There are pros and cons to everything. And today, we will discuss the pros and cons of creatine use. This is a research-reviewed article excerpt from journals.
No matter how hard you work out—running, cycling, lifting weights, combat sports, or something else—your body needs fuel. Good nutrition and adequate hydration are needed to keep your muscles functioning optimally and make your hard work pay off. Contrarily, depriving yourself of nutrients can undermine your exercise routine.
There is much more to nutrition than food and water; this includes supplements available in various forms, including pills, powders, and sports drinks. Creatine has been used as a supplement by athletes and trainers for a long time.
Creatine is a natural compound and organic substance, most of which is found in the muscles and muscle tissue. It is also found in foods such as meat and fish. Creatine is a well-known performance booster and improves performance more than any other effective supplement that helps muscles make more energy and enhances sports performance. This is why athletes use it so much.
The Question is, “Is Creatine Safe?”
Creatine has become one of the most popular dietary supplements worldwide. Consequently, it is generally considered safe. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, there is no scientific evidence that short- or long-term creatine monohydrate use negatively affects otherwise healthy individuals.
The authors say that creatine is the best nutritional supplement on the market for increasing the ability to do high-intensity exercise and lean body mass during training. Creatine monohydrate has been one of the most popular sports supplements since supplement brand EAS introduced the first creatine supplement under Phosphagen in the early 1990s. The rest is now past.
The primary function of creatine is to produce and generate Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s natural energy source. Creatine supplementation has been shown to enhance the performance of fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are recruited for activities requiring quick energy bursts, such as weightlifting, sprinting, and functional training. Despite the clinical evidence supporting creatine monohydrate as an ergogenic aid, there are a few disadvantages that everyone should be aware of before deciding whether to use it.
Creatine supplements can be controversial. Others question its safety and effectiveness, while some swear by it. Still, others are concerned about the morality of using a legal performance-enhancing substance. This article will examine the benefits and adverse effects of creatine. Then, it is up to you to determine if creatine supplementation is the best option for you.
Despite this, no supplement is ideal for everyone. And even creatine, with all of its scientific support, can have adverse effects and side effects for some users. Let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of taking creatine monohydrate so you can make a better, more informed decision before clicking the “buy it now” button.
What Exactly is Creatine?
Creatine is a substance that aids in muscle energy production. It is composed of amino acids, the protein’s building blocks. It is produced naturally in our bodies, is present in many of the foods we consume, and is manufactured as a supplement.
In the bodybuilding and fitness communities, creatine is one of the most popular dietary supplements. In sports, creatine is beneficial as a performance enhancer for activities requiring short, intense bursts of energy or in the loading phase (think weightlifting, sprinting, high jumping, and football).
Creatine is a legal substance under the rules of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) because it occurs naturally in the human body and is present in numerous food sources.
What is Creatine Used For?
Creatine is primarily utilized as a supplement for muscle growth and energy supply. Numerous studies have demonstrated that it increases strength and enhances exercise performance and muscle mass. It is believed to increase power output during intense exercise temporarily. Creatine supplementation over the long term may result in greater gains in strength and sprint performance and an increase in lean body mass.
In a position paper published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine’s safety as a performance enhancer is praised. According to the report, creatine supplementation may also improve post-exercise recovery, injury prevention, thermoregulation, rehabilitation, concussion, and/or spinal cord neuroprotection.
In addition, creatine’s potential benefits in the treatment and/or prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia have been investigated.
Creatine HCl versus Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine monohydrate is the most studied and well-known form of creatine. It is inexpensive, widely accessible, and highly effective for enhancing high-intensity athletic performance. Numerous studies demonstrate the safety and efficacy of creatine monohydrate as a dietary supplement.
Creatine hydrochloride is another form of creatine utilized by some athletes (or creatine HCl). Creatine HCl is appealing due to its solubility. It has been demonstrated in the laboratory to be significantly more soluble than creatine monohydrate, meaning that it dissolves in water significantly faster.
The natural assumption is that creatine HCl will also be absorbed into the body more rapidly, thereby aiding in the reduction of stomach cramping, a side effect of creatine monohydrate. However, there isn’t much evidence to support this theory.
How does Creatine Function in the Body?
Most of the creatine in your body is stored in your muscle cells.
It is obtained from meat and fish; the body can also produce it from amino acids.
Diet and natural creatine levels do not typically optimize muscle creatine stores.
A person weighing in the normal range of 70 – 72 kilograms (154 -158 pounds) typically has creatine stores of 120 mmol/kg, but taking creatine supplements can increase these stores to around 160 mmol/kg.
During high-intensity workouts, stored creatine aids in producing more energy by the muscles. This is the primary reason why creatine improves physical performance.
Once your muscle creatine stores are full, any excess is converted to creatinine, which is then metabolized by your liver and excreted in your urine.
Creatine: Is it a Steroid?
Some incorrectly assert that creatine is an anabolic steroid, unsuitable for women and adolescents and that only professional athletes and bodybuilders should use it.
Despite this negative press, the International Society of Sports Nutrition concludes that creatine is one of the safest and most effective sports supplements.
After consuming creatine supplements for 21 months, 69 health markers were examined in one study. It discovered no negative effects.
Creatine has also been used to treat neuromuscular disorders, concussions, diabetes, and muscle loss.
Is it Safe to Take Creatine Regularly?
Daily consumption of creatine supplements is safe, even over several years.
There is no evidence that people who consume high doses of creatine (30 grams/day) for up to five years will experience adverse side effects.
Research indicates that athletes who took creatine supplements daily for extended periods of time experienced positive health benefits.
The research into the safety and effectiveness of creatine spans 25 years. The majority of results indicate that creatine supplementation to enhance athletic performance and treat several diseases is generally safe.
As with any nutritional supplement, creatine does have side effects. Some are mild, while others immediately threaten your health if left untreated.
Today, we will discuss the pros and cons of creatine supplementation. There are both creatine pros as well as cons. This information should help you determine whether creatine is beneficial or harmful to your health.
Pros of Using Creatine
1. Creatine’s Benefits Include its Ability to Protect the Brain from Neurodegenerative Diseases.
The potential benefit of using creatine to protect patients’ brains from neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s is described in a study. Alzheimer’s disease primarily affects memory and cognition, severely impairing one’s ability to recognize previously familiar people, places, and things.
Parkinson’s disease, however, affects movement regulation in the brain, resulting in tremors and slowed movement. Advanced Parkinson’s disease may also involve dementia, manifesting as Alzheimer-like symptoms.
The supplementation of creatine shows promise in addressing the underlying causes of these diseases, particularly when administered at an early stage. This is large because creatine is an energy booster, and energy loss due to brain dysfunction is a significant factor in neurodegenerative diseases.
Creatine also protects neurons in the brain that produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter absent in neurodegenerative diseases. Creatine improves the mood of patients, enables patients to take smaller doses of medications, and reduces the side effects of the medications.
2. Helps to Maintain a Healthy Blood Sugar Level.
According to a study, creatine aids in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, thereby preventing diabetes. Researchers have discovered that individuals who supplement with creatine have an increase in the protein that transports glucose into and out of cells, which may be related to better glycemic control.
Taking creatine supplements can also alter your body’s response to insulin in the bloodstream, reducing blood sugar levels. Without signals from the insulin circulating in your blood, your cells will not permit glucose to pass through them freely.
If this occurs, your cells may starve, and glucose will accumulate in the blood. Without sufficient insulin to combat this accumulation, diabetes may develop or worsen. As a result, creatine can benefit individuals with diabetes or hypoglycemia.
3. Enhances and Supports Brain Function
Creatine is an essential neuroprotectant, meaning that it can aid in the protection of nerve cells from environmental hazards. Creatine supplements replenish the brain’s creatine stores, typically depleted due to lack of sleep or stress.
As mentioned previously, creatine plays a role in energy production, which benefits the brain. Without creatine, your brain cells cannot perform this vital function, which requires ATP energy.
When you supplement with creatine, your brain’s energy levels increase, reducing fatigue and enhancing memory functions. In addition, this increase in energy metabolism promotes the regeneration of brain cells, which can reduce the symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases.
It is also believed that creatine helps the brain endure trauma caused by producing reactive oxygen species. These small molecules, which include oxygen ions, free radicals, and peroxides, can damage cell structures. Their damage to cell structures may lay the groundwork for numerous neurodegenerative diseases.
4. Augments Muscle Mass
Creatine enhances the body’s ability to build muscle, resulting in significant gains compared to resistance training alone. Creatine is one of the few legal supplements that can increase muscle mass combined with exercise. In addition, among the few legal substances that can accomplish this, creatine is not only the most effective but also has the strongest scientific backing.
A study that followed participants for eight weeks revealed that supplementing with creatine increased muscle mass when combined with exercise. Specifically, bench press strength increased, and participants had lower levels of myostatin, a protein that inhibits the growth of muscle cells.
Creatine can benefit both novice and experienced weightlifters. One study involving advanced athletes found that supplementing with creatine increased muscle mass by 5.7 pounds, allowing athletes to add 24 pounds to their bicep curl and 70 pounds to their leg press with only one repetition. In addition, a review of over 150 studies revealed that supplementing with creatine led to an average increase of 2.2% in lean body mass and a decrease of 3.2% in body fat.
5. Enhances Strength and Stamina.
A meta-analysis reveals that supplementation with creatine enhances the weightlifting abilities of young men who engage in resistance training. Creatine increases phosphocreatine levels, which in turn increases ATP energy production. The primary fuel source for high-intensity workouts is ATP energy, which increases strength and power.
In a four-week study of athletes, creatine supplementation resulted in an average 17% improvement in cycling sprints, an 18-pound increase in one repetition of bench presses, and a 20% increase in workload when employing a lighter weight. Creatine improves multiple aspects of both strength and endurance. The estimated average increase is approximately 5%.
6. Enhanced Resistance to Fatigue
Creatine has been shown to aid in resistance to fatigue by exercise and other athletic activities. One of the most exhaustive studies on creatine and fatigue resistance followed patients with traumatic brain injuries for six months. Patients who were supplemented with creatine experienced a 50% reduction in vertigo compared to patients who did not take creatine.
Also, while 10% of patients who received creatine felt fatigued or reported having low energy during this study, 80% of patients in the control group experienced these symptoms. In cases of sleep deprivation, exercise-induced, and heat-related fatigue, creatine may also reduce fatigue.
7. Enhances Performance During High-Intensity Exercise.
According to a study, creatine supplementation during high-intensity interval training has improved performance. Creatine increases the body’s production of phosphocreatine, a crucial component in energy production. Phosphocreatine is also crucial for enhancing athletic performance during exercises with varying intensities and durations, such as high-intensity interval training.
In fact, according to researchers, creatine is one of the most effective supplements for high-intensity exercise. Over 70% of studies have demonstrated a strong positive correlation between creatine supplementation and enhanced performance in high-intensity exercise. In comparison, the remaining 30% have demonstrated a small positive effect, meaning no negative effects have ever been identified.
8. Facilitates Muscle Repair Following Injury
A study suggests that creatine aids in the recovery of athletically-induced muscle damage. Using creatine supplements can increase the glucose transport protein found in striated muscle and prevent a decrease in this protein during muscle repair after an injury. This means that using creatine during rehabilitation after an injury can improve muscle tissue’s ability to produce energy efficiently and prevent fatigue.
Even though the size and strength of one’s muscles can diminish during periods of immobilization, supplementing with creatine can accelerate recovery in both of these factors that contribute to one’s strength during rehabilitation following an injury. This, in turn, reduces the amount of time an injury could keep you from exercising.
9. Potential as a Depression Treatment.
Initial findings from a study indicate that creatine may aid in treating depression, though additional research is required. In this study, 52 women diagnosed with major depressive disorder and aged between 19 and 65 were randomly assigned to receive either creatine or a placebo in addition to the antidepressant Lexapro.
As measured by the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, the results of this study revealed that those who took creatine in addition to their antidepressant had a better mood than those who took a placebo. These enhancements were still evident four and eight weeks after the study’s conclusion.
10. Enhances Mental Performance
In a study by the University of Sydney, supplementing with creatine for six weeks improved the participants’ mental performance. This study demonstrated that creatine has the potential to improve memory and intelligence. The participants who took creatine demonstrated enhanced working memory, decreased mental fatigue, and increased intelligence.
Creatine’s ability to enhance mental performance and productivity is still the subject of ongoing research. It has been demonstrated, however, that the amount of creatine required to achieve these mental benefits exceeds what could be obtained through diet alone; therefore, a supplement is required.
Cons of Creatine Use
1. Creatine Induces Abdominal Bloating.
Some creatine users have experienced bloating during the loading phase or at the beginning of their supplementation regimen. During the loading phase, individuals consume 20–25 grams of creatine daily for approximately one week. After the loading phase, the maintenance dose ranges from 3 to 5 grams daily to maintain optimal muscle stores.
During the loading phase, the body increases both its muscle mass and its water absorption, which frequently results in bloating. This phase may also result in a substantial increase in body water composition. During this phase, people gain between one and two percent of their body weight, including water weight.
This temporary increase in body water and bloating caused by creatine is resolved within a few weeks. To avoid bloating, you can skip the loading phase and begin with the maintenance dose of 3 to 5 grams daily.
2. Results in Diarrhea.
Some users have experienced diarrhea while taking 10 grams of creatine daily. Creatine remains in the intestines if the body cannot digest it completely. Typically, this supplement draws water from various body areas, which then absorbs into muscle tissue. This means that when creatine is present in the intestines, it will continue to absorb water, but the water will build up in the intestines.
This influx of water in your intestines interferes with your digestion. The presence of excess water in the intestines leads to diarrhea. To avoid diarrhea while taking creatine, take no more than three to five grams daily since taking too much at once can cause diarrhea. Also, take your medication throughout the day rather than all at once. Lastly, when supplementing with creatine, consume a great deal of water.
3. Worsens Kidney Disease.
Creatine can worsen kidney disease in those who already have it or cause kidney disease in diabetics. People suffering from these conditions should not take creatine. Muscles, the brain, and other tissues convert creatine to phosphocreatine to store both the creatine your body produces naturally and the supplemented creatine you consume. Then, when your body recycles ATP, creatinine is produced as a byproduct.
Your kidneys excrete creatinine naturally, so if your kidney function is impaired, your creatinine clearance decreases. The creatinine levels in your blood are the most commonly used indicator of your kidney health, so elevated levels indicate that your kidneys are in poor health.
4. It Leads to Weight Gain.
Creatine promotes weight gain by increasing muscle water retention. Although weight gain is desirable for bodybuilders, athletes in other sports (such as martial arts) may not appreciate this side effect. The amount of weight gain you may experience depends on your unique genetics and the amount of creatine you consume through your regular diet and supplements.
While this weight gain may be due to increased muscle mass, the additional pounds are also due to water weight. Because creatine helps create the energy that your muscles need to function, when you take these supplements, the amount of creatine in your muscle cells increases, thereby attracting water. This can result in an increase in both muscle mass and water weight, both of which contribute to weight gain.
5. Interacts with Specific Drugs and Can Produce Dangerous Side Effects.
Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs interact with creatine and increase the risk of kidney damage. Before beginning creatine supplementation, it is advisable to consult your physician if you are taking medications that affect liver or kidney function.
Because some medications are hard on the kidneys and creatine can also cause the kidneys to work harder, it is best to avoid combining the two. When creatine is combined with an NSAID, the risk of developing kidney damage is increased.
6. Has Been Connected to Irregular Heartbeats.
It has been documented that creatine supplementation caused arrhythmia, or an irregular heartbeat, in one individual. Heart palpitations are not necessarily harmful unless you have another underlying medical condition. Because creatine increases the intensity and duration of exercise you can perform, your heart rate must increase to keep up with your increased activity and the amount of creatine absorbed by your muscles.
Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, which can co-occur with creatine supplementation, may contribute to an irregular heartbeat when using creatine. If creatine affects your heart and causes irregular heartbeats, you may wish to discontinue these supplements to alleviate the symptoms.
7. Results in Dizziness.
Creatine side effects include lightheadedness. There are reports of creatine users experiencing dizziness or lightheadedness during exercise. This is uncommon, but some individuals may experience it.
Also possible are fainting and dizziness; if you experience these symptoms, you should stop exercising until they subside. However, remember that lightheadedness can also be caused by excessive exercise, which reduces the amount of oxygen sent to the brain. This suggests that experiencing dizziness after consuming creatine may not always be a direct result of the supplement.
8. It is Associated with Testicular Cancer.
Men who take creatine supplements have an increased risk of developing testicular cancer. Some creatine supplements may also contain impurities or inactive ingredients not listed on the product label, and the natural components of creatine may act similarly to synthetic hormones.
In addition, some creatine supplements may contain androgenic steroids, which have been shown to cause testicular cancer in rats. Along with other muscle-building supplements, the FDA is concerned about their long-term effect on cancer cell growth.
9. It May Induce Dehydration.
Creatine absorbs water from other tissues and stores it in the muscles. Even though the amount of water taken from cells is minimal, it can still contribute to dehydration.
This concern is large because creatine causes muscle water retention. In addition, muscle cramps are a common side effect of creatine, frequently occurring when the body is not absorbing enough water. Constantly sipping water throughout the day will ensure adequate water intake to prevent dehydration.
10. The Possibility of Ingesting Contaminants.
If you purchase creatine from unreliable sources, you risk receiving an impure product containing chemical additives and other impurities. Numerous herbal compounds on the market lack manufacturing standards and regulations, and some creatine supplements have been found to contain toxic metals or other drugs.
To minimize the risk of contamination, you should purchase creatine supplements from a reputable and trustworthy source. The FDA has not evaluated creatine for its safety, efficacy, or purity. The risks associated with this supplement may not be fully understood.
11. Easily Accessible to Adolescents.
Although creatine is generally regarded as a safe supplement, medical organizations discourage adolescents from using it as a dietary supplement due to the potential risks it poses to children and adolescents. However, adolescents can easily purchase creatine. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Sports Medicine concur that athletes under 18 should not supplement with creatine.
Long-term use can damage not only the liver but also the ability of other organs to eliminate toxins. This means that if a child (who is naturally still developing) begins to use creatine, it may lead to organ dysfunction and affect future organ function.
If you are considering using creatine, you should seek the advice of a physician. You may also wish to consult with a health supplement-trained specialist.
If you decide to take creatine, be sure to follow your doctor’s or other healthcare professional’s instructions. It is important not to exceed the recommended dosage of creatine, as doing so may adversely affect your heart, kidneys, and liver.
Creatine supplements may be more effective when consumed alongside a meal high in carbohydrates. However, remember that your muscle tissue can only store a limited amount of creatine.
This means that taking this supplement excessively will not increase its effectiveness. If you choose to take creatine, drink plenty of water during your workouts to prevent dehydration, heat stroke, and electrolyte imbalance.