Creatine is a compound produced in the human body and stored primarily in muscle tissue in the form of Phosphocreatine or Creatine Phosphate. It’s found naturally in fish and meat products and because our body has the ability to actually produce it from 3 amino acids: L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine, it’s considered a non-essential nutrient. Creatine works in concert with the energy compound ATP or Adenosine Triphosphate- swapping phosphate molecules as required for varying levels of energy demand. As a muscle contracts, ATP breaks off a phosphate group turning it into ADP or Adenosine Diphosphate. In order to turn ADP back to ATP for energy, it needs to get that phosphate group back. Creatine phosphate lends a hand by donating the phosphate so that ATP can once again be used as energy for the next muscle contraction.
Creatine supplementation isn’t typically utilized for endurance activities but rather is closer associated with enhancing the energy production needed for short term maximum exercise (i.e. sprinting, swinging a bat, etc.) by making ATP more available. But because human muscle has a storage capacity for creatine, taking in more than what can be stored is of little benefit and could potentially be harmful in the long run.
The use of supplements, like creatine, is a topic for debate. Much of the controversy surrounding these ergogenic aids has to do with their safety. Unlike standard medications, they are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, therefore not subjected to the typical rigorous standards of product safety. Additionally, their usage may interfere with medications you are currently taking for existing medical conditions or with other supplements. And without regulation, the combinations may prove not only detrimental, but potentially life threatening (FDA, 2006). Therefore it’s best to speak with your doctor before beginning any supplement regime.
Dunford M: Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals, ed. 4 Chicago, 2006, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA): Dietary Supplements: What You Need To Know,www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/UCM240978.pdf, May 2006.