Creatine is a supplement often used by athletes and bodybuilders for high-intensity exercise to enhance strength, fight fatigue, and improve recovery. Although it is one of the most widely researched supplements in the field of sports nutrition, there are still a lot of misconceptions about it. So let’s debunk some of the most common myths about this popular supplement.
Myth: Creatine is like an anabolic steroid
In fact, creatine is not close to the chemical structure of a steroid molecule. Creatine is a compound that is derived from an amino acid . It is found naturally in your body and in foods (such as meat and fish). You store about 95% of your body’s creatine in your muscles. The remaining 5% is located in the brain, liver, and kidneys.
Creatine provides energy to the cells of the body, especially those found in muscles. Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is the molecule that your body mainly uses for energy. Creatine increases the body’s production of ATP. So by providing increased ATP, creatine can improve exercise performance.
Myth: You can use creatine to build muscle mass without exercising
Research has shown improved strength in people with muscular dystrophy who take creatine even though they haven’t exercised. However, in healthy humans, creatine consumption should be combined with resistance training in order to see an appreciable effect.
Myth: Take creatine before a long-distance race to run faster
Consuming creatine as a pre-workout supplement before a long-distance race will not improve your performance. While research strongly supports the benefit of high-intensity training, creatine has shown little effect on lower-intensity endurance workouts. However, runners can benefit from creatine if they include high-intensity sessions in their training regimen. With high-intensity training, runners can increase core strength, improve endurance, and improve running performance.
Myth: Creatine causes fat gain
The weight gain you see when starting to use creatine is not due to increased fat but is related to increased water content in muscle tissue. Creatine molecule attracts and pulls water strongly in your muscles.
Long-term, those who use creatine ; They may experience constant weight gain. However, this is generally due to increased muscle growth, and not due to increased body fat.
Myth: Creatine causes you to retain excess water
Many bodybuilders who use creatine believe that creatine supplementation causes the body to retain an extra amount of water which affects the appearance of their muscles, making them appear “soft”. So they stop taking creatine a few weeks before competition.
However, as previously described, the vast majority of creatine is stored in your muscles. Therefore, it would be difficult to explain how it caused water to pool under the skin (meaning “under the skin”). It is likely that the ‘soft’ appearance of water under the skin is not due to creatine itself, but rather is related to using a lower quality creatine product that may give you excess sodium.
Myth: Creatine cramps and dehydrates
Since creatine attracts water and is stored in your muscles, many assume that creatine supplementation significantly increases your body’s demand for water and exposes you to dehydration and cramps. However, no research has shown creatine to cause cramps and dehydration. In fact, there is some evidence that it may help reduce the risk of these conditions.
A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that taking creatine improved athletic efficiency in warm weather by maintaining body temperature by lowering heart rate and sweat rate. Another study in college athletes showed that creatine users had fewer cramps, dehydration, or muscle injuries compared to non-creatinine users.
For safe and effective workouts, you need to make sure you stay hydrated, but there is no need to consume ample amounts of water.
Myth: Once you stop taking creatine, you will lose the muscle that you gained
It is possible for your muscle size to decrease after you stop taking creatine. However, as long as you continue with all other aspects of your system including adequate nutrition and resistance training, you can maintain your strength and dry muscle mass.
Myth: There is no need to take creatine as a supplement because it is found in foods
While creatine is naturally present in some foods, you have to consume an unreasonably large amount of these foods in order to achieve the same benefit as an average dose of creatine supplement.
Myth: You have to use this newer form of creatine because it is better than creatine monohydrate
The vast majority (over 95%) of studies on the safety and efficacy of creatine have evaluated creatine monohydrate . Other forms of creatine are available that may have their own benefits, but there is almost not a lot of research on them.
Myth: In order for creatine monohydrate to be absorbed effectively, it must be taken with sugar
Your muscle tissue is able to absorb enough creatine on its own. Insulin can enhance muscle absorption of creatine. But insulin only does so when it is present in very high concentrations.
In order to have any real effect on absorption, you need to consume a relatively large dose (more than 100 grams) of sugar, or simple carbohydrates, which may not contribute to your health or athletic goals.
Myth: Creatine is only intended for male athletes
There is a common misconception that creatine is only suitable for male athletes and bodybuilders. However, other residents can definitely benefit. There is no evidence that creatine is not suitable for women or even the elderly.
Myth: Creatine requires a high dose loading phase when you first start using it
The most common ‘loading protocol’ is a daily dose of 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight for 5-7 days. After that, do not eat more than five grams a day. But there is research indicating that taking just three grams of creatine per day for four weeks can give you the same loading results.
Myth: Creatine needs to be cycled
Initially, experts recommended taking creatine for 2-3 months and then eliminating it. This cycle was indicated due to uncertainty about creatine safety. However, now that there is ample research, this is no longer a concern.
It has also been confirmed that taking creatine for prolonged periods may reduce its absorption and efficacy. But this, too, has not been proven in human studies.
Since creatine effects when it reaches the saturation point in the body, it may seem advisable to take creatine continuously.
Myth: Creatine increases your risk of developing rhabdomyolysis
One of the tests used to diagnose rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscles break down, is the level of creatine kinase (CK) in the blood. CK is an enzyme released by damaged muscles. While CK shows a slight increase in creatine supplementation, it is not close to the CK elevation associated with rhabdomyolysis.
Myth: Creatine upsets your stomach
While excessive doses of any supplement can lead to digestive problems, recommended doses of creatine rarely cause stomach upset. In one study, the recommended dose of 5 grams did not lead to any cases of gastrointestinal disturbances. But at a dose of 10 grams, the risk of developing diarrhea increased by 37%.
Hence, the recommended dose is 3-5 grams per day. Even if you are taking 20 grams per day, it is advised that you divide it into four doses of five grams throughout the day.
Myth: Creatine is bad for your kidneys
Creatine can slightly raise the levels of creatinine in the blood. Creatinine is a waste product that your muscles produce. Healthy kidneys filter creatinine, remove it from the blood and excrete it in the urine.
Doctors measure creatinine levels to get an idea of how well your kidneys are working. But a high creatinine level is an indicator of a potential health problem and not necessarily a problem in itself.
So while creatine supplements may increase your creatinine levels, this does not mean that they cause harm to your kidneys. A healthy kidney is able to handle this extra amount of creatine.
Studies have shown that short-term, medium-term, or long-term creatine supplementation does not lead to adverse effects on kidney function. There is little concern that creatine will damage your kidneys unless you have a previous kidney condition.
Note: As with any change in diet or dietary supplement regimen, you should consult your healthcare provider before embarking on a creatine supplement. This is especially important if you are taking medications that affect blood sugar or affect liver or kidney function. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, and those with any medical conditions should discuss plans to start using creatine with their health care providers.