Creatine is an organic substance in the body that is synthesized in the liver and kidney from essential amino acids. It is then transported through the blood to the muscles. According to MayoClinic.com, about 95 percent of the body's store of creatine is located in the skeletal muscles. Creatine supplements became popular in the 1990s as a way for athletes to improve performance, but side effects are possible.
Creatine supplements can increase total skeletal muscle composition, according to MayoClinic.com, although the results vary from person to person. A number of variables can cause different results, including the intensity of the athlete's training and the amount of carbohydrates the athlete consumes. While nearly 25 percent of professional baseball players and closer to half of all professional football players use creatine, the National Collegiate Athletic Association bans its use.
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Side Effects of Creatine
Allergic reactions are common from creatine supplements and can cause asthma-like symptoms, including shortness of breath, rashes and itching. According to MayoClinic.com, athletes who use creatine should undergo medical monitoring because the supplements can cause abnormal heart palpitations, dizziness, fatigue, seizures and nervousness. Other possible side effects include diminished blood flow to the legs, aggression and fainting.
Cause of Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations usually are not harmful unless other underlying medical conditions are present, indicates MedlinePlus. As the supplements increase the amount and intensity of exercise you can perform, the heart often races to keep up with the increased activity and the amount of creatine entering the muscles. Heart palpitations can result from dehydration and electrolyte imbalances that sometimes occur after taking creatine, according to MayoClinic.com. When creatine affects the heart and causes palpitations and irregular heartbeats, eliminating the supplements from your daily regimen may reduce the symptoms.
Possible Heart Benefits
While creatine may interfere with normal heart rates for some athletes, for those with chronic heart disease, it increases heart muscle strength and helps with endurance, according to MayoClinic.com. Many patients with heart failure have low natural creatine levels and the supplements can correct that imbalance. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, triglyceride levels also are reduced when patients at risk for heart disease take the supplements. Patients with congestive heart failure can improve their exercise capacity, gain needed weight and add muscle mass.
Forms of Creatine
Creatine is sold over the counter in pill or powder form. Athletic enhancing formulas containing creatine also come in power bars, drinks and fruit-flavored chews. Since creatine is considered a dietary supplement, it is not regulated by a government agency. According to the UMMC, creatine supplements may contain other harmful ingredients that could affect your heart. Contaminated supplies of the supplement have been found.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.