Sometimes I like to sit back and drink in the random weight room chatter. If you have never had the pleasure, turn off your tunes for 30 seconds and soak up the nonsense around you. You will hear the most random comments ranging from, “is water paleo?” to “don’t tickle the barbell!” Although these excerpts provide a quick chuckle, there is something that I hear all too often that is completely maddening. Misinformation about Creatine.
Yes, there are individuals who are super-uninformed and believe Creatine will melt you Wicked Witch of the West style. HA! Not only is Creatine safe, but it is one of the most researched supplements with no reported detriment to the body (4,10). Additionally, study after study has shown the positive benefits that accompany Creatine supplementation. With all this body of research, why is there so much Creatine confusion? Maybe it’s getting your information from the wrong sources or maybe it’s the media unnecessarily vindicating Creatine because they are just as uninformed. #alternativefacts. Whatever the case may be, let’s take a moment to clear some things up.
A couple of quick hitters…
- Creatine supplementation can provide for harder more intense workouts by maximizing your body’s ATP/PCr energy system.
- Creatine draws water into the muscle causing the fiber to swell leading to size and strength gains (10).
- Increased ingestion and storage of creatine can lead to an increase in both single and repeated effort performances (4,10,11).
It is quite remarkable that so many gains can be made from one supplement.
So, what is it?
Creatine is a compound found naturally in our bodies and in the meats we eat. Even if you are not supplementing creatine it is being utilized throughout your entire body to transfer energy. That’s right. Creatine is a fuel source – MIND BLOWN! This is one of the main reasons athletes supplement with creatine (10). Our muscle’s primary energy system requires the use of creatine in short, intense exercise like lifting, sprinting, and jumping. Studies have shown that by increasing our creatine stores, we can increase the amount of training volume our bodies can handle and enhance recovery between bouts of intense exercise (2,3).
Show me the gains!
Another action through which creatine can elicit strength and size gains is by drawing water into the cell. Yes, you read correctly. Creatine keeps water in the body. Creatine has not been shown to cause dehydration or damage to the kidneys (6). Instead, the water that creatine brings into the muscle may be one of the mechanisms leading to size gains. It is theorized that the water stretches the cell lining and signals the muscle cells to grow (10). Willoughby and Rosene demonstrated that creatine supplementation with 6 grams a day for 12 weeks plus resistance training resulted in a 4% increase in fat-free mass and a 21.9 % increase in muscle volume (5).
Creatine has also been shown to increase various performance markers such as maximal power and strength, work performed during sets of maximal effort muscle contractions, single-effort sprint performance, and work performed during repetitive sprint performance (2). Many are familiar with the usual “8% increase in strength as reported by Rawson and Volek,” but what about other kinds of performance? A study from the Journal of Psychopharmacology exhibited that creatine consumption during sleep deprivation caused no decrease in psychomotor performance (9). This does not imply that you should stay up all night and drink creatine shakes. It does, however, express that like our muscles, our brain uses creatine for energy. Creatine is very important for brain and central nervous system development and aids in the reduction of neuronal cell loss. Research in this area is showing that creatine both improves central nervous system function as well as protects it from neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s (1).
How do I take it?
Clinical studies have indicated that 5 grams daily (about a teaspoon) does the trick. 5 grams will accomplish the same as all the elaborate loading and cycling protocols you have discovered on the interwebs (4,8,11). Simply add creatine to your post workout shake or split it up over the course of a day. It is that simple.
As for the smorgasbord of creatine options, there is no need to fret. Research has shown that creatine monohydrate has the same effect as all the other new forms that are coming out (2,7). When you go to make your purchase do not be overwhelmed with the amount of creatine products on the shelf. All you need to do is find a creatine monohydrate powder that has a Good Manufacturer’s Practice (GMP) label and you will be just fine.
For starters, you are now better equipped to guide your gym friends to smarter supplement choices. Products like NutraBio Creatine and Dymatize Creatine Monohydrate are great options and the best bang for your buck. Yet one question remains unanswered; if you are not currently taking creatine, WHY NOT?
1.Andres, R., Ducray, A. D., Schlattner, U., Wallimann, T., & Widmer, H. (2008). Functions and effects of creatine in the central nervous system. Brain Research Bulletin, 76(4), 329-329-343.
2.Bird, S. (2003). Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: A brief review. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 2(4), 123-123-132.
3.Branch, J. D. (2003). Effect of creatine supplementation on body composition and performance: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 13(2), 198-198-226.
4.Buford, T., Kreider, R., Stout, J., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., & Ziegenfuss, T.
(2007, August 30). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4(6), 1-8.
5.Dangott, B., Schultz, E., & Mozdziak, P. E. (2000). Dietary creatine monohydrate supplementation increases satellite cell mitotic activity during compensatory hypertrophy. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 21(1), 13-13-16.
6.Francaux, M., & Poortmans, J. R. (2006). Side effects of creatine supplementation in athletes. International Journal of Sports Physiology & Performance, 1(4), 311-323.
7.Gotshalk, L., Kraemer, W., Mendonca, M., Vingren, J., Kenny, A., Spiering, B., et al. (2008). Creatine supplementation improves muscular performance in older women. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 102(2), 223-231.
8.Greenwood, M., Kreider, R., Earnest, C., Rasmussen, C., & Almada, A. (2003). Differences in creatine retention among three nutritional formulations of oral creatine supplements. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online, 6(2), 37-43.
9.McMorris, T., Harris, R., Swain, J., Corbett, J., Collard, K., Dyson, R., et al. (2006). Effect of creatine supplementation and sleep deprivation, with mild exercise, on cognitive and psychomotor performance, mood state, and plasma concentrations of catecholamines and cortisol. Psychopharmacology, 185(1), 93-93-103.
10.Rawson, E. S., & Persky, A. M. (2007). Mechanisms of muscular adaptations to creatine supplementation. International SportMed Journal, 8(2), 43-53.
11.RB, K., Richard B. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 244(1-2), 89.