Creatine has long been used by bodybuilders and elite athletes to increase levels of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), our primary source of energy during high intensity exercise. It can also help you resist fatigue, recover quicker, and boost strength.
Although it is one of the most effective and popular supplements on the market, many fitness enthusiasts don't add it to their basket because of rumoured side effects and a complicated loading phase. But are these reasons justified?
Supplement expert Mark Gilbert debunks these myths, and explains how your DNA can affect your creatine response.
1. Creatine makes you “Look Soft” & “Retain Water”
Some coaches and trainers insist that the extra water the body holds, as a result of creatine supplementation, is stored between the skin and the muscle, thus blurring your six-pack. In fact, in my conversations with Dr Paul Greenhaff and Dr Mark Tarnopolsky – who have conducted well over 100 published scientific studies on creatine - Dr Greenhaff said, “The vast majority of creatine is stored in skeletal muscle…[so] it is difficult to understand how creatine would increase subcutaneous water content.” 'Subcutaneous' basically means under the skin. Dr Tarnopolsky had a similar opinion.
2. Creatine Is Not Safe
A roundtable discussion between 12 of the world’s foremost creatine experts that was published by the American College of Sports Medicine has found no substantial evidence that creatine has any negative side effects (except weight gain), and a more recent scientific review concluded that “no medically significant side effects have been reported in literature.”
3. Creatine is just for Bodybuilders
Creatine improves performance and muscle endurance in intense exercise activities like weight lifting and sprinting and increases lean muscle size, so anyone who desires these effects can use it. There is also evidence that it may help treat diseases associated with muscle weakness, fatty liver disease, crohn’s and age-related muscle and bone loss.
4. It requires a complicated loading phase
Research done by the world’s most experienced creatine scientists - Dr. Eric Hultman and Dr. Paul Greenhaff concluded that it is “likely” that taking as little as three grams of creatine per day for four weeks could have the same results as loading. However, other studies found no increase in muscle creatine concentration using two grams of creatine per day even after six weeks. So it is probably best to take 5g per day or if you want quick results, load on 5g, four times per day for five days and take 5g daily thereafter.
5. You need to 'cycle' creatine
Many experts recommend cycling creatine - taking it for two or three months and then coming off. Initially, this was suggested because creatine’s safety had not been established but this is no longer an issue. It’s also been proposed that taking it for long periods would decrease creatine’s uptake and effectiveness. However, this has been disproven in human studies.
6. You need to take a 'new' form of creatine
Some companies are selling fancy new creatine products that may not be any better than plain, old, cheap, creatine monohydrate. The evidence for many of these new creatines isn't very strong or doesn't exist at all! In fact, the vast majority of studies have been done on the monohydrate form.
7. Creatine Affects Everyone the Same
How well creatine works for you depends primarily on your diet and genetics. If you eat a lot of meat and fish, then the effects are likely to be less dramatic. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, then you can expect greater gains from creatine. Genetically, creatine affects multiple pathways involved in muscle growth, repair, regulation and cell survival and different people respond to a different degree.
For instance, because creatine supplementation delays lactate accumulation (the exercise bi-product that is associated with reducing intense exercise performance), males with AT or TT and females with the TT version of the MCT1 gene may respond even better to creatine supplementation. Also, those with the AC or CC alleles of the IL-15RA gene, who’s muscles don’t grow as much in proportion to their strength increases, should try taking creatine if they want bigger biceps!
So to find out how creatine might work for you, check your FitnessGenes Test!