Creatine, a naturally occurring amino acid found in the body, is also one of the most popular supplements among competitive athletes and bodybuilders. Aside from creatine being consumed to improve athletic performance, it has also been used to treat cardiovascular disease, Parkinson's disease and muscular dystrophy. Precautions should be taken before ingesting creatine, because it may cause side effects including gastrointestinal problems, anxiety and kidney damage. Consult your doctor before use.
Creatine, also commonly referred to as creatine phosphate, is an amino acid or protein building block found in the body's muscles. Creatine is naturally made by the kidneys, pancreas and liver and is converted into two compounds known as phosphocreatine and creatine phosphate. It then gets stored in the muscles and used as energy when needed. In addition, creatine can be found in the food you eat such as wild game; fish such as tuna, salmon and herring; and lean red meat. Creatine can also be found as a laboratory-produced supplement in the form of powder, liquid, tablets, capsules, drink mixes, energy bars and chews.
Creatine is most commonly used as an athletic performance enhancer. It appears creatine has the ability to increase strength and improve lean body mass during high-intensity, short-duration workouts such as weightlifting or sprinting. Creatine may also be effective in treating heart disease. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, creatine improves low levels of energy, can help lower triglycerides and can lower levels of homocysteine, which is a precursor to having a heart attack or stroke. In addition, creatine has been used to treat depression, bipolar disorder, Parkinson's disease, Lou Gehrig's disease, arthritis, an eye disease known as gyrate atrophy, McArdle's disease and muscular dystrophy.
In addition to anxiety, many side effects are associated with using creatine; therefore, consult a doctor before use. Side effects include stomach discomfort, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, muscle cramps, heat intolerance, dehydration, fever, electrolyte imbalance, mild headaches, irritability, nervousness, sleepiness, depression, dizziness and aggression. Serious side effects may include seizures, blood clots in the legs, swollen limbs, altered liver function and kidney damage such as interstitial nephritis.
Creatine may cause adverse effects when used in conjunction with prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and herbs or supplements. Avoid using creatine if you are taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as diclofenac, naproxen, diflunisal, etodolac, ibuprofen and ketoprofen. Do not use creatine with diuretics, because they may increase the risk of dehydration and kidney damage. Do not mix creatine with stimulants such as caffeine, because the risk of dehydration and stroke increases.