The Discovery of Creatine
A French scientist named Chevruel discovered Creatine in 1835. His experiment identified a naturally occurring substance found in meat, which he named Creatine after the Greek word for flesh. It was then determined that creatine is found in muscle tissue and that levels were ten times higher in wild animals, leading to conclusion that the amount of Creatine is linked to exercise of the species.
What is Creatine?
We produce 2-3 grams of Creatine per day in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Creatine is made from three amino acids; glycine, arginine, and methionine, and 1/3 of all Creatine found in the body is in a “FREE FORM”, while the remaining 2/3 is in a phosphroylated form. Once formed, the substance is transferred to the muscle tissue via the bloodstream.
How is Creatine obtained?
In addition to the Creatine that the body makes naturally, we can get it from fish, beef, and pork, but it must be eaten rare, or slightly cooked. This leaves only one other method to get Creatine: through Creatine supplementation. Creatine supplements are synthesized in a laboratory setting from elements found in plants and animals.
How does Creatine benefit the body?
Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) regeneration. ATP, the energy source for the body, gives muscles the ability to contract. Once used ATP loses a phosphate and needs to combine with another phosphate to become ATP again. While the body forms new ATP from ADP naturally, the phosphorylated form of Creatine speeds up this process by giving its phosphorus to the ADP to regenerate into ATP. Therefore Creatine speeds up ATP regeneration, which is beneficial while exercising.
Research shows that this is helpful for quick bursts of activity, but not beneficial to endurance athletes. Therefore swimmers, sprinters, football, and weightlifters can benefit from extra Creatine.
When is Creatine most beneficial?
Studies have shown a 5% increase in performance while taking 20g of Creatine a day for 5 days, followed by 5g per day. The consumer must increase their water intake to a gallon a day while taking Creatine since studies have also shown that Creatine supplementation will deplete the muscles of their water.
What are the Dangers of Taking Creatine?
DEHYDRATION: Creatine draws fluid into the muscles, so athletes using creatine may dehydrate much more quickly than other athletes. Since the water is taken from other vital organs, there is a higher chance of serious heat illness when exercising in high heat and humidity. There is also an increase in muscle cramps, strains, and pulls, in addition to weight gain, and stomach discomfort.
NOT REGULATED: Another problem is that Creatine is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that there have been very little studies potential side or long term effects. It also means that the companies selling Creatine are not required to list the contents of the package on the label for distribution, which means that they can add other chemicals and substances. A potential buyer has no way of knowing whether the Creatine they are buying is actually 100% Creatine.
LONG TERM HARM: Manufactured Creatine has not been around long enough to determine if there will be harmful effects ten, twenty, or more years of use.
Since most experts do not feel that the limited benefits of a 5% increase in performance is not worth the risk if not taken properly, combined with the risk of unknown future health problems. 85% of all sports teams discourage its use and several governing bodies have banned their athletes from taking Creatine. Despite the research and expert recommendations against use, there is an increasing number of high school athletes taking Creatine and not realizing the gamble they are taking with their health.
What is the Law?
In Texas, it is against the law for any public school employee from distributing, selling, or marketing any performance-enhancing compound to athletes. California’s governing body of athletics has passed a similar policy. There is a group of experts and medical professionals who believe Creatine should be illegal and tested for, as are Steroids. It should be duly noted that there are also experts claiming research that says that Creatine is not harmful and a 3rd group who claim that there is zero benefit to taking Creatine. However, since the FDA cannot recommend Creatine for human consumption and since there is no conclusive data to support positive arguments for the substance why gamble with your athlete’s health and future?
Due to the uncertainty regarding its benefits and hazards, I believe that Creatine should not be distributed or encouraged for consumption by high school coaches to their athletes.