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During a recent “lunch-and-learn” meeting at our office, several younger staff members were discussing the use of supplements to compliment their fitness routines. One such staff member, Lily Smith, a physical therapy student aid at our clinic from the University of Scranton, is also a serious weight training and fitness enthusiast and shared her experience with creatine supplements with the hope of educating others, especially those preparing to “get fit” in 2024!

A National Health Interview survey found the creatine use among adolescents and young adults to be 34%. It is also very popular in the military with 27% average usage. While athletes and exercise enthusiasts use protein shakes and creatine supplements with hopes to improve size, strength and performance, it appears that most users do not have a full understanding of the risks and benefits. In view of this, today address the use of creatine in strength training and make recommendations based on the literature.

Introduction

As long as I can remember, young athletes would take or do anything that they believed would improve their speed, strength, agility and athletic edge in order to succeed in sports. Running with weights wrapped around the ankles, drinking raw eggs and whole milk, and consuming copious amounts of beef, pork, and chicken were not unusual. Today, it may not be much different. However, the products do not come from our kitchen cabinet and tremendous misinformation is associated with it. Creatine is one example that was purported to enhance performance as early as the 1970’s but only gained popularity in the 1990’s. 40% of all college athletes and 50% of professional athletes admit to using creatine at some point, despite a lack of scientific evidence to support its effectiveness or safety.

Creatine

This supplement is a natural substance that turns into creatine phosphate in the body. Creatine phosphate helps produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides energy for muscles to contract. While the body produces some creatine, it can also be found in foods rich in protein such as meat and fish. Manufacturers claim that creatine use will improve strength, increase lean muscle mass and aide in the recovery from exercise induced fatigue.

Research

While creatine is popular among young people due in part to its availability, very little research has been done in people under 18 years of age.  Even in the few studies conducted on adults, the results regarding efficacy are mixed. Some studies show that creatine may improve strength performance due to the recovery cycle of ATP. In theory, the use of creatine is purported to allow one to recover more quickly from exercise. For example, shortly after lifting heavy weights to failure, a quick recovery might allow the weight lifter to lift an additional set of repetitions to increase the duration of intensive training. Therefore, based on this theory, one must work out to complete failure during training to benefit from creatine. However, it is important to remember, there is no evidence that this purported benefit is realized in performance improvement in weight training or endurance sports.

Furthermore, no studies support the notion that it improves performance in endurance sports. Also, research does show that not all users are affected by creatine the same way. Most users fail to find any benefit at all. More concerning to this author is the fact that there are no guidelines for safety or disclosure of side-effects from long term use. Make no mistake, based on the research and current wisdom, CREATINE IS AN UNPROVEN TREATMENT SUPPLEMENT!

Manufacturers Recommended Usage

If one decides that creatine is a product they would like to use, despite the lack of evidence for its effectiveness, there are recommendations that one should follow for proper use. But there is no consistently established dose. Some studies have found 25 grams daily for 14 days as a “kickstart” dose or “loading” phase followed by 4-5 grams (or 0.1 g/kg of bodyweight) daily for 18 months with few side effects such as: muscle cramps, dehydration, upset stomach, water retention/bloating with weight gain. It is important to remember when establishing a dosage that many weight training supplements already contain creatine and in high doses excess creatine is excreted by the kidneys. It is also recommended that creatine users “wean off” the product when they decide to discontinue use.

Remember, an average adult in the United States receives 1 to 2 grams of creatine each day from a normal, well-balanced diet. Creatine is naturally found in meat, poultry and fish and theoretically, one could increase their creatine intake through dietary changes. Some manufacturers recommend 10 to 30 grams per day with a maintenance dose of 2 to 5 grams per day for athletic performance. Creatine is available in many forms; tablets, capsules and powder. It should be kept in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.

Side Effects

Creatine use is not recommended if you are pregnant, breast feeding, have kidney disease or bipolar disorder. There are many reported side effects associated with creatine use such as; water retention, nausea, diarrhea, cramping, muscle pain and high blood pressure. It is recommended that users consume large quantities of water when taking creatine to prevent dehydration. It may be very dangerous to use creatine when dehydration or weight loss is associated with an activity such as wrestling or summer sessions during football. 

Furthermore, some studies show that large amounts of carbohydrates may increase the effects of creatine and caffeine may decrease the effects. Users are warned that using creatine with stimulants such as caffeine and guarana (a Brazilian plant extract similar to caffeine found in energy drinks) can lead to serious cardiac problems. The effects of creatine supplements on the many organ systems of the body are unknown. High doses may cause kidney damage. Although no cases have been reported in the literature, it is not known how it may interact with other supplements, over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, despite the lack of scientific evidence that creatine is more effective than proper nutrition and effective weight training, it remains a popular, easily available supplement purported to improve strength, endurance and performance in athletes. While relatively safe if taken as directed, it is always wise to consult your physician, especially if you have a history or risk of kidney problems. And, by the way, Lily did not feel that creatine supplements made any significant difference, positively or negatively. She no longer uses it due to the expense, inconvenience and lack of scientific evidence to support its efficacy.

Sources: University of New England; Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise; NIH and Lily Smith, PT student, University of Scranton, Student PT aide, Mackarey Physicla Therapy

.Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

EVERY MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” via Blog

EVERY SUNDAY in "The Sunday Times" - Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” in hard copy

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy in Scranton and Clarks Summit. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

Last week in Health & Exercise Forum, we discussed dehydration as a potentially life-threatening problem, especially in those over 60. Summer heat and humidity are here and the risk of heat related illnesses are greater than normal. Age, diet, illness and medications are some of the many reasons why elders suffer from dehydration not only in the summer heat, but year round. Furthermore, age related changes in 50-60 year olds can also make one vulnerable to dehydration, especially if they are active and exercise in the heat.

It is widely accepted that the best treatment for dehydration is prevention.  One must take a proactive approach to ensure and/or encourage adequate fluid intake, especially with age and in high temperatures. Consider some of the following practical tips to promote optimal hydration.

Remember, knowledge and awareness of the symptoms of and the prevention of dehydration can reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and maximize health and well-being for the elderly and not-so-elderly individual. 

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

 Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well!

Contributor: Janet M. Caputo, DPT, OCS

NEXT MONDAY! – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, check out our exercise forum!

Summer heat and humidity are here and the risk of heat related illnesses are particularly high for those over 65, especially dehydration. Age, diet, illness and medications are some of the many reasons why elders suffer from dehydration not only in the summer heat, but year round. Furthermore, age related changes in 50-60 year olds can also make one vulnerable to dehydration if they are active and exercise in the heat. Not long ago, a local medical professional and good friend of mine was hospitalized for several days due to dehydration and associated illness. He is an active, fit, healthy 59 year old who continued his daily running for exercise during the June/July heat wave.

It is often forgotten that, next to oxygen, water is the nutrient most needed for life. A person can live without food for a month, but most can survive only three to four days without water. Even though proper hydration is essential for health, water gets overlooked as one of the six basic nutrients. Dehydration occurs when the amount of water taken into the body is less than the amount that is being lost. Dehydration can happen very rapidly (i.e. in less than eight hours); the consequences can be life threatening and the symptoms can be alarmingly swift.

In the body, water is needed to regulate body temperature, carry nutrients, remove toxins and waste materials, and provide the medium in which all cellular chemical reactions take place. Fluid balance is vital for body functions. A significant decrease in the total amount of body fluids leads to dehydration. Fluids can be lost through the urine, skin, or lungs. Along with fluids, essential electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are also perilously depleted in a dehydrated individual.

Dehydration is the most common fluid and electrolyte disorder of frail elders, both in long term care facilities and in the community! Elders aged 85 to 99 years are six times more likely to be hospitalized for dehydration than those aged 65 to 69 years. More than 18% of those hospitalized for dehydration will die within 30 days, and associated mortality increases with age. Men appear to dehydrate more often than women and dehydration is often masked by other conditions.

Elderly individuals are at heightened risk for dehydration for several reasons. Compared to younger individuals, their regulatory system (i.e. kidneys and hormones) does not work as well and their bodies have lower water contents. The elderly often have a depressed thirst drive due to a decrease in a particular hormone. They do not feel thirsty when they are dehydrated. This is especially true in hot, humid weather, when they have a fever, are taking medications, or have vomiting or diarrhea. They have decreased taste, smell, and appetite which contribute to the muted perception of thirst. Because of dementia, depression, visual deficits, or motor impairments, elderly persons may have difficulty getting fluids for themselves. Many elderly individuals limit their fluid intake in the belief that they will prevent incontinence and decrease the number of trips to the bathroom. The medications that they are taking (e.g. diuretics, laxatives, hypnotics) contribute to dehydration. 

Elders may suffer headaches, fainting, disorientation, nausea, a seizure, a stroke, or a heart attack as a result of dehydration. The minimum daily requirement to avoid dehydration is between 1,500 (6.34 cups) and 2,000 ml of fluid intake per day. Six to eight good-sized glasses of water a day should provide this amount. Better hydration improves well-being and medications work more effectively when an individual is properly hydrated. Those who care for the elderly whether at home or in a health care facility need to be alert to the following symptoms (but these symptoms apply to both young and old):

Plain old tap water is a good way to replenish fluid loss. Some energy drinks not only have excess and unneeded calories but also contain sugar that slows down the rate at which water can be absorbed form the stomach. Consuming alcoholic and caffeinated beverages actually has an opposite, diuretic effect!

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

 Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and live long and well!

Contibutor: Janet M. Caputo, DPT, OCS

NEXT MONDAY! – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!” Next week: Part II - Dehydration Prevention”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, check out our exercise forum!

SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE ELDERLY

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, NEPA and all of Pennsylvania is experiencing a change in climate as indicated by a half a degree (F) in temperature, more frequent and heavy rainstorms and the tidal portion of the Delaware River is rising one inch every eight years. Last summer was one of our hottest on record and this summer has produced a several heat waves with more expected. For those without air conditioning or access to a lake or pool, it will also be remembered as record setting warm temperatures. A local reader who cares for her elderly mother wrote to express her concern about dehydration in the elderly. Age, diet, illness and medications are some of the many reasons why elders suffer from dehydration not only in the summer heat, but year-round.

Next to oxygen, water is the nutrient most needed for life. A person can live without food for a month, but most can survive only three to four days without water. Even though proper hydration is essential for health, water gets overlooked as one of the six basic nutrients. Dehydration occurs when the amount of water taken into the body is less than the amount that is being lost. Dehydration can happen very rapidly (i.e. in less than eight hours); the consequences can be life threatening and the symptoms can be alarmingly swift.

What Happens in the Body...

In the body, water is needed to regulate body temperature, carry nutrients, remove toxins and waste materials, and provide the medium in which all cellular chemical reactions take place. Fluid balance is vital for body functions. A significant decrease in the total amount of body fluids leads to dehydration. Fluids can be lost through the urine, skin, or lungs. Along with fluids, essential electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are also perilously depleted in a dehydrated individual.

Dehydration

Dehydration is the most common fluid and electrolyte disorder of frail elders, both in long term care facilities and in the community! Elders aged 85 to 99 years are six times more likely to be hospitalized for dehydration than those aged 65 to 69 years. More than 18% of those hospitalized for dehydration will die within 30 days, and associated mortality increases with age. Men appear to dehydrate more often than women and dehydration is often masked by other conditions.

The Elderly Have an Increased Risk

Elderly individuals are at heightened risk for dehydration for several reasons. Compared to younger individuals, their regulatory system (i.e. kidneys and hormones) does not work as well and their bodies have lower water contents. Older adults often have a depressed thirst drive due to a decrease in a particular hormone. They do not feel thirsty when they are dehydrated. This is especially true in hot, humid weather, when they have a fever, are taking medications, or have vomiting or diarrhea. They have decreased taste, smell, and appetite which contribute to the muted perception of thirst. Because of dementia, depression, visual deficits, or motor impairments, elderly persons may have difficulty getting fluids for themselves. Many elderly individuals limit their fluid intake in the belief that they will prevent incontinence and decrease the number of trips to the bathroom. The medications that they are taking (e.g. diuretics, laxatives, hypnotics) contribute to dehydration.      

Elders may suffer headaches, fainting, disorientation, nausea, a seizure, a stroke, or a heart attack as a result of dehydration. The minimum daily requirement to avoid dehydration is between 1,500 (6.34 cups) and 2,000 ml of fluid intake per day. Six to eight good-sized glasses of water a day should provide this amount. Better hydration improves well-being and medications work more effectively when an individual is properly hydrated.

Those who care for the elderly whether at home or in a health care facility need to be alert to the following symptoms:

By the way, plain old tap water is a good way to replenish fluid loss. Keep in mind that some energy drinks not only have excess and unneeded calories but also contain sugar that slows down the rate at which water can be absorbed form the stomach. Consuming alcoholic and caffeinated beverages actually have an opposite, diuretic effect!

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician.

For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles visit: https://mackareyphysicaltherapy.com/forum/

Due to social distances and other appropriate precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are filling the void in their lives with outdoor endurance exercises such as running, cycling, hiking etc. However, as summer is in full swing, with temperature and humidity rising, remembering to properly hydrate is essential.

Next to oxygen, water is the nutrient most needed for life. A person can live without food for a month, but most can survive only three to four days without water. Even though proper hydration is essential for health, water gets overlooked as one of the six basic nutrients. Dehydration occurs when the amount of water taken into the body is less than the amount that is being lost. Dehydration can happen very rapidly (i.e. in less than eight hours); the consequences can be life threatening and the symptoms can be alarmingly swift.

In the body, water is needed to regulate body temperature, carry nutrients, remove toxins and waste materials, and provide the medium in which all cellular chemical reactions take place. Fluid balance is vital for body functions. A significant decrease in the total amount of body fluids leads to dehydration. Fluids can be lost through the urine, skin, or lungs. Along with fluids, essential electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are also perilously depleted in a dehydrated individual.

The risk of dehydration is not limited to endurance athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. Dehydration is the most common fluid and electrolyte disorder of frail elders, both in long term care facilities and in the community! Elders aged 85 to 99 years are six times more likely to be hospitalized for dehydration than those aged 65 to 69 years.

Is water adequate to prevent dehydration? Will a sports drink improve my performance? While some answers to these questions apply generally to all, others vary according to the temperature, humidity, length of time and intensity of the activity and condition of the athlete. 

Proper hydration is essential for the comfort and safety of the recreational and serious athlete. Hydration is critical to maintain cardiovascular function, body temperature and muscle performance. As temperature, humidity, intensity, and duration of exercise increase, so too does the importance of proper hydration. Excessive sweating can lead to a loss of blood volume which requires the heart to work much harder to circulate you blood through your body.

Dehydration is a major cause of fatigue, loss of coordination, and muscle cramping leading to poor performance. Prehydration, (drinking before exercise) is the first step in preventing dehydration. Marathon runners, other long-distance runners, and cyclists often prehydrate1-2 days before a big event. Rehydration, (drinking during or after exercise) is the second step in preventing dehydration. While athletes may be more vulnerable to dehydration, all persons engaging in exercise would benefit from increased performance, delayed muscle fatigue and pain by maintaining adequate hydration. Proper prehydration would include drinking 12-16 ounces of water 1-2 hours before exercise.  Athletes with other health issues should consult their family physician before engaging in long distance endurance sports.

American College of Sports Medicine Hydration Recommendations:

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”

For all of Dr. Mackarey articles visit https://mackareyphysicaltherapy.com/forum/

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor  in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.