Plethora of strength and enhancing drugs

Strength Improvement

Athletes are under immense pressure to be better, faster and stronger than their competitors. And this competition has resulted in plethora of strength and performance enhancing drugs, some of which may not be legal. However in most cases, because of strict screening of athletes, they try to use nutritional supplements instead of illegal substances that claim to enhance performance. One such supplement is creatine whose popularity is increasing among athletes:

“Excessive amounts of money are spent each year on products that claim to enhance performance. It almost seems that as athletes and coaches experiment with the latest nutritional supplements, sports scientists are left trying to produce research to support or refute the claims made by the proponents of such aids. Recently, the use of creatine monohydrate supplementation to improve performance has become widespread.” (Silverman, 1997)

Creatine has been known as a constituent of food for over 150 years and was first discovered in 1832 by Chevreul having extracted it from meat. Even though the effects of phosphocreatine in exercise had long been established, it was not until 1990s that research was undertaken to study its impact on performance of athletes. Creatine, or methyl guanidine-acetic acid, is a naturally occurring nitrogenous molecule which is found in the muscles and is also found in smaller amounts in liver, kidney and brain. Creatine is especially effective during shorter duration of work that requires higher performance and intensity. “…research has shown that supplementation of 20-30 g of creatine monohydrate per day for 6 days may increase both plasma and intra-muscular levels of creatine and phosphocreatine as much as 40%.” (Silverman)

There have been various studies on the effects of creatine and these have tried to highlight the efficacy of taking supplements in increasing sports performance. These studies have underscored the significance of creatine for high intensity work, and have examined its effects on strength and endurance.

Even though the use of creatine supplementation is found to lead to an increase in muscle creatine and phosphocreatine, it is also expected to produce enhanced performance for high intensity exercises. Interestingly this claim is controversial since while studies show improvement, others have failed to find any significant change when use for single bouts of various sport activities. A few studies have indicated improvement in running activities of 36.6 meters (Goldberg and Bechtel, 1997; Noonan et al.,1998) or 91.4 meters (Stout et al., 1999), or vertical jump performance (Stout et al.,1999). However majority of studies examining effects on single bouts of running, cycling, swimming and jumping have failed to find any significant improvements.

What was found may actually be of interest to many. If creatine supplements for taken for high intensity work of shorter duration and no element of fatigue was found, then the supplements did not improvement performance. But when its effects were tested on series of performance events, and element of fatigue was present, the creatine appeared to improve strength, (Balsom et al., 1995).

So when there is an element of fatigue, creatine can be used with good results. Hence the supplements works effectively when there are repeated bouts of activity involving possible fatigue. Without creatine, the athlete is likely to feel fatigued and his performance may deteriorate. So when creatine is used, this deterioration can be stalled. Thus positive ergogenic effects of creatine have been displayed in repeated bouts of high-intensity cycling (Greenhaff et al., 1994), running (Aaserud et al., 1998), swimming (Peyrebrune et al., 1998) and vertical jumping (Bosco et al., 1997).

In most cases, the effects were found more prominently in later stages of exercise and not in the first. Hence we can safely say that creatine works in improvement endurance that helps an athlete perform better for longer duration. But while we report this, we cannot ignore the fact that there are still some studies that have failed to find this kind of improvement in repeated sprint cycling (Barnett et al., 1996). This is an strange fact but a fact nonetheless.

It is not known exactly while when most studies report positive effects, there are still some that fail to find any such improvement. But certain factors can be at play namely the size of the dose of creatine taken, the presence of carbohydrates, athlete’s gender, and dietary habits.


Aaserud, R., Gramvik, P., Olsen, S.R. And Jensen, J. (1998) Creatine supplementation delays onset of fatigue during repeated bouts of sprint running. Scand.J. Med. Sci. Sports,8, 247-251.

Balsom, P.D., Soderlund, K., Sjodin, B. And Ekblom, B. (1995) Skeletal muscle metabolism during short duration high-intensity exercise. Acta Physiol. Scand.,154, 303-310.

Bosco, C., Tihanyi, J., Pucspk, J. et al. (1997) Effect of oral creatine supplementation on jumping and running performance. Int. J. Sports Med.,18, 369-372.

Greenhaff, P.L., Constantin-Teodosiu, D., Casey, a. And Hultman, E. (1994) the effect of oral creatine supplementation on skeletal muscle ATP degradation during repeated bouts of maximal voluntary exercise in man. J. Physiol,476, 84P.

Peyrebrune, M.C., Nevill, M.E., Donaldson, F.J. And Cosford, D.J. (1998) the effects of oral creatine supplementation in single and repeated swimming. J. Sports Sci.,16, 271-279

Stout, J.R., Echerson, J., Noonan, D., Moore, G. And Cullen, D. (1999) Effects of creatine supplementation on exercise performance and fat-free weight in football players during training. Nutr. Res.,19, 217-225

Stephen Silverman, “What Are the Effects of Creatine Supplementation on Performance?,” JOPERD — the Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance 68.3 (1997):

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