Want A Stronger Body? Creatinine May Not Be The Answer

Creatine is a substance made in our bodies from the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. Amino acids are the chemical building blocks of protein; we get them from dietary protein. The body makes 1 to 2 grams of creatine a day, and we also get creatine from certain foods, such as fish and meat. Most (95%) of the body’s creatine is located in muscle, though some is found in other tissues, including the brain and retina.

Creatine increases energy by producing ATP or adenosine triphosphate, a high-energy compound released in muscle during intense, anaerobic exercise. Creatine supplements promote protein manufacture and provide a quick source of energy for muscle contraction.

Some studies suggest that supplemental creatine can help young athletes increase muscle mass and strength and improve their athletic performance during brief, high-intensity activity that requires short bursts of energy — one reason why it’s incorporated in various nutritional supplements used by bodybuilders and by adolescent and professional athletes. But most of these studies have found that creatine doesn’t enhance performance in older men and women, and doesn’t improve endurance at any age.

There are no studies of the long-term effects of creatine supplementation. Its most common known side effects include weight gain, stomach upset, diarrhea, muscle cramps, headache, anxiety, nervousness, sleepiness, and dizziness. Less common but potentially serious side effects include liver problems, kidney damage, and interaction with insulin. Men and women with diabetes or kidney or liver disease should not take creatine supplements.

Grams of protein in certain foods


Grams of protein

Meat and poultry, 3 ounces


Fish, 3 ounces


Dried beans, cooked, 1 cup


Yogurt, 8 ounces


Milk, 1 cup


Cheese, 1 ounce


Egg, 1 large


Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 23, available at www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl.


Bottom Line:  There’s not yet enough evidence that creatine can help men and women build muscle or increase strength. And even if creatine isn’t harmful, other substances used in making the supplements could be. The FDA doesn’t regulate supplements and their ingredients. So your best way to build and maintain your muscle strength is to exercise and get the recommended amount of dietary protein. About 0.5gms of protein per day for pound of body weight. I also suggest regular strength training and aerobic exercise.

Modified from article by Celeste Robb-Nicholson, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch



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