What Is the Minimum Age for Taking Creatine?

Gaining an edge is something athletes of all ages are interested in. However, because children and adolescent's bodies are still developing, there is a growing concern over whether it's safe for them to use sports supplements. Despite this, some children and adolescents take creatine for proposed performance-enhancement benefits, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Creatine is a widely used supplement among athletes and body builders. It's recommended that those below a certain age avoid taking creatine supplements.

Young boy in a baseball uniform (Image: Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Potential Creatine Benefits

Your body makes creatine naturally, although the amount of creatine in your body varies from person to person. You can get creatine in your diet from high protein foods such as meat and fish. Creatine serves as a fuel source and most of it is stored in your muscle tissues. Taking creatine supplements may boost the amount in your muscles providing more energy during, particularly during high-intensity, short-duration exercise such as weight lifting.

Minimum Age

It's recommended that you be at least 18 years of age to take creatine supplements, according to KidsHealth.org. Research into creatine supplementation has focused almost exclusively on adults age 18 to 35, according to the American College of Sports Medicine consensus statement found in the March 2000 issue of the journal "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise." Research showing the long-term effects of creatine on growing children and adolescents is lacking. Due to unknown risks, avoid taking creatine if you're under 18.

Prevalence Among Young Athletes

Despite the current age recommendation, middle school and high school, athletes use creatine, according to a study published in the August 2011 issue of the journal "Pediatrics." Researchers surveyed athletes in grades 6 through 12 about potential creatine use. They found that creatine use was most prevalent in teens in grades 11 and 12, although adolescents in each grade reported some use. Creatine use was more common among sports such as football, wrestling, hockey, gymnastics and lacrosse. Improving athletic performance was the most commonly reported reason for taking creatine.

Creatine Safety

The typical maintenance dose for adults age 19 and older is 2 grams of creatine daily, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Taking creatine may cause side effects, particularly at high doses. Potential side effects include upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, elevated blood pressure, weight gain and, on rare occasions, liver dysfunction and kidney damage. Most studies show no major side effects at typical doses, according to the UMMC.

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