Do I Need Creatine?
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Do I Need Creatine?

Our fitness expert answers your questions about the supplement creatine, and whether you should consider adding it to your diet.
Question: "The protein powder at my gym's cafe contains creatine. What is it? Do I need it?"

Answer: Creatine is a combination of amino acids that's found naturally in meat and fish. Some athletes use creatine supplements and powders to increase body mass and improve performance. Research shows that creatine may boost muscles' energy reserves. "However, it's most beneficial to people doing short bursts of intense activity," says Roberta Anding, RD, a clinical dietitian in sports medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. If you're trying to increase muscle mass through strength training, a creatine-laced smoothie before your workout could help, but it isn't necessary. It won't help you get leaner faster, and for some, it may cause muscle cramps or contribute to dehydration. Bottom line: Use with caution.

Originally published in Fitness magazine, January 2006.