Kaitlyn Paul Ani Govjian English 105 2 October 2012 Creatine and Improved Athletic Performance: Benefits, Risks, and Regulation Abstract Creatine, being a natural building block in fast twitch muscle energy supply, can also be used by athletes as a supplement to increase muscular performance. It can be classified by many athletic associations as a muscle building supplement, much like anabolic steroids, and these associations take that into account when generating use policies for competition.
However, there are many risks associated with such use: organ failures, blood clots, and a reduction of the effectiveness of natural creatine stores within the body. The lack of regulation on such supplements also presents the risks of contamination and reactions with other substance ingested simultaneously as well as separately. The implications of creatine supplement use have not been fully developed and further research needs to be conducted to improve the limited knowledge base of the complete function of this complex substance in order to protect the safety of the athletes using them.
Key Terms Creatine, phosphocreatine, type II (fast twitch) muscle fibers, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), ATP (Adenosine-5-triphosphate), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nutritional supplements Introduction Performance enhancing drugs have been used and abused in sports for as far back as historians can remember. One such substance, creatine, could be considered the non-steroidal anabolic steroid. Use of this supplement has spiked and has spread across various athletic disciplines.
While creatine most definitely contributes to muscle performance in athletes, not enough research and regulation to fully consider it safe or even to understand its effects on the body have occurred. Creatine and Improved Athletic Performance Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is produced in the pancreas, liver, and kidneys and is used as an energy source for the body’s skeletal muscles. It is also ingested with the consumption of meats and fish (Creatine Supplements 2011).
The body reserves this substance and converts it into phosphocreatine which is stored within the muscles for later use. Phosphocreatine is then converted into ATP (Adenosine-5-triphosphate) when the cells within type II or “fast twitch” muscle fibers call upon it during brief, high intensity exercise such as sprints or bounds (Jenkins 1998). Using a supplement to increase creatine levels within the body has become widely popular among athletes as it increases strength and helps build lean muscle mass during exercises that utilize type II muscle fibers (Ehrlich 2011).
However, due to its classification as a muscle building supplement, much like anabolic steroids, the NCAA prohibits the supply of creatine supplements to athletes by school officials of any kind (Greenwood 2008). Therefore, the athlete is responsible for the selection and consumption of creatine supplements should he/she decide to take them. Risks of Creatine Consumption Creatine promises benefits that are every athlete’s dream such as increased muscle mass and improved performance.
However, research has indicated that there are some valid health concerns regarding creatine use that athletes may want to consider before deciding to ingest this particular supplement such as: renal and liver issues, blood pressure, and anterior compartment syndrome (Greenwood 2008). An increased risk of stroke can also be caused by the excessive use of creatine, especially when combined with commonly ingested substances such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) or caffeine (Ehrlich 2011).
The long-term use of creatine can also prove to be dangerous to one’s health with side effects from muscle cramps to seizures, ranging in severity with length of exposure (Creatine Supplements 2011). Dosing and overuse are also important factors to be considered. With roughly 44% of high school senior athletes having reported using creatine in one particular study, it is evident that a large number of users have not yet reached adulthood (Creatine Supplements 2011).
Although creatine has been through some research, there is none that has indicated its safety in users under the age of 19 which is the largest demographic of users that experience overdose (Ehrlich 2011). Because creatine occurs naturally with the consumption of meat products and production within the liver and kidneys from amino acids, when one supplements their diet with exogenous creatine, it slows the production of natural creatine thus increasing their need to take supplements and furthering the original issue (Jenkins 1998).
Furthermore, the negative effects of creatine may be compounded by the other contents in the supplements. FDA Regulation of Supplements The Food and Drug Administration in the United States does not regulate the contents of nutritional supplements nor does it regulate/ensure proper labeling on product containers. The FDA simply requires reporting of adverse reactions to the contents of said supplements as they occur. Because of the lack of regulation from the FDA, any supplement, including creatine, could potentially contain substances harmful to the user as an athlete and/or as a human being (Jenkins 1998).
For instance, there have been reports of contaminants within creatine such as dicyandiamide and dihydrotriazine, which are both microbiocides: substances that kill microbes or 90% of cells in the human body (Greenwood 2008). Further, since creatine is still mostly a mystery with regards to its effects on important organ systems and its effects when combined with commonly consumed substances such as energy drinks and over-the-counter drugs, ingesting it can prove to be extremely dangerous seeing as how a majority of Americans use these substances on a regular basis.
Conclusion The use of creatine, though heavily encouraged by the demands of society on athletes to be stronger or faster than their competitors, has the potential to ruin an athlete’s career because of the multitude of risks. One may see the words “all natural” on a bottle and assume that creatine supplements are safe to consume, but athletes should be educated about the possible effects on his or her body and athletic career in the long run.
Creatine needs to be banned in athletic competition and competitors need to be subject to testing like that of anabolic steroids until further research and innovations have been completed to ensure the integrity and safety of the product. The FDA needs to implement more restrictive regulations on supplements of any kind to reduce the possibility of contamination and/or improper labeling. There is no doubt that creatine had a multitude of effects based on its natural rigins within the body, but athletes, and people in general, need to be smart about what they put in their body and weigh the risks over the benefits.
References Ehrlich S, reviewer. 2011. Creatine [Internet]. Baltimore, MD: University of Maryland Medical System; [cited 2012 Sept 13]. Available from: http://www. umm. edu/altmed/articles/creatine-000297. htm Greenwood M. 2008. Creatine overview: facts, fallacies, and future. Essentials of Creatine in Sports and Health. [Cited 2012 Sept 11]; 211-240. SpringerLink [Internet]. Springer, Part of Springer Science+Business Media. date unknown]. Available from: http://www. springerlink. com/content/p5x7536l76h55717/fulltext. pdf. System Requirements: Adobe Acrobat Reader and subscription required for access. Jenkins MA, author. 1998. Creatine supplementation in athletes: review [Internet]. SportsMed Web; [cited 2012 Sept 11]. Available from: http://www. rice. edu/~jenky/sports/creatine. html Unknown, compiler/author. 2011. Creatine supplements [Internet]. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; [cited 2012 Sept 13]. Available from: http://orthoinfo. aaos. org/topic. cfm? topic=a00373