Creatine: Does it Work to Build Muscle and is it Safe?

//Creatine: Does it Work to Build Muscle and is it Safe?

Every athlete is looking for that competitive edge over his opponent.  I was no different and the debate started for me years ago in college, when I was playing Division I soccer, as to what would help me get there. I wanted to be faster, stronger, leaner, and more muscular than the other soccer players.  Ceatine inevitably entered into the discussions in the weight room with the other players, and the baseball and football players we worked out next too.  I wanted the results but realized there is wisdom in doing a little research about what I’m going to just blindly put into my body.   I opted to go with a more natural based product that has zero negative side affects to help with muscle recovery and building more lean muscle.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is an amino acid which the body naturally manufactures in the liver and kidneys.  It then sends it to the muscle tissue with water attached to it, and thus is an important component of proper muscle hydration.  Increasing the concentration of creatine in muscle tissue increases the water content and by doing so plumps up the muscle, making it larger in appearance.  Creatine can also increase the strength of muscle contractions, which may give an athlete a feeling of greater strength.  This is what many body builders are going for — the appearance of larger muscles and a feeling of increased strength.

Because of this short term effect — temporary increase in strength of muscle contractions — athletes involved in activities involving short term bursts of energy, such as power weightlifting, sprint-type running, football, basketball, etc., seem to derive benefit.  However, there is no significant evidence that creatine increases long term muscular endurance or provides long term benefit.

Taking creatine supplements results in something of an illusion.  Muscles plumped up with water, making them look bigger, isn’t the same thing as an actual increase in the number of muscle cells in a muscle.  And having stronger muscle contractions isn’t the same thing as long term inherent strength which comes from an actual increase in the number of muscle cells in a muscle.

Because creatine increases the body’s water requirements, creatine supplementation can lead to an ironic combination of adverse water retention in some parts of the body — it is common to gain several pounds of water weight within the first week of creatine supplementation — and very serious dehydration at the same time.  Taking high doses of creatine without adequate water intake right before an intense workout can lead to very serious dehydration effects – including increased risk of damage to the liver and kidneys.  The long term health risks of creatine supplementation are unknown and have never been studied.

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