Creatine supplementation is one of the most highly debated supplements around most gyms. Individuals often make comments about creatine users having water filled muscles, or that their muscle growth is unnatural. You also hear about creatine mood swings and bloating. Some individuals claim that creatine is a waste of money.
Creatine supplementation sales are estimated at $14 billion a year. So, why are there so many negative remarks on creatine supplementation? Most of the negative remarks come from old research that stated creatine could cause liver problems, mood swings, and bloating. Old research also stated that creatine retained water, causing many sceptics to believe that the muscle gains were not real.
Creatine is obviously a popular form of supplementation, but it still has many unanswered questions on its effects. I am going to discuss what creatine is, along with the benefits and risks it provides.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is naturally produced in the body, mostly in muscle and brain tissue. Creatine can also be found in red meats and seafood. Creatine can be supplemented in an unflavored or flavored powder form. The purpose of creatine is to give the body energy by helping increase its rate of producing ATP.
What are the benefits of Creatine?
ATP is often referred to as the body’s main energy source. By providing the body with more energy, creatine leads to enhanced performance. Creatine can help prevent muscle fatigue from occurring rapidly, giving an individual the energy they need to perform an extra repetition in a set. This ability to perform extra repetitions in a set can lead to increased intensity during a workout, and subsequently more muscle growth.
Providing an ample amount of energy for muscle cells also helps increase muscle recovery, which can lead to increased muscle growth. Creatine helps promote lean muscle mass, which is a goal for many lifters. Creatine also leads to an increase in muscle mass because of the increase in water to the muscles. It is important to note that individuals supplementing with creatine need to perform resistance training with it to see benefits. Dempsey (2002).
A combination of creatine supplementation along with resistance training led to increases in maximal weight lifted in young males. Most individuals want to improve performance, and are willing to go a great length to do so. Creatine dosage used to consist of a loading phase that led to increased bloating, and was often hard for individuals to follow. Creatine dosage does not require a loading phase and can consist of taking 3-5g daily.
Side Effects of Creatine
With all of the benefits creatine provides, especially in performance, why is society often against creatine supplementation? New research has shown that creatine supplementation can be considered harmless when taken correctly. Most research shows no harmful effects with creatine supplementation of up to 6 months when properly used.
Just like any other type of dietary supplement, some negative side effects can occur when taken improperly. Some examples of reported negative side effects may include weight gain, muscle cramps, strains and pulls, upset stomach, diarrhoea, dizziness, high blood pressure, liver dysfunction, and kidney damage. Although the side effects sound severe, the chance of them occurring is low. These side effects are also very common in any type of supplementation depending on your lifestyle, medical condition, and use of other medications.
Creatine can lead to increased dehydration from retaining water in the muscles, so it is important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of fluids while supplementing. You need to be drinking at least 1/2 a gallon of water a day just to maintain normal bodily function, so when supplementing with creatine it is a good idea to drink at least a gallon of water a day to keep yourself hydrated. Why not get yourself a ½ Gallon Hydrator or a Gallon Hydrator to make sure you’re drinking enough.
Proper supplementation of creatine does not result in a high risk of developing any of these side effects, and has been shown to be safe. Remember to stick to the recommended daily dosage of 3-5g daily.
Take Home Message
The benefits of creatine far outweigh its risks when correctly supplemented. If you are serious about making muscle gains, and need something to boost your performance, creatine is a safe supplement that can lead to increased performance and strength gains. Future research needs to be done on creatine to discuss long-term effects of creatine supplementation, but research has been heading in the right direction. The idea behind creatine supplementation is to enhance energy production, which then leads to an increase in performance. Creatine is not a dangerous supplement when supplemented correctly. Make sure to do plenty of research on the topic, and decide for yourself if creatine supplementation is right for you. Don’t knock it until you try it, or at least know the facts.