The most popular supplement among athletes is probably creatine monohydrate. Creatine is a naturally occurring chemical produced in the human body from amino acids. It is made mainly in the kidneys and liver and transported in the blood for use by muscles and nerve cells. Creatine helps muscles make and circulate more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the substance which stores and transports energy in cells.
Creatine is chemically unrelated to anabolic steroids or andro but it is often lumped in with them as a “performance- enhancing substance.” Creatine does not manipulate hormone levels but instead allows muscle cells to delay fatigue and recover more quickly. As of 2009, creatine supplements are legal in the United States. It is available in powder, capsule, chew tablet, effervescent tablet, and liquid forms. The com- pound is considered a dietary supplement and not a drug by the FDA.
Studies have demonstrated that creatine caused modest increases in strength in people with a variety of disorders such as arthritis, congestive heart failure, and muscular dystrophy. It may improve athletic performance during brief, intense activities such as sprinting or weightlifting.
In the 1990s, creatine became popular as a “natural” way to enhance athletic performance. In 2003, creatine sales totaled $193 million, or about 10 percent of the sports supplement market. Among sports supplements, only protein powder is more popular.
The use of creatine is particularly popular among adolescent athletes, who often exceed recommended loading and maintenance doses. A survey of Wisconsin high school athletes published in 2002 found that nearly 17 percent of 4,011 high school athletes, and more than 30 percent of football players, said they had used creatine.
Almost one in five said their parents had encouraged them to use creatine, and 26 percent said their coaches had encouraged the supplement’s use. Creatine, andro, and anabolic steroids all increase a naturally occurring substance in the body to promote the building of muscle tissue. Anabolic steroids simply accomplish this end more quickly and dramatically.
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