Should High School Athletes Take Creatine?
Creatine, creatine, creatine. Should high schoolers take this supplement? Is it even a supplement? These are consistent questions pondered by the typical athlete. Questions like: Is it an anabolic steroid? Is it legal to take creatine? Is creatine banned by the NCAA? Will it cause a positive test for PEDs?
The misinformation is for real. Hate to say this, but it's fake news. The chicanery around creatine is horrific.
So why is there so much negativity surrounding this wonderful supplement? We have our theories (looking at you Sammy and Mark, to name a few), but we are here to combat the inaccuracies and clean up the distortion concerning creatine once and for all.
Let’s dive into why athletes, high-schoolers even, need to be taking creatine.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a simple amino acid that is synthesized from methionine (which plays a critical role in our metabolism and health), arginine (which is used in the biosynthesis of proteins) and glycine (which is an amino acid that has a single hydrogen atom as its side chain), and what it does is it initiates the usage of Adenosine Triphosphate (commonly referred to as ATP, it is an organic compound and hydrotrope that provides energy to drive many processes in living cells and is found in all known forms of life).
To conceptualize, think of ATP as our muscle cells’ currency. The more currency of ATP the body has, the better it can perform on the field, in the weight room and during exercise. Creatine helps your muscles have a larger bank account of currency to better produce ATP. Basically, all creatine ends up being is an amino acid, and an incredibly healthy amino acid at that!
Not only is creatine shown to help improve cognitive ability, but research performed by Richard Kreider found that breast feeding mothers tend to give most of their creatine to their babies to help develop the babies’ brains. Creatine supplementation by breastfeeding mothers might even help to stave off postpartum depression.
Now that the rudimentary chemistry lesson is out of the way, and more scientifically derived information has entered the conversation, let’s return to the big question.
Should High School Athletes Take Creatine?
Before we answer in the affirmative, let’s identify some key positives behind an athlete taking creatine. Research we have seen from Dr. Stephen Forbes, Darren Candow and Doctor Richard Kreider (mentioned earlier), who are constantly researching and coming out with new information that is recognizing all of the crazy benefits behind creatine, have over and over again highlighted the multitude of perks derived from creatine supplementation. For instance, we know that taking creatine will increase muscle mass (a little bit), but we also know that taking creatine will dramatically improve power output and the rate of force production, key components to athletic performance.
But here is the kicker.
The components of power output and rate of force production are key components to potentially preventing concussions. For instance, if the athlete can not produce enough force to protect their neck and head, their head lashes all over the place increasing the likelihood for a concussion. However, if the athlete has more muscle mass and has improved their rate of force development, they can protect their head and neck a little bit quicker. Less concussions are always a good thing. The strongest, most valuable asset all people have access to is between the stump between the ears. Curious how to take creatine, we have an entire blog covering that HERE.
But what about cramps?
First off, this myth comes from some horrendous studies conducted in the 90s; or, even worse, it is anecdotal research from people who might be utilizing too much caffeine or they’re dehydrated and they’re taking creatine. Hate to break it to them, they’re getting cramps because they’re dehydrated, not because of the creatine.
Currently, we know myogenic regulatory factors (factors that regulate myogenesis) are the mechanism that helps prevent cramps and improves recovery from concussions. Knowing that modern research points to creatine helping improve myogenic regulatory factors, we are relatively confident to say that this myth has been debunked.
It’s Gonna Hurt My Kidneys
Take the person who is taking their high school kid to some fast food joint, believing it is a nutritional well spring of fortune. Encouraging the same kid to slurp down a slurpee or patting the kid on the back as they’re chugging on a big gulp of everyone’s favorite diabetes expedient, soda. This is the same person not thinking twice about slinging falsities and myths creatine wreaking havoc on a person’s kidneys. These are the same individuals who believe that lifting stunts the growth of a child!
Incredibly happy to break it to you, this idea of creatine destroying kidneys is a complete myth where the research is concerned. Go on over to PubMed and search “kidney damage from creatine” and find there is zero, zilch, none, scientific research to back the claim that creatine has a detrimental effect on a person’s kidneys.
Should High School Athletes take Creatine (Revisited)
Yes. At Garage Strength we believe that high school kids will have better test scores because their cognitive ability will be higher when taking creatine. We’ve seen in research that MMA fighters and soccer players both have more accurate striking skills when on creatine. This increased accuracy factors into increased cognitive ability and a heightened focus.
Even more importantly, we got to remember that creatine can potentially prevent concussions, but most importantly, creatine 100% improves the rate of recovery from concussions. With that information, we believe that athletes playing contact sports need to take creatine, probably even forced to take creatine for their own safety to help protect the brain that is developing within these teenagers.
I’m convinced. How should I take Creatine?
Taking creatine is simple. Creatine is a powder. We recommend .1 gram/kg of bodyweight, so if the athlete weighs 100 kilos (220 american lbs) the athlete will take 10 grams. The athlete can take it post workout with milk. The athlete can add in 30-50 grams grams of protein to optimize the body’s ability to absorb it and increase the athlete’s usage of creatine long term. Did I mention we go in depth on this topic HERE.
But do you have to cycle on and off creatine?
Well, that depends. We don’t believe you have to cycle off, however, we caution athletes that compete in endurance sports like swimming or running. If the athlete gains weight on creatine (increase in muscle mass will do that to ya), we recommend two weeks out from competition to take creatine out of the athlete’s nutrition. This way the creatine saturation levels will still remain high enough to notice a benefit and the athlete might lose a little bit of weight which is going to increase the output sustainability over the course of the event.
So, the athlete doesn’t technically have to cycle off creatine, but the athlete and coach do have to manage the pros and cons.
Creatine is a steroid. MYTH.
Creatine is basically an Amino Acid that benefits the brain and ATP stores. FACT.
Creatine causes cramps. MYTH.
Creatine improves the rate of force production and power output. FACT.
Creatine will destroy the athlete’s kidneys. MYTH.
Creatine has many, many benefits. Not only does it improve athletic potential, it improves neurological capacities and should be taken by high school athletes, especially athletes involved in contact sports. FACT.
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Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.