CREATINE: Your questions answered...
Ever wonder why there’s so much hype about creatine?
I’m frequently asked about what it is? What it is used for and does it really work?
WHAT IS CREATINE?
Creatine is actually a combination of three different amino acids: Glycine, arginine, and methionine. It is produced by the liver and can be found in meat, and fish.
HOW DOES CREATINE WORK?
Creatine bonds with a phosphate group to form creatine phosphate, which then gives a phosphate molecule to ADP, to form ATP, which provides energy to the cells, and cellular functions. In other words, ATP is the powerhouse of one’s cells, therefore, by taking creatine, the creatine boosts ATP, that gives one ‘more energy’, at the cellular level, which many athletes who train vigorously, find advantageous.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF CREATINE?
As mentioned above, it gives one more energy to work with, and as such, can help one increase their strength, and in turn, make one leaner. It can improve one’s speed, as well. It has been found to improve muscle strength, size and endurance.
Most people find the greatest benefits from using creatine is during high intensity, muscle contraction work such as, all forms of weight lifting, and sprinting.
As far as endurance goes, as in relation to endurance activities such as marathons, triathlons, etc., it appears that creatine will only help one’s ATP system as much as it needs to, and no more.
Creatine has been proven to reduce what's known as ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness’ (DOMS).
This is the extreme sore and stiff feeling one gets in their muscles, two days after lifting weights, or performing sprints.
Creatine can also help reduce recovery time.
IS CREATINE SAFE?
When taken as directed on the manufacturers label, creatine has been found to be relatively safe. I say relatively, because some people have reported cases of becoming bloated, cases of diarrhea, muscle cramping, and dehydration has shown up, as well. However, it cannot be certain if these individuals were following the directions on the label or not, or if they already had some type of
pre-existing condition that was aggravated by the use of creatine.
IS CREATINE FOR MEN ONLY?
Men use creatine regularly, however, studies have been done on women using creatine, as well. The benefits were not as prominent as with men using the product, however, gains were had. So, yes, women can use creatine, but do not expect the results to be as profound as a male taking creatine.
IS IT FOR SHORT TERM USE OR LONG TERM USE?
Short term use, according to directions, appears to be safe. Most studies on creatine have been done for short periods of time. It would honestly be nice for an independent lab to perform a study of long-term effects of creatine use, say for a few years or so, which has no vested interests in creatine. Bottom line here: Short-term studies have shown creatine is safe to use.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU USE CREATINE FOR A LONG TIME?
At this time, long term use is not recommended. Any excessive use or any use that does not follow the manufacturers directed use is dangerous and should not be undertaken. Honestly, no one really knows what happens if you use creatine for over a year, because no studies have been performed. Personally, I would not recommend using creatine for long periods of time. I do not recommend using anything supplemental for over a year, unless the benefits outweigh the risk, and you have a legitimate reason for continuing its use.
Many colleges no longer allow creatine to be used in their sporting programs, because of the mixed feedback on longterm usage. Many lay people have used it year after year, and report no ill effects, however, they also are not getting specific tests run such as kidney function, liver, etc.
One study was conducted on longterm use of creatine and kidney failure, as there was heresy about creatine causing kidney failure. The study showed no harm done on the kidneys in the form of failure, with longterm use of creatine.
ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS TO TAKING CREATINE?
Bloating is a side effect that some users have reported when taking creatine monohydrate. While this is rare, it is a side effect. Bloating has not been reported with other forms of creatine. It’s common knowledge that creatine monohydrate can cause dehydration. Obviously, the simple solution to this is to drink more water. Again, these side effects have been reported only with creatine monohydrate. Creatine draws water into muscles and this may create dehydration to the rest of the body if one is not mindful of water intake, or are not educated in the use of creatine, and how it works.
In some extremely rare cases, it has been reported that creatine had caused kidney stones. Little is known about exactly how creatine is linked to kidney stones. Again, there needs to be further research on an individual basis, as many people are already susceptible to kidney stones due to soda habits, high oxalate food intake, poor water intake, and so forth. These cases of kidney stones may have more to do with diet rather than supplementing with creatine.
I look at creatine like any other supplement. Some people are allergic to grass, others are sensitive to air pollution, yet others can have a reaction when consuming a cucumber. In other words, you will not know if there is a particular side-effect to using creatine, until you use it. I recommend if you are interested in using creatine, to start out small, and watch how your body reacts to it. I highly disagree with a newbie getting straight into the loading phase without any thought as to whether they might have an adverse reaction to it. There's no rush. You lived without creatine supplementation all your life, take it slow, make sure it's something your system is okay with before upping the dosage.
IS IT CREATINE HEALTHY FOR YOU?
In my opinion, I do not consider creatine supplementation healthy for this reason: I find too many people not only become reliant on it, without knowing what the long-term effects are, and some even abuse it. I do not consider these situations 'healthy'. However, if you are an elite athlete, and you have an event coming up, a deadline, and your performance is on the line, I see no reason not to consider using it. Do you understand the difference?
DOES CREATINE REALLY WORK?
Yes, studies have found creatine does, in fact, work.
IS CREATINE A STIMULANT?
It is not a stimulant as in a caffeine type of effect, however, it does stimulate muscle fibers, when exercising, via the process of increased ATP.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I TAKE?
Most manufacturer's recommend 1 tsp. (5 grams), for a serving. My personal recommendation is as follows:
- 200 lbs. and over - 1 heaping tsp. - 175 to 199 lbs. - 1 tsp. - 150 to 174 lbs. - 3/4 tsp. - 125 to 149 lbs. - 1/2 tsp.
- 100 to 124 lbs. - 1/4 tsp.
If you're in the loading phase, simply find your poundage group above and take four times per day, for 5 days. For example: a male weighing 210 would take 1 heaping tsp. four times per day, for 5 days, whereas a 156 lb. male would take 3/4 tsp. four times per day, for 5 days.
WHEN SHOULD I TAKE IT?
I would take it both before training, and after.
WHAT SHOULD I TAKE WITH IT?
I recommend taking creatine with protein, and a carbohydrate (drink).
WHAT KIND OF CREATINE SHOULD I PURCHASE?
My recommendation is a pure creatine monohydrate, pharmaceutical grade. With its increase popularity, there are now many different brands of creatine on the market. The purity of some of these brands, especially those from unreliable sources, are questionable. The impurities or additives found in some brands may also have contributed to the reported side effects mentioned earlier in this newsletter.
WHO SHOULD NOT USE CREATINE?
I would say creatine supplementation is not for those with history of kidney or liver problems. Nor should one expect the supplementation to be effective without a well-designed training program. Always consult your physician before starting any supplement, as it may interfere with something you are already taking, or your doctor may have concerns that are directly related to you, and your health history. Talk with your doctor and find out if it’s a good fit for you.