Is Creatine Bad for You? FAQ


Q: What is Creatine?

A:  Creatine or more accurately creatine monohydrate is one of many bodybuilding supplements used to enhance the performance and fat-free mass of athletes who engage in sports of short duration and high intensity such as football players and sprinters.  Creatine is comprised of 3 amino acids (Arginine, Glycine and Methionine) found naturally in skeletal muscle of humans. The word itself is derived from the Greek word for flesh or  kreas.  It was discovered around 1835 when it was extracted and isolated from meat.  Human muscle can store up to 5 grams of creatine per kilogram but typically no one stores more than 3.5 grams per kilogram at any one time.  The product on the market called creatine monohydrate is a synthetic product.  Therefore, even vegetarians can use it to improve athletic performance.

 Q:  What Does Creatine Do?

A: The main energy system used in our muscles takes place within a molecule called ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate).  When a muscle is contracted, ATP loses a phosphate molecule and becomes ADP (adenosine di-phosphate).  Creatine helps to replace that missing phosphate molecule to make ATP again in order to reset everything back again.  In layman’s terms, it’s good for maximal performance recovery.  Normally, you would have to consume a great deal of creatine from sources such as meat and fish to replenish the creatine in your muscles.  Taking creatine as a supplement, however, takes care of this without stuffing down so much food unnecessarily.

Q: What are the Effects of Creatine?

A:    It is beneficially used by athletes, weightlifters and bodybuilders who need to quickly replenish ATP due to weightlifting contractions.  Creatine helps to get that maximal rep or push a little extra hard.  It is typically for strength athletes who practice high intensity short duration activities but runners and swimmers also use it.  Even people who hike recreationally for cardio have reported that their times are cut down after using creatine.  In short, it enhances muscle force recovery.

 Q:   You Talk About What Happens on the Molecular Level.  What Actually Happens Physically?

A: Creatine is a muscle cell volumizer.  Muscles consist of about 70% water.  Creatine pulls water into the muscles making them larger which creates a kind of hydrolic effect.  Many who use creatine say their muscles appear to be larger after taking the supplement.  Others report no difference at all.  In your weight workout, you might be able to get extra repetitions in your set training so you won’t stagnate.

Q:  Is it Safe?

A: Yes, if taken in its suggested loading and maintenance amounts.  The most important thing is drink a lot of water to stay hydrated since creatine’s main effect is to pull water into the muscles in the process of its conversion of ADP back to ATP.  Although creatine is non-toxic all creatine whether organic (in food form) or synthetic (in supplement form) produces a waste byproduct called creatinine which shows up on blood tests.  High levels of creatinine indicate a possible sign of kidney disease so if you supplement with creatine monohydrate, you should cycle off of it for about a week prior to any blood test and drink plenty of water to flush all bodily tissue.  By the way, the blood test for the filtration rates of your kidneys will also not look too good if you eat large amounts of protein.  There are medical doctors who do not know much about sports nutrition science so you it is best you inform your personal physician of all the supplements you are taking and inform them about creatinine as a waste product.  If your creatinine levels are too high and/or your filtration rates are not optimal, discontinue all creatine and excessive protein intake for awhile then test again.  Although creatine is proven to be safe, it is a good idea to consult first with your physician for supplementing with it.

Q:  You Said it’s Safe but are there Any Potential Side Effects Other than those Mentioned?

A:  Some creatine side effects include headaches or muscle cramping, upset stomach, diarrhea, kidney problems . . .  If this happens and you think creatine is the cause then discontinue supplementing and see if you still experience these symptoms.  You should, again, consult your physician before taking creatine. In a positive light, however, there are many more studies that show that supplementing with creatine actually helps certain medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Muscular Dystrophy and high cholesterol.

Q:  How Do I Take It?

A: Creatine Monohydrate is available in a powdered micronized form.  It is a white powder.  The loading phase recommended is for adults 19 and older:  Take 5g of CM orally four times every day (20grams total every day) 7 times a week.  After that the maintenance dose is two to five grams every day.  Some recommend taking it along with carbohydrates because after you ingest carbohydrates there is an insulin response that absorbs nutrients such as creatine monohydrate to your muscles along with the storing of glycogen.

Conclusion

Many trained athletes using creatine are glad they made the choice to go with this legal alternative that gives them short bursts of energy in their muscle building and sport endeavors.  There is also some evidence that this supplementation is of help to older adults as well.  Creatine supplementation and exercise tend to work very well together.

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