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What is Creatine?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 21, 2024
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Creatine is an acid produced in the liver that supplies some energy to muscle cells. It is typically found in vertebrates. The liver makes this substance out of three amino acids called arginine, glycine, and methionine. Most of the creatine the human body makes is then stored in the muscles that support the skeleton.

Many people confuse creatine with creatinine. Creatinine is actually the broken down form that the kidneys process and dispose of. Normal measurement of creatine evaluates creatinine through blood tests. High creatinine levels may mean a person is severely dehydrated and also helps indicate if a person is experiencing kidney failure.

One of the more interesting uses of synthesized creatine is when top athletes use it. It is not a banned substance and many athletes claim they use it because it enhances performance naturally. Though tests have not shown it to be unsafe, there have not been enough tests to indicate that long-term use is safe.

Tests evaluating ingested creatine have been minimal and suggest that the acid may have a slight benefit in increasing muscle mass and enhancing athletic performance. The benefits are very slight, but many athletes contend it is often the little things that make a difference between winning or losing a race, for example. This is true especially when many ranking in races often come down to a few hundredths of a second. However, supplementation with this acid does not show improvement in tests on aerobic performance.

Because creatine may be indicated in building muscle mass, body builders may also use it. It can be taken in powder form or in pill form. One side effect noted by many who take it is mild to severe muscle cramping. This is often significant enough to cease taking it.

Some medical researchers have studied creatine for its possible benefits in muscle-wasting diseases like multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. In mice studies, there is the suggestion that increased supplies of creatine may prolong life and help stop apoptosis or cell death of muscle cells. Medical researchers are also examining the virtues of supplementation in those with arthritis and heart failure. As yet, these studies have not shown proven results or benefits to humans.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By koopsta — On Dec 30, 2010

Its effects are not minimal. However, the studies show that people only benefit from creatine if they are deficient in it in the first place.

If you are deficient, which most people find they are, creatine will help you work out longer and harder thus increase your strength.

It was also noticed that the benefits of creatine seem to climax, level off, and then begin to decrease with continued use. With that being observed, creatine should be taken and then discontinued every few months to avoid the decline.

Accurate information off the web can only be found in certain places. You should not trust what you read unless the source is reliable and confirmed.

By hangugeo112 — On Nov 29, 2010

Because of its ostensible effect, it is possible that creatine can be used as a subterfuge by steroid users, especially in professional sports. When asked how they have gained such muscle mass in such a short amount of time, steroid users can misattribute creatine as the relatively legal and safe cause of their increased muscle mass, when the reality is that they have taken illegal muscle-enhancement drugs.

By anon127858 — On Nov 17, 2010

If it has minimal athletic benefit, why do s many people use it?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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