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Is Creatine Worth the Trouble?

April 19, 2004 03:48 PM

By Jim Brown, Ph.D., Executive Editor, Sports Performance Journal (www.athletesperformance.com)

Creatine has been a part of the sports performance picture for the past ten years. Some tennis players have experimented with it, others have made it a continuing part of their training routine, and a third group has never touched it.

Following is a summary of what we know about creatine, based on a report written by Eric Rawson, Ph.D., and Priscilla Clarkson, Ph.D., in the Gatorade Sports Science Exchange.

  • Creatine supplements are used by 17-24 percent of athletes of various ages in a variety of sports.
  • Creatine supplements can increase creatine and phosphocreatine levels in the muscles, but there are large differences in individual response.
  • Ingesting two grams of creatine daily for 30 days is equally effective as creatine loading (20 grams for 4-5). Larger amounts will be excreted.
  • Creatine has been shown to improve performance of brief (less than 30 seconds), high-intensity exercise, but there is limited evidence that it can enhance performance during exercise lasting longer than 90 seconds.
  • Creatine supplementation during resistance training may allow athletes to complete more repetitions per set of a given exercise and may allow them to recover faster between sets.
  • Creatine will likely increase body mass by a few pounds, some of which will be muscle tissue and the rest extra water.
  • There appears to be no association between creatine supplementation and adverse side effects in healthy athletes, but there are anecdotal reports of creatine-associated heat illness.

A few other findings are worth noting. We do not know the long-term effects on children who are still growing. The authors state that individuals under the age of 18 should not take creatine supplements. Also, because the FDA does not tightly regulate supplements, there is no guarantee that creatine container labels accurately reflect the contents. Finally, the report advises athletes not to depend on supplements, including creatine, to make them champions. Supplements cannot replace talent, hard training, good nutrition, adequate sleep, and planned rest periods.

© 2004 HMS Publishing, Inc.
Jim Brown will be contributing new content to this site on a monthly basis. If you have a question for Dr. Brown please feel free to email him at




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