Is Creatine Good or Bad?
Two days ago I was talking to a family member who used to be very into fitness and lifting. We were talking about diet and supplements when he randomly said “ Whatever you do, never try creatine. It’s the worst you can do”. And there it was, the spark I needed for my next article. I figured that if he believed that, someone with some sort of fitness background, then other people probably did too. So, in this article I want to break the myth that suggests supplementing with creatine is bad for your health.
There are different types of creatine, but today I will be discussing creatine monohydrate specifically. This type of creatine is probably one of the ergogenic supplements with most research on. So let’s begin by explaining the basics. Creatine is a non-protein amino acid compound; 95% is found in muscles, and the remaining 5% is in the brain and testes. From diet it mostly comes from red meat and sea food. A carnivorous diet usually provides 1-2gr per day, so even if you do not want it, creatine is already in your body.
Why is creatine used as a supplement? Well, this compound has been found to improve physical performance (ergogenic aid) by increasing levels of phosphocreatine which aids with production of ATP (ATP is and provides energy to our body). Another compound called ADP takes the phosphate in phosphocreatine to make it into ATP. With more ATP we have greater work capacity. This translates into greater strength, muscle mass, and training capabilities. It also allows you to work harder for a longer time because it delays fatigue. The longer and harder you can go, the greater the increase of quality training will be. It also speeds up recovery because it helps with glycogen synthesis, which means that we are able to restore energy sources quicker.
But now let’s tackle the counterpart and discuss the “bad talk” around creatine. Here is where we break the myth: there is NO valid, peer-reviewed, scientific research that proves that creatine monohydrate is bad for your health or will negatively affect athletic performance. The only research that has “negative” suggestions on creatine, focuses on creatine not having the ergogenic effects that are commonly suggested. This means that some studies showed that creatine did not improve performance, but it did not make it worse either. It just did not make a difference. That’s all. There are not many studies that prove this, though. And the ones that do, usually do not include a loading phase which is an essential aspect of the supplementation process if you are looking to see results in 1-3 weeks. If you are looking to increase performance in the long term (3-5 months) though, a loading phase is not necessary.
Now that you know the benefits and know there aren’t risks to ingesting creatine, you might be wondering how you could start supplementing. So let’s get to it. As previously discussed, if you are looking for short term results (1-3 weeks) you will need to have a loading phase. This phase will fill the muscle with creatine so the body can better respond to it. For a loading phase the suggestion is to consume 5 grams 4 times a day for 7 days. Then for the maintenance phase you would decrease the dose to 3-5gr a day. It is also suggested to consume creatine with a carbohydrate for better absorption.
Creatine is mostly beneficial for high intensity type of workouts where you need immediate energy. Curiously enough, studies have also proved that vegetarians are specially receptive to the benefits of creatine. The reason why is because vegetarians have lower creatine levels at baseline, so their bodies are more “sensitive” to it and are able to make the most out of the dosage. When comparing vegetarian and omnivore diets, the vegetarian population would have greater gains in lean mass than non-vegetarians if both groups followed the same training program. So for any vegetarians out there, like me, creatine could be a good option if we see stalling in performance and gains.
Lastly, make sure to buy a supplement that is pure. Find the one that does not have added chemicals and tons of other ingredients. Look for creatine monohydrate isolate that might have maybe 1 or 2 more ingredients, perhaps for flavor, but that is it. Added chemicals can be harmful for your health, so choose wisely.
Hope you enjoyed reading this, and that you learned something new. If you want recommendations on brands or just more information on this supplement, shoot me a text or email.