Supplementation is a constantly evolving and controversial topic in the sports world. With more and more companies jumping on opportunities to release the best athletic supplements, it has become riskier than ever to start new diets of these powders, foods and liquids. Supplementation is largely lacking in regulation and research due to the rapid influx of new products, which can prove to be dangerous in athletes, especially those still developing. Because of the unpredictability of supplements and their interaction with the human body, as well as the lack of regulation and research, they should not be taken until eighteen years of age to avoid developmental problems in users.
Because of lax regulations in the production of supplements, athletic leagues across the globe are often placing restrictions on supplements taken by participants. The tracking of supplementation is difficult and often expensive, due to the invasive and meticulous nature of logging every single supplement taken by athletes, on top of the possibility that logs could be tampered with to aid in illegal supplementation. Because of this, many leagues have banned the use of certain supplements altogether to avoid having to carefully supervise what athletic participants are putting into their bodies. However, the natural production of supplemental biochemicals may be increased in the body accidentally with the use of indirectly associated legal supplements or home remedies. New Zealand swimmer Trent Bray was accused of breaking rules of his league through illegal food supplementation, which prompted Southland Athletics development officer Graeme Hyde to warn other athletes of possible home remedies and supplements, because they could unknowingly be against the rules of the sport league (McCarthy 28). Because of the lack of regulation in supplements, top coaches are warning against their usage, for they can cause increases in biochemicals not approved of by the league. Perhaps one of the most popular supplements is creatine, an amino acid that aids in muscle regeneration and endurance.
Creatine is a continually researched supplement that has been released to the public for a comparatively long time when placed aside modern supplements. “Cells may be able to better handle rapidly changing energy demands with supplementation.” Creatine not only provides the muscles with ample energy to continue exercising longer, but it also aids in speedy recovery with significantly increased gain over that which low creatine levels support. Creatine supply in the body is finite, which means that complete saturation can lead to decreased volume of distribution and clearance. This leads to complicated pharmacokinetic situations (Persky 557). Because of the spontaneity of individual reactions to such situations within the body, creatine is still unpredictable. If creatine, one of the most studied modern supplements is this unpredictable, the amount of research thrown into similar but newer supplements can hardly be regarded as thorough and complete. Because of this, supplements can be dangerous, especially to developing athletes. Although unpredictable, there has been a foundation of research into the side effects of creatine.
Among research done regarding creatine, some recurring side effects have become apparent. Creatine levels taken in excess can have an adverse effect on kidney and liver function. Creatine draws water out of cells, which can affect hydration in the body. “Excess creatine can also cause stomach pain and cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Combining it with ibuprofen may harm the kidneys and there is evidence it may interact with caffeine, too. Other potential dangers may include abnormal heart rhythm, deep vein thrombosis, depression, reduced sex drive and increased irritability or aggression” (McKenna 40). These effects of creatine are comparatively severe when placed next to the potential benefits of the supplementation, and although the choice to use the supplement still stands in the hands of the consumer, these adverse side effects should not be waved off without significant contemplation. While a couple of these side effects may be preventable through cautious hydration and meticulous supervision of what medication is used while on the supplement, research is still being done. The immense number of variable circumstances that these possible side effects incur provides no easily diagnosable situation, should complications taking the supplement arise. Creatine doesn’t only affect those involved in athletics, however.
In both pregnant women and older individuals, creatine has been found to have a positive effect. It has been proven that pregnant women tend to have smaller babies when simultaneously holding a creatine deficiency, while elderly people have the same positive reaction to the supplement as the athletes taking it in regard to muscle function, though the magnitude of its effect is still unclear. A study by Melbourne’s Hudson Institute of Medical Research and Monash University found women with lower levels of creatine gave birth to smaller babies. “The more creatine that was found in the urine samples of 278 expectant mothers studied, the less likely they were to have an underweight baby,” according to lead researcher Dr. Hayley Dickinson. “We showed that for every unit increase in the amount of creatine that the mother had in her urine there was just over a one unit increase in the birth weight centile” (Spooner 8). “Approximately half of the available studies demonstrate a beneficial effect of creatine on muscle function and body composition in older individuals, less than what has been reported in young subjects” (Rawson 262). While these effects are undoubtedly impressive, the fact still stands that research regarding this supplement is incomplete and side effects are drastic when compared to potential positive effects. Due to the beneficial health effects of creatine in a wide range of cases, it’s no wonder the supplement is popular in athletes around the world. However, while the benefits might be significant to those whose bodies are already developed, usage of the supplement should be avoided until developmental stages of life have come to a close.
Because of the unpredictability of supplements and their interactions with the human body due to their lack regulation and research, supplements should not be taken until eighteen years of age to avoid developmental problems in users. Because of lax regulations in the production of supplements, leagues are often placing restrictions on supplements taken by participants, which should be taken into consideration to avoid accidental illegal activity. Creatine is a continually researched supplement that has been released to the public for a comparatively long time when placed aside of modern supplements. Although the research done on it is comparably immense when compared to newer supplements, the research is far from thorough and complete. Among research done regarding creatine, some recurring side effects have become apparent, all of which are catastrophically negative in regard to the human body. Another thing to consider is the varying effectiveness of the drug from individual to individual. In both pregnant women and older individuals, creatine has been found to have a positive effect. The only negative effects found in this research were closely related to other pre-existing health conditions. Some supplementation, especially that of creatine, can have a positive effect on most over the age of eighteen. However, the variables and lack of research behind the side effects lead to unpredictability in those more prone to health problems, and those still in the developmental stages of life.