Creatine: The Facts Essay, Research Paper
To all the young lifters,
In today’s society, children as young as eleven are taking creatine to enhance their performance in the gym. Kids think that creatine is their miracle cure for bulking up. In most cases, they hear about creatine from a friend who is taking it, so the next day, they go out to GNC and buy the biggest bottle they can find without knowing what it is, what it does, or what the side effects are. This is why I write to you.
First of all, let me tell you what exactly creatine is. Creatine is a compound that is made in our bodies and can be taken as a dietary supplement. On average, a 160-pound person would have about 120 grams of natural creatine stored in their body. When you are doing an intense quick-burst activity such as weightlifting, your muscles must contract, needing a quick source of energy while the force of muscle contraction depending on the amount of stored ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate). When the ATP is used, it turns into ADP (Adenosine Diphosphate). Creatine increases the availability of ATP by reacting with the ADP in your body and turning it back into ATP. The more ATP in your body means the more fuel for your muscles. Creatine also helps to increase your muscle size by volumization. Volumization is the process of pulling fluid into the muscle cells and thus increasing their volume. Creatine also helps you to gain weight in this manner. These are the only major side effects.
Certain side effects have been attributed to Creatine use. Fortunately, these effects are minor: upset stomach, muscle cramping, diarrhea, and dehydration. In addition, people tend to have more side effects when taking the powder as opposed to a more direct delivery method like serum or effervescent powder. Drinking plenty of water when taking creatine can minimize most of these effects. There is also some concern that creatine may place undue stress on the liver and kidneys. With normal dosage, creatine in theory should pose no long-term health risks. In fact, some studies have shown that creatine can help reduce your chances of heart disease and adult on-set diabetes. On November 12, 1999, at the 19th Annual Southwest American College of Sports Medicine Meeting, two long-term creatine studies were presented from the Exercise and Sport Nutrition Lab at the University of Memphis. Both studies showed that nine months of creatine supplementation in athletes had no negative effects on markers of renal function or muscle and liver enzymes in comparison to athletes not taking creatine.
Creatine has never been proven to interfere with growth. It is true that long term studies with teenagers have not been done. In addition, for ethical reasons they probably never will be. No one wants to pump kids like you full of creatine for a few years just to see if harm is done. When your body is in its growth phase it is very important not to do anything that could interfere with growth. It is for this reason that it makes sense to spend some time trying to determine if creatine could in any way interfere with growth. Creatine has not been studied long enough to guarantee it does not interfere with anything.
My feeling is that if you want to be completely safe, don’t take creatine until you are older than 18. It is not that I have read anything that tells me that creatine is dangerous to people your age, but if you want to be on the safe side, don’t use it just in case new research comes out later. One thing I want to mention is that it is unfair to hold creatine to a higher standard than any other food or supplement. Many parents will let their children drink can after can of pop without researching the possible dangers of caffeine. Then when it comes to creatine, they want a guarantee that it is completely safe. A very powerful argument could be made on the negative effects of sugar for teenagers. However, there is little public outcry to ban sugar sales to minors. My point is that it is great to have a concerned parent, but creatine may not be the only thing they should be evaluating. In the end, I feel that you have your whole life to use creatine, so why rush into it before you are 18. The real key to building muscle mass is working hard in the gym. As you get closer to 18 it becomes a less risky decision if you decide to use creatine. I believe that 11 – 15 year olds are just too young to really be using any supplements. Of course, every person is different and it is best to make your decision with your doctor and parents.