The best supplements for natural athletes and bodybuilders include whey protein and creatine. Creatine, sold in powdered form, is commonly supplemented by both athletes and bodybuilders to improve their performance in the gym and on the field, in the case of athletes. However, in the eyes of the public, creatine is considered dangerous and should not be taken by college or high school athletes. So many concerns brought up by recent studies that the NCAA banned coaches from giving it to their athletes.
One of the largest concerns surrounding the creatine supplement is that it can produce more DHT in the body. For those who don’t know, DHT is an androgen that gives males their male characteristics. An excess DHT present in the body can lead to male pattern baldness, making creatine seem a little more harmful than it’s made out to be. In a study done by Stellenbosch University, rugby players were given creatine and had their androgens watched over a period of three weeks. The study astoundingly revealed that the athlete’s DHT levels sat at around 56% after seven days of creatine loading and around 40% above baseline during maintenance. A 56% increase is quite a large jump from when the subjects were not taking creatine, and a scary amount to increase over such a small time period. These results revealed a serious problem as creatine is a widely used supplement by many athletes and bodybuilders. People who have the genetic trait will be affected indefinitely, as there early hair loss will come even sooner. Many young adults who take the supplement could start to bald and it will branch off into other issues, like depression. With a serious condition like male pattern baldness, supplement companies should be warning their users and labeling their products to show this.
Another reason creatine is controversial is that in some studies, researchers found that in large doses it can cause kidney damage. More data from Medline Plus also revealed that in high dosages can lead to diarrhea and severe dehydration. The reason dehydration can occur is due to the fact that creatine forces the body to retain water weight. These problems were found when the user took more than 10 grams a day. On the labels of most creatine brands, it tells consumers not to exceed certain dosages, however, that doesn’t always stop them from doing so. Creatine leads to dehydration also can chain off into muscle cramping, which will greatly hinder your muscular strength and may often need to be massaged. Dehydration can cause dizziness in the gym, and in some cases people can black out from dehydration. We can’t have our athletes passing out in the field. People will complain, games will have to be halted, and parents will freak out. For the most part dehydration can be avoided if used in normal dosages. Creatine, in a much larger dosage, can also lead to heart issues and liver issues as well. Athletes who do take higher dosages will ultimately be harmed later in life, but early signs of issues such as heart palpitations could be present. These are the types of issues we don’t want our athletes to face, especially with their bodies under the high load from sports.
For those looking to lose weight, creatine may not be the supplement for you. Creatine helps create lean muscle mass, but may add water weight in the process. In a study from the University of Louvain, “A review of the literature reveals a 1.0% to 2.3% increase in body mass, which is attributed to fat-free mass and, more specifically, to skeletal-muscle mass”. Some people will argue that creatine doesn’t affect weight loss or gain at all, but studies in most cases show that creatine adds weight. Creatine in athletes usually only adds about 2-5 pounds of weight varying per individual, but this can be seen as a negative effect for middle aged men and women who have difficulty losing weight, and don’t want to be excessively muscular. For bodybuilders and athletes, this will not be as big of an issue, as slimmer athletes will bulk up. This issue varies individual to individual, as some will care that they gained weight while with others it won’t even phase them. Regardless of what category you fall into, supplement companies make sure to label their products stating that water retention may occur and that you should drink lots of water while taking this supplement.
Some studies on creatine revealed that some users experienced depression. A study from Examine.com says that creatine slightly decreases serotonin, a neurotransmitter found in the body. Seratonin can be linked to regulating a person’s mood or social behavior. This can really negatively affect athletes as if these symptoms take effect they can greatly hinder the player’s mindset and their performance, ultimately undoing the purpose of creatine altogether. This depression in time can also chain off into many other harmful side effects. Depression overall hinder a person’s willpower, and can lead to athletes losing interest in their sport. Another reason why the NCAA banned creatine from being handed out, as they knew if these symptoms were to occur, there would be no games to watch, just a bunch of sad players in a field.
Creatine as a whole has many good qualities, but after the research was done, also revealed many bad qualities as well. Most of these issues are associated with incorrect dosages, but there are still some side effects present if correctly dosed. Not to mention, there will always be people who will carelessly take it, and think that by “taking more” it will just enhance the effects. Based on the fact that creatine can still be taken by athletes, but not given by coaches, athletes may still take creatine if they think it will help them. As it stands now, I understand that the NCAA had to step in, creatine is a supplement that if taken, must be taken correctly, and carefully.
Examine.com. “Creatine Supplement.” Examine.com, Examine.com, 4 July 2017.
“Creatine.” University of Maryland Medical Center, 1 Jan. 2017.
van, J, et al. “Three Weeks of Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation.” Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine : Official Journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 19 Sept. 2009.
Francaux, M, and J R Poortmans. “Side Effects of Creatine Supplementation in Athletes.”International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Dec. 2006.