The benefits and dangers of using creatine

Q&a

Health & Fitness

December 23, 2005|By GAILOR LARGE | GAILOR LARGE,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

What are the benefits and/or dangers of the use of creatine?

We posed your question to Dr. John Emmett, author of Turning Back the Hands of Time. He explains that creatine attracts water, so your muscles swell with water, not muscle tissue.

"On the other hand," he says, "an increase in creatine in the muscle cells allows the muscle to rapidly produce more energy so the athlete can work out longer and harder, gaining more strength and actually creating more lean muscle tissue."

The downside? Your muscles will still appear less "cut" from the water weight.

According to Emmett, the health risks associated with creatine (albeit more from anecdotal case histories than long-term scientific studies) include liver and kidney problems, dehydration and gastrointestinal cramping with diarrhea. To protect against these, never exceed the recommended dosage.

A surgeon and bodybuilder himself, Emmett once used creatine but found that it bloated him and made his muscles very smooth. "It also, for one reason or another, gave me prostatitis," he said. So, for him it isn't worth it.

Emmett's bottom line: "Above all, be smart. Creatine is NOT for young athletes, meaning high school students, nor is it for any athlete who may have liver, kidney, gastrointestinal or electrolyte problems. If you choose to take the supplement, use it as directed, with plenty of water, and consult your physician."

Christmastime is always bittersweet for me because I'm inevitably fighting the bulge. For me, it's all about willpower, which seems to fly out the window when I'm faced with holiday sweets. What can I do to keep my weight at a plateau?

You aren't alone. Weight struggles are a concern for a majority of Americans during the holidays. The average American gains 5 to 10 holiday pounds, depending on who you ask. How should you combat it?

First and foremost, the worst thing you can do is to assume that weight gain is inevitable and accept defeat. It isn't, and you shouldn't. Simply take it day by day, making small changes like these, and you will see a world of difference:

Don't nibble while you cook or while you hang out in the kitchen with the chef.

Keep up your exercise routine throughout the holidays.

Have a healthy snack with some protein before leaving for a holiday party.

Don't eat while mingling. Make a plate and sit with it.

Opt for peppermint tea instead of peppermint lattes and sugar-free hot chocolate instead of egg nog.

Bypass the food court while shopping. Instead, pack a gourmet bag lunch to treat yourself.

Indulge, but do it in moderation.

Where can I find those cell phone holders that strap onto your arm when you run? I'm not a pocket person.

Whether for safety, business or simply to check the time, many joggers and walkers do like to a carry a phone. Here are two good options, each selling for $19.95.

The Hold-a-Phone comes in standard and flip phone sizes and a range of colors, from cranberry red to orange. Weather resistant with a clear display window, it can be worn on the wrist or upper arm. Find it at jaminnov.com.

The Fixaphone, made of wetsuit-quality neoprene, can strap onto your leg as well as your arm. Available at fixaphoneusa.com.

Do you have a fitness question? You can submit questions via e-mail to fitness@baltsun.com, or online at baltimoresun.com/healthscience, or in writing to The Sun, Fitness Q&A, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278.

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