In the mid 1990’s creatine was introduced to the United States full throttle when an estimated 80 percent of Olympic athletes competing in the 1996 Games used it to enhance their performances. Since then, creatine has had both good and bad press. There are those who have sought to ban it as an illegal performance enhancing substance, while many have been proponents of it as a safe and natural product for athletes.
But, who is right? Is creatine safe or should athletes use caution? Moreover, for the purpose of this article, what is its effect on the heart, if any?
First, what is Creatine?
Creatine is a combination of the three amino acids, glycine, arginine, and methionine, and is produced by our own bodies. This same process that occurs in our bodies to produce creatine also happens inside animals we eat, such as herring, salmon, tuna, and beef. This is where we get the supplement that is widely used by athletes today.
What is creatine used for?
When creatine was first discovered in 1832 by French philosopher and scientist, Michel Eugene Chevreul, it sparked many studies. One in particular found that more creatine was present in wild animals vs. domesticated, indicating that there was more creatine produced because wild animals exercised more.
Subsequent tests in humans over the next several decades found that the use of creatine increased muscle mass. It was later concluded that the supplementation of creatine was helpful in treating medical conditions like muscular dystrophy and parkinson’s. Athletes took notice, and began using it to increase muscle mass to better compete in their chosen sport.
Creatine role is to replenish the body’s reserves of ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate), the muscles’ ultimate energy source for short, explosive bursts of energy. And while recreational use of the supplement has increased over the years, creatine is more beneficial for high-performance athletes who are looking for a competitive edge.
Is it dangerous?
Despite many hoping to find that the use of creatine is harmful, researchers have yet to find anything substantial.This is mainly due to the fact that creatine is considered a food because it is a natural product derived from animals.
While creatine as a supplement alone has not been found to be harmful, when combined with medications, it could potentially damage the liver and kidneys, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is because the creatine in our bodies is filtered through the kidneys, and high levels in the kidneys can be an indicator of potential kidney failure. This is why it is also important to use the supplement only as directed.
The effect of creatine on the heart
There have been some concerns about the use of creatine with some believing there is a link to increased heart rate and blood pressure. This is due to the fact that the supplement is used primarily to increase the intensity of workouts. However, researchers have found no direct link between creatine use and heart problems, but rather attribute it to athletes overtraining.
How HRV monitoring can help when using creatine
Because creatine will help increase your body’s ability to handle intense workouts, this makes it even more imperative that you track your heart rate variability (HRV) daily to prevent overtraining.
Simply by tracking your HRV you will be able to know when to hit it hard or when taking it easy is best -- yes, even when your giant muscles may be telling you otherwise.