Creatine is perhaps the world’s most widely known sports supplement, being used by bodybuilders and athletes for years as a way of improving speed, strength and power. But despite its global popularity there are still many myths surrounding its use. Here we explore the myths and truths of creatine based on solid scientific evidence:
Creatine is bad for your kidneys, liver and can affect your internal health
There are no studies showing that creatine supplementation damages the liver or kidneys in any way, nor does the science or biochemistry of creatine usage suggest that they would harm your internal organs. At the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland Dr Kerry Kuehl sought to prove this theory and at the 2000 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine presented his findings which showed 36 healthy male and female athletes who consumed 10g of creatine per day for a sustained period of time showed no signs (both subjective and objective) of any problems with their kidney function.
Creatine causes you to bloat and hold a lot of water (water retention)
Recent studies using the very latest in body composition measurement have found that even as much as 3 months of creatine usage did not result in an increase in body water but did, as expected, show greater gains in fat free-mass. A plausible explanation for the anecdotal evidence that claims you hold more water on creatine could be in the manufacturing process of cheaply manufactured creatine, since excess sodium is sometimes an unfortunate consequence of the manufacturing process of lower grade creatine.
Creatine must be taken at certain times to work
Whilst it has been proven that taking creatine with a high glycaemic index carbohydrate to raise insulin levels can improve its uptake, there’s no real evidence to show there is a best time to take it. Since creatine basically works by increasing the body's pool of creatine and therefore favourably enhancing the body’s phosphagen system. So whether you take it in the morning with your breakfast, in your post workout shake or even before training, studies seem to suggest it makes no difference.
You get enough creatine in your diet from food
On average you probably get about 1g of creatine in your diet per day and even this is subject to you eating enough sources such as beef, cod, salmon, and herring. Furthermore the creatine present in these foods can often be destroyed during the cooking process.
More creatine means more speed, strength and size
Scientists at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia found that at 0.1 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, male athletes excreted 46% of the ingested creatine within 24 hours. For a 220 pound lifter, this means that if he consumes 10g of creatine, 46%, or 4.6g of creatine, is wasted. In another study performed at the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University, scientists confirmed that lower doses of creatine monohydrate (5g/day) are effective, and that results can even be achieved without a loading phase.
250g of Creatine Monohydrate is £3.99 from Myprotein.com
Further Reading and References:
Brenner M, et al. The effect of creatine supplementation during resistance training in women. J Strength Cond Res 2000;14(2): 207-213.
Burke DG, et al. "The effect of 7 days of creatine supplementation on 24-hour urinary creatine excretion.
J Strength Cond Res 2001;15(1):59-62.Eijnde B, et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2001;33:449-453.
Greenhaff PL, Steenge GR, Simpson EJ. Protein and carbohydrate-induced augmentation of whole body creatine retention in humans.
J Appl Physiol 2000;89:1165-71.Guerrero-Ontiveros ML, Walliman T. Creatine supplementation I n health and disease. Effects of chronic creatine ingestion in vivo: down-regulation of the expression of creatine transporter isoforms in skeletal muscle.
Mol Cell Biochem 1998;184:427-437.Poortmans JR, et al. Long-term oral creatine supplementation does not impair renal function in healthy athletes. Med Sci Sports Exer 1999;31(8):1108-1110.Poortmans JR, Francaux M. Adverse effects of creatine supplementation. Sports Med 2000;30:155-170.
Vogel RA, et al. Creatine supplementation: effect on supramaximal exercise performance at two levels of acute hypohydration. J Strength Cond Res 2000;14(2) 214-219.
Discuss on the MP Forum.