Besides protein, creatine ranks amongst one of the top supplements purchased within the fitness industry. It’s widely used by athletes of all sports as well as those looking to increase muscle mass and density. It’s incredibly cheap to buy and it usually comes in a powder form as well as in capsules.
There has been a scare with the use of creatine in the news lately – apparently contributing to a police officer’s assault on a student as well as the cause of death in high school football players. As many of us know, the media tends to exaggerate to make a story and creatine was unlikely to be the cause of either of these instances.
Although it may seem like a perfect, problem-free supplement, creatine does present some side effects that could lead to more serious problems down the road as well as in the immediate future. Debunking some of side effects will help you to continue to take this supplement on end and make some serious gains. Knowing how creatine works and how it’s prescribed to be used are both crucial elements into avoiding the entire catastrophe all together.
What is it and how’s it used?
Creatine plain and simple is this: a supplement that helps the body produce more energy (ATP) at a quicker rate. This affects all of us fitness buffs in the sense that the more energy we have, the harder we can push our body in the gym to further breakdown muscle and present the opportunity for muscle growth. Creatine works by pulling water from inside the body into the muscle being worked. This is crucial for muscle growth and performance because it flushes more nutrients in the muscle, primarily oxygen-rich blood, because of the water it shove into the muscle cells creating a greater pump and also creating a healthier muscle as a whole.
It’s typically used by individuals that participate in exercises that have short bursts of energy (for example lifting weights, football, sprinting and baseball). Those who perform more aerobic or endurance-based exercise have been studied and it’s not necessarily beneficial for those types of athletes because of water retention that does promote some cramping with repeated movements for long periods of time.
Side Effect #1: Dehydration
Since the main function of creatine is to pull water from the body and flush them into the cells, dehydration is a risk that has been found to be very associated with use. Reports now show that creatine does help to hold water within the body when properly hydrated throughout the day as well as throughout the exercise/sport. This is why it’s not typically used with those athletes performing non-anaerobic exercises and sports – the threat of muscle cramping and dehydration from the constant movement of H20 into the muscles and away from the rest of the body.
Staying hydrated (above and beyond the normal half your body weight in ounces of water protocol) is what’s recommended for those supplementing with creatine to avoid possible dehydration.
Side Effect #2: Stomach Pain
Stomach pain has been reported in creatine users but only on a minimal scale (about 5%-7% of users experience any sort of stomach aches). The most stomach pain reported tends to come from those individuals who load with creatine, which is a high dosage to get it properly absorbed within the body. These side effects usually go away after the loading phase is completed.
In other instances, purchasing micronized creatine – the purest form – will usually help those that do have stomach issues by taking in no additional additives.
Side Effect #3: Weight Gain
This side effect may be a goal for many but some gym-goers hate to see that scale go anywhere but down. Initially when taking creatine, you will retain a lot of water which will in turn lead to weight gain because of the loading phase, though weight gain has actually been known to drop off though whenever the low-dosage period sets in. Since creatine does relate directly to greater energy output, your metabolic rate will increase and boost metabolism, relating in muscle growth and fat loss. This is good weight gain!
Bearing in mind that creatine isn’t for everyone, it does have some incredible benefits when used correctly. Don’t let the side effects scare you- read your labels and do some research on whether or not it’s something you should be putting in your body!