Creatine is an amino-acid based substance created in several different organs inside your body and stored primarily in your muscles. In supplemental form, it is widely used to boost muscle growth and improvement competitive performances in athletes. While some people who take creatine do grow larger muscles, others don’t receive any benefits from creatine use.
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Your body produces creatine inside your pancreas, kidneys and liver. The substance also occurs naturally in fish and various types of meat. Whether it comes from your organs, food or supplements, creatine gets converted inside your body into a substance called creatine phosphate and stored in your skeletal, or voluntary, muscles. When you sprint, lift weights or engage in any other exercise or activity that requires rapid, short bursts of energy, your muscle cells convert creatine phosphate into a substance called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which acts as a major fuel source.
Creatine’s effects vary with the type of exercise or activity you engage in, as well as your age, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center and MedlinePlus. People around the age of 20 who engage in brief, high-intensity activities such as weightlifting can see significant increases in their muscle size and strength when they use creatine. However, the same benefits don’t seem to appear in older individuals, especially in people older than age 60. Creatine also seems to produce no effect in people who engage in exercises that require endurance rather than short periods of activity.
Use in Teenagers
Creatine is increasingly popular among teenage athletes, who commonly disregard evidence of the substance’s effectiveness and take more than the recommended dosage of supplement products. However, scientists have not fully studied growth or any other effects of creatine use on people in this age group, and the University of Maryland Medical Center specifically advises that everyone age 19 or younger avoid using creatine supplements. High school-age athletes particularly prone to creatine use include football players, gymnasts, lacrosse players, hockey players and wrestlers.
Your muscles can only hold so much creatine at a time, and you can’t continue to increase muscle size by increasing your intake of the supplement above recommended levels, MedlinePlus notes. Usually, people who take creatine start with a relatively high week-long dosage called a loading dose, then continue with a substantially lower, ongoing daily dosage called a maintenance dose. Typically, your muscles will reach their maximum creatine-holding capacity within a few days after you take a loading dose. In addition, much of the weight gain commonly associated with creatine use stems from water retention, not muscle growth. Consult your doctor for more information on creatine’s effects.