Everything You Need To Know About Creatine
Written by Calvin Sun
Creatine is easily one of the most popular supplements in the fitness industry. It’s been around for over 20 years and has become one of the most studied supplements in exercise science. However, there seems to be a fair amount of misinformation and mystery that still surrounds the supplement. Recently, I’ve received a lot of questions about the function of creatine, it’s safety and efficacy, as well as proper dosages for athletes. The purpose of today’s article is to answer some of these common questions and provide you with enough information to decide whether or not creatine should be part of your supplement regimen.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is an organic compound that is produced from three amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine.
Creatine serves as an essential part of the ATP-CP energy system, also known as the phosphagen system. This system is responsible for powering short duration, high-intensity movements such as weightlifting, sprinting, and jumping. Adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) is broken down to release energy resulting in adenosine di-phosphate (ADP). At the cellular level, creatine is used to regenerate ADP into ATP resulting in delayed fatigue and improved exercise performance [2,3,4].
Why Should I Take It?
Creatine is produced by your body in small amounts [1,2]. It is also found in some animal-based protein sources such as red meat. The amount produced by your body and obtainable through food is quite low, which is why supplementation can be effective. Some research suggests that vegetarian and vegan athletes can greatly benefit from creatine supplementation because of dietary deficiencies .
Numerous studies have found that creatine supplementation results in improved body composition, increased strength, and faster sprint performance [2,3,4]. As a result, creatine tends to be popular with football players, bodybuilders, strength athletes, as well as track and field athletes. Creatine has also been found to attenuate core temperature and heart rate in trained endurance athletes .
Does Creatine Cause Muscle Cramps?
One of the common myths surrounding creatine is the idea that it increases risk of muscle cramps or injuries. Multiple studies have found that this is not true [10, 11]. In fact, a study on Division I football players found that creatine may actually reduce cramping and injuries . Other research has also found that creatine can be useful for reducing muscle cramps in medical applications 
Is Creatine Bad For Your Kidneys?
You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys. This is likely due to confusion between creatine and creatinine, a metabolic byproduct. Multiple studies have found that creatine is perfectly safe with no negative changes in renal biomarkers, such as blood urea nitrogen and glomerular filtration rate [7,8]. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that creatine had no negative impact on markers of kidney function . Long-term studies on athletes have also found that creatine does not cause any harm to the liver or kidneys [14,15].
Is Creatine A Steroid?
While creatine is capable of improving athletic performance, it is not a performance-enhancing drug or anabolic steroid.
Is Creatine Recommended For Female Athletes?
Creatine has been found to have positive effects in both male and female athletes. Deciding whether or not you should take creatine has less to do with your gender and more to do with your goals. If you are trying to improve your strength, power, and body composition, creatine is certainly worth considering.
Which Form of Creatine Is The Best (Monohydrate, Ethyl Ester, HCL, etc.)?
Creatine monohydrate still appears to be the best for results. It also happens to be the least expensive version as well. Some research has found that some of the fancy, buffered forms of creatine actually don’t result in any increase of creatine content in muscle tissue .
How Do I Take Creatine?
Most research suggests 3-5 grams a day, though some studies uses doses as high as 20 grams a day with positive results. Research has also found that taking creatine post-workout appears to produce better results . Some experts suggest a “loading phase” of 20 grams a day for 5-10 days and then reducing the dosage to 5 grams daily. My advice would be to add 5 grams of creatine monohydrate to your post-workout drinks without the loading phase.
Is There A Brand You Recommend?
Based on current research and my own experience as a coach, creatine is a safe and effective supplement for athletes. If your goals involve increasing strength, improving body composition, or sprinting faster, creatine is certainly worth considering. It also has the added benefits of reducing muscle cramps and attenuating core temperature which can be especially beneficial for CrossFit athletes.
Still have a question about creatine? Feel free to post it here on the blog or on our Facebook page. I’ll either answer your question directly or in a future post.
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10. Greenwood, Michael, et al. Creatine supplementation during college football training does not increase the incidence of cramping or injury. Molecular and cellular biochemistry 244.1-2 (2003): 83-88.
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