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Actions And Effects Of Creatine Essay, Research Paper

Throughout time,

humans have had a fascination with being excellent at what they do, and

athletics have been no exception. Many substances exist, and many have been

criticized and analyzed for their safety, legality, and morality for athletes.

With the banning of steroids from competitive sports, and the implementation of

random drug testing in most sports, most athletes, professional, recreational,

and would-be professionals are hoping to gain an edge. More recently, one such

edge has been discovered, and it has found itself in locker rooms across the

country, in the hands of these athletes, and all the while, and probably more

importantly, in the media’s direct line of fire. Although legal, creatine has

it’s proponents and it’s opponents, through this paper, I’ll discuss some of

the factors that make creatine such a hot topic in sports and the health

industry. To understand why people use creatine, we must first understand what

it is. Creatine is a naturally occurring nutrient that is found in the body

(Sahelian, 2000). It is also found in meat and fish, usually at a concentration

of about 4 grams of creatine per kilogram (Sahelian, 2000). As a general fact,

we consume around 1 gram per day from out daily diet. Vegetarians have a much

lower intake of creatine than most meat eaters, and will usually have a noted

reaction to creatine supplementation due to this fact (Sahelian, 2000). To

apply creatine to the muscle building process, we must understand what it does.

When we use our muscle everyday for any activity, we use oxygen to make energy.

This energy is created by breaking down a chemical that exists in our body

known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP), into another chemical, adenosine

diphosphate (ADP), but using oxygen to make energy is a very slow process

(Sahelian, 2000). This is the part of the process where creatine makes itself

known. Current studies show that creatine supplementation can increase the

amount of creatine in muscles, which in turn, speeds up the ATP refueling

process (Murphy, 2000). This enhances performance by producing more energy for

brief, high-intensity exercise such as sprinting, and allowing for more

strenuous workouts (Gutfeld, 1997). All of these factors are crucial to

athletes who are searching for their legal "magic bullet". Creatine

was first discovered by a French scientist in 1832 (Bamberger, 1998). This

scientist discovered a naturally occurring organic compound that could be

produced by the kidneys, liver, and pancreas. The compound was named

"creatine", the Greek word for flesh (Bamberger, 1998). It has been

found that most people consume 1 gram per day, along with naturally producing 1

gram (Bamberger, 1998). In 1981, the potential medical benefits of creatine were

published in the New England Journal of Medicine in, seven years later, two

Swedish doctors, Paul Greenhaff, and Eric Hultman, recorded

performance-enhancing effects of creatine in athletic subjects, and their

results were published in the journal Clinical Science in 1992 (Bamberger,

1998). Most of the current creatine "buzz" surfaced and intensified

after the 1992 Olympics when several athletes such as runner/sprinter Michael

Johnson, reported using creatine to prepare themselves for the games. In more

current trends, exact numbers regarding athletes who use creatine do not exist,

but when Brady Anderson, a professional baseball player and creatine

user/endorser began supplementation, he was one of very few who knew about the

product, but numbers suggest now that approximately 50% of all NFL players use

creatine (Bamberger, 1998). Creatine is most commonly used by athletes of all

kinds, namely recreational, high school, college, and the more scrutinized

professional athletes. These athletes use creatine because of what creatine

supplementation does. The reliable and valid research studies support the

benefits of creatine supplementation. Mainly, that it can have a positive

impact on the following aspects, 1) Expediting recovery between workouts, 2)

increase the amount of exercise that can be performed during workouts, 3)

increase muscle size and strength, 4) improve anaerobic power and endurance,

and 5) increase body weight (Arapoff and Riley, 1998). These are all very

attractive and positive factors that an athlete would love to be able to attain

legally, not compromising their safety with illegal substances such as

steroids, but through essentially, natural and relatively safe means. Luring to

some users are reports that results are quick and consistent, along with

increased muscle mass, and a prolonged pump during strength training (Sahelian,

2000). Although touted and highly regarded among some professional strength

trainers, there are some that are skeptical. For instance, the San Francisco

49er’s, have an estimated three quarters of the team using creatine, while the

Tampa Bay Buccaneers strength coach will not allow creatine in the Bucs’ locker

room (Bamberger, 1998). The creatine economy is booming, Experimental and

Applied Sciences, have a stranglehold on the creatine market, since they were

instrumental in it’s introduction to the sports supplement arena, they have

such athletes as Shannon Sharpe as a paid user/endorser in EAS apparel at

public appearances, and this is a great way for them to increase exposure and

their marketability, along with having a phenomenal skyrocket in sales (Suggs,

1998). There is a simple explanation for the explosion of creatine, it’s

effective, legal, in most cases affordable, and it works. It helps muscles get

bigger and stronger faster, which is the basis of the strength-training regimen

of some athletes. The IOC or International Olympic Committee has not banned

creatine, and actually considers it a food, since it cannot realistically be

placed in the same categories of substances such as anabolic steroids, this

provided the ruling that it should not be banned (Nutrition Forum, 1999). The

form that is most likely and most commonly consumed is that of creatine

monohydrate in a white powder form, it comes in a canister or tub, and can be

purchased at stores such as General Nutrition Centers (GNC). A canister of the

EAS creatine has a price of roughly $60 (Bamberger, 1998). Creatine is usually

ingested in dosages of around 3 to 5 grams per day, and is recommended to be

preceded by a loading phase that consists of ingesting up to 20 grams a day of

the powder daily for 5 days (Gutfeld, 1997). This ensures that the muscles are

efficiently saturated with creatine. After this loading phase, a reduction to

the 3-5 gram a day dose, is recommended. Any more than what is recommended will

be excreted through the urine. Also, recommendations include ingesting the

creatine with a liquid that is high in carbohydrates. It is believed that the

high glycemic index will shuttle creatine into the muscle very quickly, and

have a higher absorption rate (Gutfeld, 1997). Also, users and researches alike

recommend checking the supplement is of high purity. Most manufacturers will

provide a laboratory analysis upon request (Gutfeld, 1997). Some users

question, what the best time of day to take creatine is, but reports show that

any time of day is acceptable, but most users chose to take it in the time

preceding their workout (Sahelian, 2000). There have been cases of

non-responders to creatine, but the reason is not known at this time (Sahelian,

2000). Some reported side effects of creatine include, loose stools, which can

occur with relatively small doses such as approximately 4 grams (Sahelian,

2000). Higher doses have side effects such as nausea, upset stomach, dizziness,

weakness, and doses in the 20 gram and above category have seen side effects

such as kidney damage (Sahelian, 2000). The reported feelings of dehydration

can be diffused by consuming large quantities of water, more than a gallon a

day (Bamberger, 1998). The result that is noted as most siginificant is that of

weight gain. This can be definitely a negative or positive aspect, considering

which sport the athlete is training for. For any sport where bulking up is

required creatine would provide an advantage, but any athlete trying to lose or

maintain weight will be offset by creatines reported effects. The American

College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), has issued a statement that although

creatine is an effective aid in performance enhancement, there have not been nearly

as many field studies as there have been laboratory studies conducted, also,

the ACSM notes that the jury is still out on the safety and effectiveness of

long term creatine use (Rose, 1998). Since there have been no studies conducted

about the long term safety of creatine, it is not currently recommended to

supplement for long periods of time, rather cycle creatine use, by stopping or

significantly reducing usage for a month’s time (Sahelian, 2000). Although the

long term consequences of creatine are not known at this time, it has, to this

point, proven to be safer than any illegal performance-enhancing aid, such as

anabolic steroids. Creatine supplemenation through a powder is also a viable

way to obtain the amount necessary to provide results. To obtain the

recommended dosage through our diet alone, one would have to consume anywhere

from 5 to 25 pounds of meat daily (Gutfeld, 1997). Someday, maybe creatine

research will conclude that it really is nature’s very own steroid. Bibliography

References: Arapoff, Jason., and Riley, Dan. (1998). The `Powerline’ View On

Creatine. Scholastic Coach & Athletic Director, 68(4), 12-13. Bamberger,

Michael. (1998). The Magic Potion. Sports Illustrated, 88(16), 58-61. Gutfeld,

Greg. (1997). Stir up some muscle. Men’s Health, 12(4), 90-92. Murphy, Dee.

(2000). What you should know about creatine. Current Health 2, 26(6), 13-14.

Nutrition Forum. (1999). IOC Considers Creatine a Food. 16(2), 9-10. Rose,

Verna L. (1998). Creatine Supplementation. American Family Physician, 58(7),

1691. Sahelian, Ray. (2000). Creatine – Just the FAQ’s Ma’am. Better Nutrition,

62(5), 26-27. Suggs, Welch. (1998). Creatine pays off despite health warnings.

Denver Business Journal, 49(42), 17a.


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