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Making Magic Muscles

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More and more kids are using creatine to become stronger, faster and bigger. It's a muscle building supplement used by thousands of athletes including Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. But guess what? Creatine isn't a magical, muscle maker.

Creatine is an amino acid that's naturally produced in the liver. It's also found in foods like red meat and chicken. You can also buy powdered creatine, creatine cookies or creatine candy in many health food stores and gyms. Creatine can give athletes quick hits of energy and help them build muscles, if used properly.

Creatine only helps the most highly trained and conditioned athletes. Creatine gives them extra energy so the can work out longer and harder. Lazy slobs, or even occasional athletes, who don't have much muscle or strength to begin with won't benefit much from taking creatine. This is especially true with kids who are still growing. Muscles that grow too quickly through the use of supplements like creatine or steroids are more likely to get injured.

Using too much creatine can give you nasty diarrhea, make you dehydrated and damage your heart and liver. Other side effects are cramping and dizziness. Your body makes creatine naturally - but that doesn't mean it's okay to take more creatine that's been made in a lab. Even though it's not against the law to buy creatine, the stuff is banned from the NFL and the NCAA.

Another downside to creatine is that it's very expensive. A month's supply can cost between $50 and $100 US. The packaging on creatine powders or foods may promise you big muscles and more strength, but don't believe everything you read. Kids can get similar results just by eating a little more protein and spending some extra time at the gym. And you won't have to worry about running to the can during gym class or spending all of your allowance.

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