Creatine is an amino acid (protein building block) produced in the liver that helps supply energy to all your cells, particularly your muscle cells.

What are its health benefits?

It is used by muscles that have high-energy demands, such as your brain and skeletal muscle.

Creatine supplementation may have the following benefits:

  • It is used in bodybuilding and by athletes to increase their ability to produce energy rapidly, thus allowing them to train harder, improve muscle strength and lean muscle mass and ultimately improve their performance. It seems to be most effective for high-intensity exercise and not endurance. It may not be as effective in improving strength and building muscle in people over 60 years of age.
  • It could help improve the exercise ability and endurance of those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
  • It could help improve the strength of those suffering from muscular dystrophy and congestive heart failure (CHF).
  • It has been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and Lou Gehrig’s disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS), however, research shows it may not be effective for treating these conditions.
  • It can reportedly help treat the symptoms of depression but scientific evidence doesn’t back this claim.

Do you have a deficiency?

A deficiency is rare, however, a severe creatine deficiency can lead to muscle, respiratory and circulatory diseases. Creatine deficiency syndrome – where individuals have very low levels of creatine in their bodies – is a cluster of genetic diseases that are treated with creatine supplements as part of a medical regimen.

Find it in these food sources

Creatine is found in the following foods:

  • Wild game meat
  • Lean red meat
  • Fish (herring, salmon and tuna)

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

There is no RDA, as your body makes its own supply. If you are considering taking creatine supplements, first talk to your doctor or Clicks pharmacist about whether you should be taking it and the correct dosage if so. 

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids while taking creatine, as you may be more prone to dehydration, heat stroke and electrolyte imbalances. Note that it may work more effectively if taken with a meal of carbohydrates. Rather avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas) while taking it, as it could include your risk of stroke.

You may experience weight gain while taking creatine because it causes water retention in your muscles.

Creatine supplementation is not recommended for children, teens, women during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Those battling with kidney disease should avoid creatine, and diabetics should be cautious when considering supplementation.

Know the overdose risks

Possible side effects could include:

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

Shop online at Clicks.co.za for sports nutrition

Clicks stocks leading sports nutrition products, including creatine supplements, which are now available online for you to purchase.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in February 2015