Ask the Doctors: Creatine supplement can be beneficial for young, healthy weightlifters

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound that our bodies use to help power the skeletal muscles.

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Numerous studies have shown that adding a creatine supplement to the daily diet can enhance an individual’s natural store of the compound. This can lead to modest, but still measurable, improvements to both athletic performance and endurance when engaged in high-intensity exercise.

Numerous studies have shown that adding a creatine supplement to the daily diet can enhance an individual’s natural store of the compound. This can lead to modest, but still measurable, improvements to both athletic performance and endurance when engaged in high-intensity exercise.

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Dear Doctors: My boyfriend has been lifting weights at his gym. One of the trainers suggested he start taking creatine as a supplement. What is creatine? How does it affect your body?

Answer: Creatine is a naturally occurring compound our bodies use to help power the skeletal muscles.

About half of our daily requirement is produced by the liver and kidneys. The other half is derived from dietary sources, primarily red meat, seafood, chicken and dairy products.

Creatine is stored in the muscles, then used to help power high bursts of activity. It appears to be particularly effective in boosting anaerobic performance, including weightlifting and resistance training.

Numerous studies have shown that taking a creatine supplement can enhance our natural store of the compound. This can lead to modest but measurable improvements in athletic performance and endurance in high-intensity exercise.

Research into creatine supplements also suggests they might play a role in helping prevent use-related muscle injuries, support or even speed post-exercise recovery and help regulate body temperature during exercise.

All of this has led to creatine becoming one of the most popular dietary supplements among athletes and others hoping to improve physical performance.

Another aspect of research into creatine is the discovery that the supplement doesn’t produce the same effects in all populations. Studies have found that people who are younger and in good health derive the greatest benefits. Also, these benefits, including muscle growth, were seen only when someone followed a targeted and sustained training program.

Also, studies are looking into whether creatine supplementation can help slow disease progression in people with Parkinson’s or Huntington’s diseases, aid in recovery from spinal cord injury, ease the effects of fibromyalgia and perhaps play a role in blood-glucose management in people living with diabetes.

If your boyfriend eats a well-rounded diet that includes a wide range of lean, high-quality protein, he is quite likely getting enough creatine. But, because increases in intramuscular creatine concentrations can benefit athletic training, many athletes find it an attractive option.

Used appropriately, creatine supplementation has proven to be safe and well-tolerated by people who are healthy and in good physical condition.

Some experience water retention. Others, particularly those using it in large amounts, have occasional gastric distress.

As with all supplements, it’s important to use a high-quality product and to follow the guidelines for use. We always think it’s also a good idea to check with your healthcare provider.

Dr. Eve Glazier and Dr. Elizabeth Ko are internists at UCLA Health.

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