1. The present study was undertaken to test whether creatine given as a supplement to normal subjects was absorbed, and if continued resulted in an increase in the total creatine pool in muscle. An additional effect of exercise upon uptake into muscle was also investigated.
2. Low doses (1 g of creatine monohydrate or less in water) produced only a modest rise in the plasma creatine concentration, whereas 5 g resulted in a mean peak after 1 h of 795 (sd 104) μmol/l in three subjects weighing 76–87 kg. Repeated dosing with 5 g every 2 h sustained the plasma concentration at around 1000 μmol/l. A single 5 g dose corresponds to the creatine content of 1.1 kg of fresh, uncooked steak.
3. Supplementation with 5 g of creatine monohydrate, four or six times a day for 2 or more days resulted in a significant increase in the total creatine content of the quadriceps femoris muscle measured in 17 subjects. This was greatest in subjects with a low initial total creatine content and the effect was to raise the content in these subjects closer to the upper limit of the normal range. In some the increase was as much as 50%.
4. Uptake into muscle was greatest during the first 2 days of supplementation accounting for 32% of the dose administered in three subjects receiving 6 × 5 g of creatine monohydrate/day. In these subjects renal excretion was 40, 61 and 68% of the creatine dose over the first 3 days. Approximately 20% or more of the creatine taken up was measured as phosphocreatine. No changes were apparent in the muscle ATP content.
5. No side effects of creatine supplementation were noted.
6. One hour of hard exercise per day using one leg augmented the increase in the total creatine content of the exercised leg, but had no effect in the collateral. In these subjects the mean total creatine content increased from 118.1 (sd 3.0) mmol/kg dry muscle before supplementation to 148.5 (sd 5.2) in the control leg, and to 162.2 (sd 12.5) in the exercised leg. Supplementation and exercise resulted in a total creatine content in one subject of 182.8 mmol/kg dry muscle, of which 112.0 mmol/kg dry muscle was in the form of phosphocreatine.