By WIN Provider: Dr. Conner Overstrom, Chiropractor
When the use of creatine as a performance supplement burst onto the scene in the 1990’s, it brought with it many myths and misconceptions. In recent years creatine supplementation has become one of the most researched performance supplements next to caffeine. In 2007, the International Society of Sports Nutrition released a position statement regarding creatine supplementation and exercise, which outlined some common misconceptions and coupled this with strong evidence to refute these myths and show that creatine is in fact a safe and effective supplement for sports performance (2).
The scientific name for “creatine” is phosphocreatine “PCr” which is actually made by our own bodies. Phosphocreatine is used by our bodies to build ATP which is the main energy molecule our body uses to perform movement as well as other bodily functions.
During intense exercise our creatine stores are rapidly depleted therefore leading to a decrease in ATP production ultimately causing fatigue. The main action with creatine supplementation is that muscle creatine stores are increased and therefore more ATP can be made during high intensity exercise causing greater training adaptions. These training adaptations are caused by increased ability to perform more volume of work (reps/sets), and better quality of work (fatigue not setting in as quickly).
Dietary sources of creatine can include meats and fish, but these dietary sources do not provide enough creatine to reach our bodies creatine storage capabilities. In a normal diet that contains about 1-2 grams per day of creatine, muscle creatine stores are about 60-80% saturated. This means that dietary supplementation of creatine can lead to increased muscle creatine and phosphocreatine by 20-40%.
According to current literature, a safe and effective way to add creatine supplementation into the diet is to ingest 3-5 grams per day.
It is also advised that the most effective way to ingest creatine is to combine it with carbohydrate or carbohydrate and protein (ie. mix in a liquid that contains some carbohydrate, or mix in your protein shake that contains a source of carbohydrate)
Evidence-based research clearly shows creatine monohydrate to be the optimal choice when choosing your “type” of creatine
List of Benefits of creatine according to a large body of research:
- Creatine monohydrate appears to be the most effective nutritional supplement available in term of improving lean body mass and anaerobic capacity
- Creatine Monohydrate has also been shown to be very beneficial in recovery after exercise bouts
- Enhance tolerance to exercise in the heat
- Enhanced rehabilitation from injury
- *There are too many benefits to list on this blog post, if you want the full list have a peek at the articles I have listed at the end of the blog*
- Available short and long-term studies in healthy and diseased populations, from infants to the elderly, at dosages ranging from 0.3 to 0.8 g/kg/day for up to 5 years have consistently shown that creatine supplementation poses no adverse health risks and may provide a number of health and performance benefits
- Performance-related studies in adolescents, younger individuals, and older populations have consistently reported performance benefits with no clinically significant side effects
A big knock against creatine that I often hear is, “doesn’t it make your muscles hold water?”, and “will it make me puffy?”. According to a large body of research only about 30% of people who supplement with creatine with “hold water” in their muscles, and this seems to be a very short phase which will pass quickly. The benefits of creatine supplementation far outweigh this minor drawback.
To conclude, Antonio et al. summed up what the scientific evidence says on creatine supplementation, and busted various myths regarding it. This is what they had to say:
- Creatine supplementation does not always lead to water retention.
- Creatine is not an anabolic steroid.
- Creatine supplementation, when ingested at recommended dosages, does not result in kidney damage and/or renal dysfunction in healthy individuals.
- The majority of available evidence does not support a link between creatine supplementation and hair loss / baldness.
- Creatine supplementation does not cause dehydration or muscle cramping.
- Creatine supplementation appears to be generally safe and potentially beneficial for children and adolescents.
- Creatine supplementation does not increase fat mass.
- Smaller, daily dosages of creatine supplementation (3-5 g or 0.1 g/kg of body mass) are effective. Therefore, a creatine ‘loading’ phase is not required.
- Creatine supplementation and resistance training produces the vast majority of musculoskeletal and performance benefits in older adults. Creatine supplementation alone can provide some muscle and performance benefits for older adults.
- Creatine supplementation can be beneficial for a variety of athletic and sporting activities.
- Creatine supplementation provides a variety of benefits for females across their lifespan.
- Other forms of creatine are not superior to creatine monohydrate.
If you’ve read this far, I applaud you and I hope that you learned that creatine monohydrate is a safe and effective supplement to add into your routine. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss more about this topic I would love to chat, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On top of this, if you would like to learn how to implement this and build a training program to go along with this you can come see me for a Chiropractic at WIN Health Clinic in Niagara Falls and I would be happy to help.
Thanks for reading,
- Antonio, J., Candow, D. G., Forbes, S. C., Gualano, B., Jagim, A. R., Kreider, R. B., Rawson, E. S., Smith-Ryan, A. E., VanDusseldorp, T. A., Willoughby, D. S., & Ziegenfuss, T. N. (2021). Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 18(1), 13. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
- Buford, T. W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., & Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4, 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-4-6
- Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., Candow, D. G., Kleiner, S. M., Almada, A. L., & Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14, 18. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z