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Creatine Effects on Muscle Mass

by
author image Daniel Hyman
Daniel Hyman began writing professionally in 2008. A LIVESTRONG.COM and eHow contributor, he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in political science at the University of Texas. Also, as a former National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer, he has extensive knowledge of health and fitness.
Creatine Effects on Muscle Mass
A hand is holding a scoop of a bodybuilding supplement. Photo Credit Jay_Zynism/iStock/Getty Images

Creatine monohydrate is a popular supplement among individuals seeking to increase their muscle mass. Creatine aids your body by enhancing muscle contractions and reducing fatigue after weight training. Taken as a supplement, creatine monohydrate may increase your strength during exercise and assisting muscle growth. Creatine can benefit weightlifters and athletes involved in power sports such as wrestling, football and hockey.

Background

Creatine is a nonessential nutrient found naturally in the muscles and brain, and is not considered a steroid. It is also consumed through high protein foods such as meat, fish and dairy products. It works by increasing the level of energy available and the rate at which it can be absorbed by the muscles when performing quick and intense movements. By increasing the energy available for your muscles to function, creatine may allow you to train more intensely and for longer periods with minimized muscle fatigue. Vegetarians may benefit from a creatine supplement as they typically have lower levels of creatine in their bodies.

Effects on muscle

Creatine does not directly increase your muscle mass, but when combined with proper nutrition, it can assist you in building muscle through its ability to enhance your weight training. While taking a creatine supplement, your muscles retain excess water, which stimulates muscle growth, but may also make them appear larger than normal, says the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.This water retention can be confused with actual growth and weight gain, but after the supplement is fully removed from your body, your muscles will shrink slightly and you may experience some weight loss.

Side Effects of Creatine

Creatine supplements have few known side effects. The most common is increased weight gain due to additional water retention within the muscles, but water retention is also attributable to muscle growth. Excess water retention in the muscles can cause dehydration, leading to possible muscle cramps during physical activity, so it is important to drink plenty of fluids. Less common side effects include nausea, diarrhea, and seizure. Unknown side effects of creatine may be discovered in the future as additional research emerges.

Proper use of creatine supplements

The effective dose of creatine supplement varies as the maximum absorption is different among individuals. Products often recommend a loading stage in which you take 20g to 25g per day for up to seven days, but athletes typically regard this as a method of increasing the rate of product usage. You may take 5g to 10g of creatine per day after the loading stage, or if you decide to disregard the loading stage. Taking an overdose of creatine is unlikely, as your body naturally eliminates excess creatine.

Warning

Although creatine supplements have few known side effects, additional research is necessary to determine unknown health risks. Consult your physician before beginning any nutritional supplement to determine whether it is right for you.

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