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Creatine: Side Effects, What It Is, What It Does


Sep. 3, 2013 Men's Health

Want to get bigger and stronger—and get that way faster?

Creatine works. Lifters know this, professors know this, the marketers who sell the stuff know this.

But nobody should put anything in their body without weighing the benefits and risks first. That goes for everything from beer to marshmallows to the amazing amino acid called creatine.

It’s not anything scary. It’s not a Barry Bonds starter kit.

Creatine—typically bought in flavored powders and mixed with liquid—increases the body’s ability to produce energy rapidly. With more energy, you can train harder and more often, producing faster results.

It’s as simple as this: “If you can lift one or two more reps or 5 more pounds, your muscles will get bigger and stronger,” says Chad Kerksick, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Oklahoma.

Research shows that creatine is most effective in high-intensity training and explosive activities. This includes weight training and sports that require short bursts of effort, such as sprinting, football, and baseball.

The catch: This only happens if you take advantage of the boost in energy and hit the gym. Otherwise, it is just water weight.

Nobody argues with any of this. But there are some questions about creatine that lots of guys have.

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