Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid-like compound used by tens of thousands of athletes worldwide to increase their strength, power, muscle mass and explosive performance.
Despite this, creatine is still shrouded in mystery and rife with misinformation—often thanks to irresponsible journalism and media hyperbole. So, buckle up. Your previous notion of creatine is about to be blown out of the water.
Myth: Creatine is just for weightlifters and football players.
Athletes competing in sports like soccer, hockey, lacrosse and basketball can benefit from creatine, as it has been shown to reduce fatigue during repeated bouts of intense exercise. Even endurance athletes can benefit from low-dose creatine supplementation (3-5 grams per day), because it helps muscles store more glycogen, a readily available source of energy.
Myth: Creatine causes muscle cramps, pulls, strains, kidney damage and dehydration.
Not a single placebo-controlled, double-blind study of healthy athletes has ever demonstrated that creatine consumption produces these effects. In a three-year study of Division I football players, the incidence of muscle cramps, pulls/strains, tightness and dehydration was generally lower (or no different) in players taking creatine compared to those not using it.
As a side note, if you frequently cramp, eat foods rich in magnesium, potassium and sodium (especially on the day of the event), and stay hydrated.
Myth: Creatine is just for muscles.
Simple logic: creatine is found mostly in meats, so if you don’t eat meat regularly—or (gulp) not at all—you will have sub-optimal levels of creatine in your muscles and brain. According to an Australian study, vegetarians given 5 grams of creatine per day for six weeks experienced notable improvements in working memory and intelligence after the “deficiency” was corrected. In addition, at least one study suggests that creatine can improve the mood states of people who are sleep-deprived.
Also, recent research at Yale University’s School of Medicine demonstrates that creatine increases the overall energy capacity of the brain. Since a concussion often leads to a temporary alteration in the energy metabolism of the brain, athletes who supplement with creatine may reduce the severity of, and/or improve their recovery from, a concussion.
Personally, my kids use creatine and fish oil as their “nutritional headgear” during their football and soccer seasons.
Myth: Creatine monohydrate has not been studied for long-term safety.
Since 1992, hundreds of studies have been published demonstrating the safety of creatine monohydrate supplementation. My personal favorite is Creapure, which I take immediately after I work out (I take 5 grams along with a post-workout meal or shake). Use any other type of creatine that is claimed to be “superior”—for example, creatine ethyl ester, creatine malate, creatine citrate, creatine orotate—and you’re swimming in uncharted waters with no long-term safety data (insert Jaws soundtrack).
- Greenwood M., Kreider R.B., Melton C., Rasmussen C., Lancaster S., Cantler E., Milnor P., Almada A. “Creatine supplementation during college football training does not increase the incidence of cramping or injury.” Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 2003 Feb;244(1-2):83-8.
- Rae, C., Digney, A., McEwan, S., Bates, T. “Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial.” Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, 2003 October 22; 270(1529): 2147–2150.
- McMorris T., et al. “Effect of creatine supplementation and sleep deprivation, with mild exercise, on cognitive and psychomotor performance, mood state, and plasma concentrations of catecholamines and cortisol.” Psychopharmacology (2006) 185: 93-103.
- Pan, J.W and Takahashi, K. “Cerebral energetic effects of creatine supplementation in humans.” American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. 2007 April ; 292(4): R1745–R1750.