Is there a rationale for the use of creatine either as nutritional supplementation or drug administration in humans participating in a sport?

Pharmacol Res. 2000 Mar;41(3):255-64. doi: 10.1006/phrs.1999.0618.


Even though no unambiguous proof for enhanced performance during high-intensity exercise has yet been reported, the creatine administration is charged to improve physical performance and has become a popular practice among subjects participating in different sports. Appropriate creatine dosage may be also used as a medicinal product since, in accordance with the Council Directive 65/65/CEE, any substance which may be administered with a view to restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions in human beings is considered a medicinal product. Thus, quality, efficacy and safety must characterize the substance. In biochemical terms, creatine administration enhances both creatine and phosphocreatine concentrations, allowing for an increased total creatine pool in skeletal muscle. In thermodynamics terms, creatine interferes with the creatine-creatine kinase-phosphocreatine circuit, which is related to the mitochondrial function as a highly organized system for the energy control of the subcellular adenylate pool. In pharmacokinetics terms, creatine entry into skeletal muscle is initially dependent on the extracellular concentration, but the creatine transport is subsequently down-regulated. In pharmacodynamics terms, the creatine enhances the possibility to maintain power output during brief periods of high-intensity exercises. In spite of uncontrolled daily dosage and long-term administration, no research on creatine safety in humans has been set up by specific standard protocol of clinical pharmacology and toxicology, as currently occurs in phase I for the products for human use. More or less documented side effects induced by creatine are weight gain; influence on insulin production; feedback inhibition of endogenous creatine synthesis; long-term damages on renal function. A major point that related to the quality of creatine products is the amount of creatine ingested in relation to the amount of contaminants present. During the production of creatine from sarcosine and cyanamide, variable amounts of contaminants (dicyandiamide, dihydrotriazines, creatinine, ions) are generated and, thus, their tolerable concentrations (ppm) must be defined by specific toxicological researches. Creatine, as the nutritional factors, can be used either at supplementary or therapeutic levels as a function of the dose. Supplementary doses of nutritional factors usually are of the order of the daily turnover, while therapeutic ones are three or more times higher. In a subject with a body weight of 70 kg with a total creatine pool of 120 g, the daily turnover is approximately 2 g. Thus, in healthy subjects nourished with a fat-rich, carbohydrate-, protein-poor diet and participating in a daily recreational sport, the oral creatine supplementation should be on the order of the daily turnover, i.e. less than 2.5-3 g per day, bringing the gastrointestinal absorption to account. In healthy athletes submitted daily to high-intensity strength- or sprint-training, the maximal oral creatine supplementation should be on the order of two times the daily turnover, i.e. less than 5-6 g per day for less than 2 weeks, and the creatine supplementation should be taken under appropriate medical supervision. The oral administration of more than 6 g per day of creatine should be considered as a therapeutic intervention because the dosage is more than three times higher than the creatine daily turnover and more than six times higher than the creatine daily allowance. In this case, creatine administration should be prescribed by physicians only in the cases of suspected or proven deficiency, or in conditions of severe stress and/or injury. 2000 Academic Press@p$hr

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Creatine / administration & dosage
  • Creatine / adverse effects
  • Creatine / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Physical Exertion / drug effects*
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Sports / physiology*


  • Creatine