Creatine: Miracle Supplement or Dangerous Drug

Shawn, an 18 year old football player, is looking though a Sports Illustrated at next year’s college recruiting list, hoping that he might see his name in one of the top spots. He is turning the pages when he sees a picture of Brady Anderson, shirtless. Shawn was thinking if he could grow muscles that big, he would be a top recruit for sure. If only there was some kind of pill he could take to make him that big, he would have no more worries.
There actually is: creatine. Creatine is a muscle supplement that is being used by athletes to build muscle, speed, and stamina. Creatine was discovered in 1832 by a French scientist who identified this nutrient to be produced by the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. By 1926, a British Medical Journal was citing creatine as a good source of energy in the body, and it was first used by the Soviet Union during the Olympics in 1981. In the past 6 years creatine has been used by all kinds of athletes from the high school to pro level, which has started what is known as the ‘creatine craze’ among athletes. Well known professional athletes such as Brady Anderson, John Elway, and Troy Aikman all use creatine, and all give it credit for an improvement in their performances (Bamberger 59). It is estimated that 13 percent of the pro athletes are taking creatine to build muscle. Seventy- five percent of the San Francisco 49ers football team use creatine and 80 percent of the Nebraska team take it. Then there is the opposite camp. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers strength coach, Mark Asanovich, won’t allow creatine in the locker room. Trainers from the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres discourage players from using it (Bamberger 59). Many people ask: if creatine is such a miracle substance, why doesn’t every athlete use it? When the teams that oppose creatine supplementation are asked this, they all have the same response: not enough is known about the effects of creatine. Creatine is such a new product on the market it has not had time to be tested for possible side effects it might cause. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved of this supplement yet, but creatine is still a legal supplement for athletes to use to get bigger and stronger. This controversy over whether creatine is safe or not has many athletes and trainers confused at what to do. Creatine is known to help athletes’ performance, but what is not known about creatine may out weigh the benefits it contributes.
Before this question is argued, we must know more about what creatine is and how it works. Creatine is an all natural nutrient made of a combination of 3 amino acids; arginine, glycine, and methionine, which are found in meat and fish products. Creatine is also produced naturally by the body in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys at a rate of about two grams a day. Approximately 95 percent of the body’s creatine is found in the skeletal muscles of the body. When athletes consume creatine, it is usually in powder form that is mixed with water or fruit juices. The average daily amount of creatine athletes use is about 20 grams, over ten times the amount the body produces in a day (Sahelian, Creatine 36-38). The extra creatine is consumed by athletes to regenerate the body’s adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the body’s source of quick energy, and during intense physical activity the body can burn all of its “quick energy” within about 30 seconds. But if the body has extra stores of creatine, it can regenerate the ATP which causes longer periods of physical activity a body can withstand. Athletes take creatine every day they train, and by doing this can build muscle faster than normal. In fact most creatine users will notice, within just a few days, a fuller sensation in their muscles. If any kind of physical activity is done, especially lifting weights, there can be a significant increase in the size of muscle (Ekbolm and Bjorn 233-236). Jeff Volek, of the Journal of American Dietetic Association (539), did an experiment to investigate the results of creatine supplementation on