Is it safe for weight lifters to take creatine supplements?
Richard Weil, MEd, CDE
Exercise Physiologist, WebMD Medical Expert
Creatine is a compound that has been shown to speed up recovery in adults after short (generally 10 seconds or less), high-intensity bouts of exercise, like a set of weight lifting. There are no endurance performance benefits from creatine use.
Strength gains and increases in mass associated with creatine use occur because it enables athletes to do more work with less fatigue in a specific period of time due to the improvement in recovery time. There are no steroid-like effects with creatine that directly cause increases in protein synthesis, increases in testosterone availability or synthesis, or other anabolic processes, and only minor side effects seem to be reported (gastrointestinal discomfort and cramping being the two main complaints).
Individuals using creatine should drink six to eight glasses of water a day while taking creatine to prevent dehydration. Among individuals who take creatine, 30% do not see any benefit. If no benefit is observed after four to six weeks of use, then it would be prudent to stop taking it, if for no other reason than to save money.
If the weight lifters are teenagers, they should know that the safety and efficacy of creatine has not been established in adolescents. The American College of Sports Medicine has recommended that creatine not be used by anyone younger than 18 years old, and furthermore, collegiate trainers and coaches are forbidden from recommending or supplying creatine, or other supplements for that matter, to their student athletes.