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Is Creatine Safe and Effective for Teenage Athletes?

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As a parent of a teenage athlete, you may have heard them talking about using creatine to boost their sports performance and build muscle mass. 

Creatine has become one of the most popular supplements among young athletes, but many parents have concerns about whether it is safe and appropriate for growing teens.

Let’s take an in-depth look at what the research says about creatine use in adolescents.

Is Creatine Safe and Effective for Teenage Athletes

What is Creatine and How Does it Work?

Creatine is a natural compound produced in the human body, primarily in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. It is also found in some foods like meat, fish, and eggs.

In the body, creatine is converted into phosphocreatine and stored in the muscles, where it is used to produce quick bursts of energy during high-intensity exercise.

Creatine supplements, most commonly in the form of creatine monohydrate powder, are used by athletes to increase the availability of phosphocreatine in their muscles.

This allows them to produce more energy during intense training, potentially enhancing their performance and promoting greater muscle growth.

Potential Benefits of Creatine for Teen Athletes

Studies in adult athletes have consistently shown that creatine supplementation can increase muscle creatine stores by 10-40%, leading to improvements in strength, power, sprint ability, and muscle mass.

The performance-enhancing effects are most pronounced in high-intensity, short-duration activities like sprinting and weightlifting.

But does creatine offer the same benefits for teenagers? The research is limited, but a few studies suggest that creatine for teenagers may indeed be effective:

  • A study in elite junior swimmers found that 4 days of creatine loading improved sprint swimming performance. (1)
  • In young soccer players, creatine supplementation for 7 days improved dribbling speed, power, and jumping ability. (2)
  • Creatine supplementation for 8 weeks increased strength in teenage football players. (3)

While these results are promising, it’s important to note that the studies were small and only looked at creatine’s short-term effects.

More research is needed to determine the long-term safety and efficacy of creatine in youth athletes.

Is Creatine Safe for Teenagers?

The biggest concern with creatine use in teenagers is the lack of long-term safety data. Because adolescence is a critical period for growth and development, some experts worry that creatine could have negative effects on a teenager’s maturing muscles, bones, and organs.

However, the limited research to date has not identified any serious side effects of creatine use in teenage athletes.

The most commonly reported side effects are:

  • Weight gain, due to increased water retention in the muscles
  • Digestive issues like stomach cramping and diarrhea.

Se second negative effects can usually be avoided by taking the proper dose and staying well-hydrated.

It’s important to note that creatine is not regulated by the FDA like medications are. There is a risk that some creatine supplements may be contaminated with harmful substances not listed on the label.

Teens and parents should look for creatine products that are certified by a third-party quality assurance program like NSF or Informed Choice.

Dosage Recommendations for Teenage Athletes

If you and your teen’s doctor decide that creatine supplementation is appropriate, it’s crucial to follow proper dosage guidelines.

The standard protocol is to start with a “loading phase” of 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, split into 4 doses, for 5-7 days.

This is followed by a “maintenance phase” of 0.03 g/kg/day. For a 150-pound (68 kg) teenage athlete, this translates to about 20 grams per day during the loading phase and 2 grams per day during the maintenance phase.

Exceeding these doses will not provide additional benefits and may increase the risk of side effects.

Theoretically, the time at which you take creatine is not important. But if you are interested in this article we explore this topic in more detail.

The Bottom Line

While the research on creatine use in teenagers is still limited, the available evidence suggests that it can be safe and beneficial for adolescent athletes when used properly.

However, creatine is not essential for athletic success. A well-rounded training program, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep and recovery are far more important.

If you’re considering creatine for your teen athlete, talk to their doctor and work with a sports dietitian to ensure appropriate use and monitoring. Remember, no supplement can replace hard work and dedication!

FAQ – About creatine and teenage athletes?

Is creatine safe for 17 year olds? 16 year olds? 15 year olds?

Currently, there is no official age restriction or recommendation on creatine use.

However, most sports nutrition experts agree that creatine supplementation is acceptable for teenage athletes over 14 who are involved in serious competitive sports training, under the guidance of their doctor.

Is creatine safe for 14 year olds? 13 year olds?

There has been no research on creatine use in young teens and preteens.

Due to the lack of safety data and the rapid growth that occurs during early adolescence, creatine is not advised for athletes under 14 years old.

What are the side effects of creatine in teenagers?

In studies of creatine use lasting up to 8 weeks, no serious side effects have been reported in teenage athletes.

The most common side effects are weight gain, stomach discomfort, and muscle cramps, which can be minimized by taking the proper dose and drinking plenty of water.

How much creatine should a teenager take?

The standard dosage protocol for teenage athletes is 0.3 g/kg/day for 5-7 days (loading phase), followed by 0.03 g/kg/day (maintenance phase).

For a 150-pound athlete, this equals about 20 grams per day during loading and 2 grams per day during maintenance.

Will creatine stunt a teenager’s growth?

There is no evidence that creatine has any negative impact on growth or development in teenagers. However, long-term studies are lacking.