Let’s Talk Creatine
If you have spent any time in the fitness industry you have heard about the benefits of supplementing with creatine. That’s for good reason, given that creatine supplementation has been scientifically studied for over 100 years, and the research indicates that it delivers powerful results. However, despite all the scientific and anecdotal evidence available, there is a ton of misinformation and fear associated with creatine. Here is a brief guide to creatine supplementation that will clear up some of the most common misconceptions.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in the human body. It is primarily responsible for facilitating ATP recycling in the brain and muscles. Its secondary responsibility is to act as a pH buffer in the tissues.1 Basically, it is essential to maximize energy availability in the muscle. In fact, Creatine Deficiency Syndromes result in behavior, movement, and intellectual disability.2 If our bodies didn’t naturally produce creatine everyone would be supplementing with it.
What Does Creatine Supplementation Do?
From a performance standpoint, creatine supplementation is proven to increase power and strength output by 5-15% during anaerobic exercise.3 To a lesser extent, it has been shown to decrease fatigue, 4 and muscle soreness.5 If you are looking to improve your performance in weight training or sprinting, creatine supplementation is going to help you, noticeably.
Creatine will also cause weight gain. It exclusively increases lean mass, primarily water weight in skeletal muscle tissues. If creatine is supplemented without adequate water intake it can cause stomach cramping or nausea
What Doesn’t Creatine Supplementation Do?
Let’s not beat around the bush and just address some of the “dangers” of creatine floating around the internet:
- Proper creatine supplementation will not cause kidney disease.
- Creatine does not cause muscle cramps or dehydration
- Supplementing with creatine will not make you fat.
- Creatine supplementation does not increase your blood pressure.
- Creatine does not cause depression.
Not only does research show that none of these fears are valid, in some of these cases the scientific research seems to indicate that the opposite is true. For example, studies indicate the creatine supplementation increase subjective well being. 6
How should I take creatine?
Odds are if you have looked into taking creatine you have hear about creatine loading. If you choose to load creatine you would follow a two part creatine cycle. First there’s the loading phase, where you take 20-25g of creatine per day for 5-7 days. Next comes the Maintenance phase, requiring 5g/day for 3-4 weeks.
While there is some benefit to loading creatine, it is not necessary. Loading helps you reach full saturation more quickly, but simply taking 5-10 g daily will eventually get you to the same saturation point. 7
It is important to remember that supplementing creatine without adequate water can cause muscle cramping, so make sure to drink plenty of water. An easy way to do this is to find a pre or post workout drink that contains creatine. Also, if you feel nauseous after taking creatine you should take smaller doses throughout the day.
Creatine is an incredibly well-researched supplement which is going to be noticeably helpful to anyone who wants to increase strength and power. Barring any pre-existing health conditions, supplementing with creatine will not cause any adverse health effects.
- Barcelos RP, Stefanello ST, Mauriz JL, Gonzalez-Gallego J, Soares FA (2016). "Creatine and the Liver: Metabolism and Possible Interactions". Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry.
- Santos RV, et al. The effect of creatine supplementation upon inflammatory and muscle soreness markers after a 30km race. Life Sci. (2004)