Athletes love creatine monohydrate, but scientists are unsure how it works. Danish scientists found that it activated antioxidant defense systems in muscle cells. During metabolism, the cells produce highly-reactive chemicals called free radicals. While they help trigger muscle growth, excessive quantities break down cell membranes, destroy DNA, promote muscle soreness, and suppress the immune system.
The study exposed myotubes (immature muscle cells) to creatine monohydrate, which increased the activity of antioxidant defenses. Creatine monohydrate also increases creatine phosphate levels in muscles, which is a high-energy chemical that increases high-power exercise capacity. Creatine increases muscle mass, muscular strength and endurance in athletes and boosts strength and mental capacity in older adults. Creatine does not work in everyone, but it is the best sports supplement we have. (Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition; published online)