Blog

The Truth About Creatine

I doubt that this is the first time you’ve heard the word “creatine.” Creatine, specifically, creatine monohydrate, is a common and very effective supplement used by people who are conscious about fitness. Some people believe that creatine is a controversial substance, although the reality is that it has been researched intensely, deemed extremely safe, and is considered one of the most beneficial sports supplements available by renowned and respected scientific organizations across the globe. In my opinion, it’s the number-one supplement for improving performance at the gym.

There is an endogenous (by the body) production of creatine of about 2 grams per day and we tend to get another 2-3 grams daily through our diet by consuming red meat, chicken and fish since animals produce creatine on their own too. Creatine phosphate (CP) is the form of creatine found in our muscles, which we use as a source of energy for high-intensity bouts lasting less than 10 seconds. Your body’s creatine stores are affected by the amount of meat that you consume, the frequency in which you exercise and your levels of hormones such as testosterone and IGF-1. 

By supplementing creatine, you can genuinely increase your performance in a few ways. You’re essentially speeding up the re-synthesis of CP in muscle and therefore improving recovery time between exercise bouts or sets and also increasing water retention in muscle fibers. This cellular swelling (water retention) leads to increased damage of muscle fibers which results in higher rates of protein synthesis following exercise, assuming you’re also eating enough protein. In other words, creatine supplementation provides an indirect approach to building muscle. 

Creatine also enables more total work or volume in a single training session, according to Becque et al., 2000, which is a key factor in long-term muscle growth. Deldicque et al., 2005 concluded that it also raises anabolic hormones, such as IGF-1, which fuel muscle growth, while lowering myostatin levels (Saremi et al., 2010), which would otherwise slow down or totally inhibit new muscle growth. Another really great benefit of creatine is that it increases phosphocreatine stores in your brain, which may improve brain health and prevent neurological disease (Matthews et al., 2010.) Convinced yet?  

It should be noted that the body temporarily decreases its own production during supplementation. This is why people experience a “deflated” appearance when they stop supplementing all of a sudden- their body has decreased production and now there is very little creatine in the body in general, meaning the muscles have very low water retention and will appear smaller (muscles are about 60-70% water.) It takes about a month to get endogenous production back to normal, but it will normalize. 

In order to further advocate for its safety, I would like to point to studies lasting up to four years (Schilling et al., 2001 and Kreider et al., 2003) that reveal no negative effects whatsoever. The second of those two studies measured 52 blood markers and observed no adverse effects following 21 months of supplementing. There is also no evidence that creatine harms the liver and kidneys in healthy people who take normal doses. That said, those with preexisting liver or kidney problems should consult with a doctor before supplementing. 

Some misinformed people associate creatine with dehydration and cramps, but research does not support this link. In fact, Greenwood et al., 2003 suggest that it can reduce cramps and dehydration during endurance exercise in high heat. I apologize if this is coming across as redundant, but the safety of things you put in your body is of great importance to me, and I wanted to show the ample evidence that there is nothing to worry about in this case.

The recommended dose is 2-5 grams daily, and evidence shows little to no benefit when supplementing beyond this measure. I personally choose to go with 2 grams a day for myself to keep my endogenous production from stooping too low in case I decide to stop for some reason. 

The last (but not least) thing you should know about taking creatine is that it should be taken with some sort of carbs to increase absorption in the gut, and proper hydration during supplementation is extremely important. 

In conclusion, creatine is one of the cheapest, most effective and safest supplements you can take. It can help you achieve your fitness goals and increase your health and overall quality of life in many different ways. If you have any questions about creatine, please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer! 

 

References:

Becque, M. D. (2000). Effects of oral creatine supplementation on muscular strength and body composition. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10731009/

Deldicque, L. (2005). Increased IGF mRNA in human skeletal muscle after creatine supplementation. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15870625/

Greenwood, M. (2003). Creatine supplementation during college football training does not increase the incidence of cramping or injury. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12701814/

Kreider, R. B. (2003). Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12701816/

Matthews, R. T. (1999). Creatine and cyclocreatine attenuate MPTP neurotoxicity. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10222117/

Saremi, A. (2010, April 12). Effects of oral creatine and resistance training on serum myostatin and GASP-1. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20026378/

Schilling, B. K. (2001). Creatine supplementation and health variables: a retrospective study. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11224803/

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.