Most teenagers want to hasten their growth and development, especially when involved in sports. However, while this once meant just spending more time in the weights room, the surge of new health supplements on the market paired with easy online shopping access makes that desire easier than ever to achieve. One such supplement garnering harsh criticism is creatine.
Creatine is a chemical constituent of meat and fish. It is legally sold as a supplement in supermarkets, health food stores, vitamin shops, and online marketplaces. When consumed, it can increase the body’s ability to produce energy faster. Weight lifters love it because the more energy a body produces, the harder and more often a person can train. This ultimately results in faster muscle gain results. Creatine’s effectiveness in this has earned it a top place among marketed muscle-building supplements. It simply works.
But because something works, that doesn’t make it safe for everyone. Creatine is sold as a dietary supplement which means it gets treated by the Food and Drug Administration as something akin to special foods. They aren’t drugs and as such are not required to go through strict safety and effectiveness testing and requirement proofs. Instead, dietary supplements are considered safe until proven unsafe.
Everything Changes with Teenagers
While the FDA can’t act, the American Academy of Pediatrics specifically recommends against the use of creatine by adolescents. Now, most products containing the supplement include warning labels recommending against its use by anyone under the age of 18. Additionally, many sports organizations warn against it. Yet, one survey saw two-thirds of health food sales associates recommending creatine to a caller who stated he was 15-years-old.
The fact is immediate and long-term safety of the supplement is not readily understood. Reported side effects include diarrhea, rashes, seizures, vomiting, muscle cramping, stomach pain, weight gain, heart rhythm issues, and even kidney problems. In some people, creatine causes muscle tissue breakdown which leads to muscle tearing, a much more significant and problematic side effect for growing adolescents.
Yet, despite all of these reported side effects, teenagers continue to use creatine en masse. Dr. Ruth Milanaik, lead author of a Creatine-use study, told CNN correspondents, “It has been estimated that perhaps upwards of 30% of high school athletes are using Creatine.”
Milak has also gone on record recommending that parents encourage teenagers to develop naturally without using supplements. “There is no need to rush the game of muscle mass, which can be added slowly and carefully through clean living, a good diet, and exercise,” she says.
A long-term strength training regime can increase a teenager’s muscle mass more effectively than creatine. It is also better for a teenager’s growing body and teaches the importance of dedication and patience.