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What are the possible side effects of creatine monohydrate supplements?
Creatine is an amino acid made in the liver and stored in the muscles of the body. It is essential to the creation of adensine triphosphate molecules (ATP), considered the primary carriers of energy that the body uses in physical activity. Several studies have determined that supplementation with creatine monohydrate can enhance athletic performance by accelerating the rate of re-synthesis of ATP during and after high-intensity, short-duration exercise. This translates into greater gains in muscle mass, strength, and sprint performance during intense athletic training.
The many scientific studies of creatine published over the past five years have found no deleterious effects or medical risk. While there have been some isolated anecdotal reports of negative side effects, such as decreased sexual functioning, there appears to be no credible evidence challenging its safety.
One concern some researchers have is that with continuous supplementation the body might decline in its ability to produce creatine on its own. Some indirect evidence of this was found in a study with rats. The study examined the "creatine transporter protein" which is responsible for uptake of creatine into cells, and is a key in the regulation of cellular creatine homeostasis. Researchers found that chronic supplementation with creatine in rats down-regulated their natural production of creatine transporter protein.
Another issue concerns the other ingredients that accompany creatine in various supplement products. You should compare labels of competing brands carefully to determine whether you feel comfortable with the other ingredients.
Although no risks from creatine supplementation in humans have yet been found, we won't know about any long-term effects for some time to come because the record of research is relatively recent. A conservative approach is to plan to use creatine only for limited periods before taking a substantial break from it so the body can re-set to normal functioning.