high dosages of creatine, such as 20 grams per day, were only a month or less in duration. As a result, we do not have controlled, scientific studies which indicate exactly what happens to athletes taking large amounts of creatine for many months or even years. The only long-term study on creatine to date provided one gram per day to patients with gyrate atrophy, an eye disorder. Sipila reported that creatine helped the condition. Therefore, we do not yet fully know the consequences of high dose, long-term supplementation.

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About The Author
Ray Sahelian, M.D., is a popular and respected physician who has been seen on numerous television programs including NBC Today, Dateline NBC, and CNN, and quoted by countless major magazines such as Newsweek He is the bestselling author of Mind Boosters, Natural Sex Boosters, and ...more
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