Creatine has become an extremely popular nutritional supplement among athletes and athletic people. Sports nutritional supplements are a $2.7 billion market, and supplements containing creatine comprise a large percentage of those sales.
At the college level, about half of male athletes claim to use or have used this supplement. Among football players, over 70% reportedly use the supplement. Even at the high school level, half of football players use it.
The thought behind its use relates to the performance benefits it supposedly provides. Athletes claim to have increased strength, power and sprinting speeds when using creatine.
While studies are conflicting about the effectiveness, there is some evidence that any benefit would come from use in periods of short duration and high intensity exertion.
Just as the benefits are unclear, there is debate about the risks. There have been case reports of athletes with liver or kidney dysfunction, but there is no definitive link.
Some reports have claimed that creatine can lead to dehydration. Others claim that muscle cramping, stiffness, or strains can occur more often with regular use. Little data exists on the long-term effects of its use.
So while creatine might have some performance benefits when used for short periods of time in high-intensity, short duration activities, people should consider its use carefully.