Anyone who’s stepped inside a supplement shop or popular gym franchise has likely heard of creatine before. Creatine has been studied more than any other sports-related supplement out there and is very highly regarded. Given how much we know about this supplement, it surprises me that there are still a lot of myths still lingering around. Well, in this article I’m going to set the record straight. I’m going to discuss the benefits, side effects and discuss the 5 most common myths about creatine.
Does Creatine Work?
Yes, creatine has been proven to work in study after study. It is one of the few supplements targeted towards athletes that actually does work.
However, don’t expect to make a transformation in your appearance overnight or anything. Yes creatine works, but it only aids your ability to work hard in the gym. You have to put in the work yourself to see much benefit.
Creatine is naturally occurring in meat and is most available in beef. Our bodies store creatine and the benefits from creatine are a result of a higher saturation of creatine in the body.
Check out the creatine page on Examine to see a summary of the scientific research available on creatine.
Here’s a list of the benefits of taking creatine:
- Increase in ATP production (benefits the body and mind)
- Increase in power output
- Increase in water retention in lean muscle mass
- Slight increase in endurance (weight lifting and cardio)
- Decrease in fatigue
- Improved recovery from physical activity
Potential Side Effects
Creatine is regarded as one of the safest supplements around, as well as most effective. There are still some potential side effects.
The primary concern is the potential for stomach cramps if you take too high of a dose. Most people won’t experience this, but it is a possibility. I’ve only personally seen it happen to people taking way more than the recommended 2.5-5 gram dose.
Another side effect is that you’ll need to drink more water. Creatine saturates your muscle with water (which is a good thing) so you’ll need to drink a little extra water to make sure you are staying properly hydrated.
Top 5 Myths About Creatine
- The loading phase – In the early days people believed you needed to megadose creatine (they recommended 20 grams per day) to get your body fully saturated before going down to a maintenance dose. Now we’ve found that there isn’t any benefit, besides maybe saving a few days or so before seeing the benefits. If you eat meat, you likely already have a decent amount of creatine in your body. Assuming you workout 3-4 days a week, taking the recommended 5 grams a day on just training days will keep you saturated all week. Also, the risk of digestive issues increases greatly if you do a loading phase.
- Cycling creatine – In early research they were afraid that the effectiveness would decrease over time with creatine and recommended cycling. Now the evidence shows that cycling creatine is completely unnecessary. So you can take it year round if you like.
- Best time to take creatine – They used to say it only worked if you take it after your workout. Then they said you have to take it before your workout to work. Well the truth is, you can take it anytime. It doesn’t make a difference at all. Creatine is stored in the body and when you take it you are just adding to your storage, not directly using that creatine right away. I usually just toss some into a protein shake in the morning.
- Creatine makes you bloated – No it doesn’t. A big reason for this myth is because early creatine products had enormous amounts of sugar in them, which will cause bloating. When you get bloated you are storing water in your subcutaneous layer of fat between the skin and muscle. Creatine adds water to the MUSCLE not in the subcutaneous layer! Having more water outside the muscle makes you look soft, puffy and less defined. Having more water inside your muscle makes them look fuller. If you are lean you’re muscles will look bigger, because they are fuller. If you aren’t as lean you won’t see much change in appearance at all. (Beside what you imagine of course)
- You can’t take creatine with caffeine – Studies have shown conflicting results, but the majority of the data supports the idea that caffeine doesn’t limit the effectiveness of creatine. The reason why people think this is because caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it makes you pee out extra water, and creatine helps your muscles absorb more water – thus having a counteractive effect on each other. However, caffeine doesn’t selectively remove water from the muscle so this isn’t an issue if you are drinking enough water.
These myths have been proven wrong for years but many people would never know that. My personal theory is that many supplement marketers want creatine to sound comparable to steroids, which we know actually work. So they emphasize the need to cycle and the issue with bloating.
I have no idea if that’s true or not. I’ve just noticed that supplements companies love to make their products sound like steroids, even though most of them don’t do anything at all.
There are tons of different versions of creatine available now, but there is no scientific evidence to support that any other form of creatine is more effective than plain old creatine monohydrate.
I personally use this unflavored creatine monohydrate by Optimum Nutrition. It’s cheap and I can add it to any drink I want.
I usually mix it in some juice with my nootropics or in a protein shake.
I just take 5 grams on training days, which is usually 3-5 days per week – depending on what I have going on.
This topic has already been covered too many times, but I wanted to make sure my readers understand the basics because there is a lot of misinformation out there. Are you missing out if you don’t take creatine? No, not really. However, creatine has been shown to work and with so many scams out there it’s nice to have an affordable supplement with real benefits.
I know many of you have taken creatine or are taking it, let me know what you think about it in the comments.
Until Next Time,
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