There are a lot of rumours about creatine that simply aren’t true. I hear them often when I recommend an athlete consider supplementing creatine.
This post will dispel some of these rumours and explain why creatine is probably a very beneficial supplement to take. It is in fact the most popular (legal) sports performance enhancing supplement for a reason.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a high energy molecule that is produced by the body. It can rapidly produce ATP (energy) that cells need to function. Phosphocreatine is broken down to release energy when the body is under stress (like during training).
Creatine is found in some meats, eggs, and fish.
Why Supplement With It?
In layman’s terms, by supplementing with creatine prior to exercise, your cells will have more readily available to help produce ATP. Phosphocreatine is used for ATP production up until 8-10 seconds of high intensity exercise. Therefore, supplementing with creatine will be highly beneficial for any type of power, speed, and maximal strength work.
Creatine and Water Retention
One of my favourite rumours regarding creatine is that it creates false strength ‘gains’ because your body just retains water. This is bro science at its finest. While it’s true that in very high doses, a small amount of water retention can occur, research has shown conclusively that prolonged supplementation results in an increased rate of muscle growth.
Creatine and Kidney Problems
Another common myth around creatine is that it can lead to kidney problems. This is because creatinine (note the difference) is a waste product of the kidneys after creatine has been processed. Elevated levels of creatinine in the urine are a marker for assessing kidney damage. However, levels of creatinine mirror those of creatine, and therefore creatine supplementation will simply create higher levels of its waste product. Interpreting this increase in creatinine in the urine as kidney damage is an observational error.
All research to date has shown that in people with healthy kidneys, creatine supplementation causes ZERO problems to the kidneys. If someone has a kidney disorder already, they must consult their doctor before supplementing with creatine.
Taking 5g of creatine monohydrate 30 minutes prior to exercise would be my recommendation. Some individuals believe in loading protocols with it, but the research hasn’t shown that this is a better method.
There are other types of creatine out there as well (such as creatine nitrate), but all current research shows that creatine monohydrate is superior. Some supplements contain other ingredients in addition to creatine (glutamine, BCAA’s, etc.) which can be beneficial too.
I must add that there is no magic pill to gaining strength and adding muscle. Creatine is simply going to make the hard work that you do more beneficial for you. Lastly, supplements are useless if your diet isn’t on point. If you aren’t eating enough calories and don’t eat any green vegetables, focus on that and install those habits before you spend $100 or more a month on supplements. Same thing goes for sleep. Going to bed earlier is going to give you a far greater ROI than any supplement you buy!