Creatine (creatine monohydrate) is a crystalline substance used by muscle tissue to transform ADP into ATP, the energy source for muscle contractions. It is produced naturally in the body by the liver, pancreas and kidneys and is concentrated in the muscles, including the heart. Creatine is also ingested through animal protein in the diet, the average person consuming 1 to 2 grams per day.
Creatine supplements are becoming more and more popular, especially among athletes, body builders and recreational exercisers. When accompanied by proper fitness training and a carbohydrate-rich diet, creatine supplements can help a body build muscle mass, improve performance and delay fatigue. Clinical studies have shown it is particularly effective for high-intensity, short-duration activities involving speed and power for less than 30 seconds - like sprinting, weight lifting or playing football. Creatine doesn't seem to be helpful for activities requiring longer muscular endurance.
Detractors of creatine supplements claim it simply leads to water retention in the tissue as opposed to the building of muscle mass. Some studies show creatine supplements may even hinder athletic performance as it can contribute to weight gain. Those who are already fit and muscular, such as elite athletes, are probably not going to benefit much from creatine supplements.
Potential side effects of creatine supplements include diarrhea, muscle cramping, muscle strains and dehydration. Although only limited studies on long term usage of creatine have been conducted, some evidence suggests that it may be harmful to the kidneys. If you do decide to take creatine supplements, avoid excessive caffeine intake as it may counteract any benefits you may experience.
Please consult with your health practitioner before starting on a creatine supplement program.