What You Need to Know:
▪ Creatine is a molecule involved in energetic reactions in the body.
▪ Creatine is not a steroid nor does it act like a hormone, contrary to popular belief.
▪ The effectiveness of creatine is proven and is also safe for use in teens and adults.
▪ There are a number of conditions that need to be met before the teen athlete can be recommended to take creatine supplements.
About BodyandScience’s “Teens & Supplements” Series
Sporty teenagers are an attractive target for nutritional supplements as they may easily be influenced by strong marketing strategies employed by companies.
Without the necessary knowledge it is almost certain that they will either buy a supplement that is not suitable for them, that does little to help them, rips them off financially and may possibly even be doing harm to their bodies.
The goal of this series of articles on bodyandscience.com is to educate parents and teens about supplements, to assist them in making educated choices.
In this article we take a look at creatine supplementation, as creatine is a go-to supplement for teenage athletes (and one that makes their parents cringe!).
Creatine, often believed to be a steroid, is a molecule that carries ATP (the cellular energy currency) to fuel energy-demanding reactions in the body, including muscle contraction and even brain energy metabolism.
Supplementation serves to increase the quantity of creatine in the body or offset the effects of certain diets (e.g. low meat intake or vegan diets) on natural creatine levels.
Creatine is one of the most heavily scientifically researched and validated nutritional compounds in the world.
Creatine’s use is also not limited to sports as it has also been evaluated as a potential therapeutic agent to treat a number of medical conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as traumatic brain injury.
A word on Creatine’s Safety and Effectiveness.
Creatine hit the supplement shelves in the early 1990s and ever since creatine supplementation has been the target for criticism by anecdotal and media reports as a dangerous and unnecessary practice.
Creatine is often considered as a “gateway” supplement leading to anabolic steroid abuse, although expert panels like the International Society of Sports Nutrition strongly disagree.
Creatine is one of the very few nutritional supplement ingredients that is backed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) The latter organisation even approved a claim to be made, namely that “Creatine supplementation increases physical performance during repeated bouts of short-term, high-intensity exercise, when taken in doses of at least 3g a day”.
The EFSA, after evaluating the scientific evidence supporting health claims for thousands of nutritional compounds, either authorises or rejects health claims to be made provided. Creatine’s positive opinion from the EFSA speaks volumes about the safety and effectiveness of the compound.
This means that vendors of Creatine supplements can claim these benefits of creatine when marketing their product.
However, there are important steps that a teenager needs to follow, as laid out below.
Teens and Creatine: Key Steps to Follow [infographic]
▪Supplement selection: choose a pure creatine monohydrate supplement. Lots of creatine supplements come with added ingredients including stimulants, which are not recommended.
▪Protocol: the standard protocol is to take 5g of Creatine a day after training, diluted in water.
About the Author
MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology.
Veeraj is passionate about researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. As a former research student at the University of Cape Town, Veeraj examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by lifting weights and taking daily walks.