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Creatine…enough already


Although well researched and proven over many years, people still ask about creatine. My intention of this article is to hopefully, put some of the questions to rest. Anytime you're questioned for your creatine use, feel free to share.


Creatine is a naturally-occurring compound that is found in small amounts in certain foods, such as red meat and fish. It is also available as a dietary supplement. Creatine is popular among athletes and bodybuilders because it is believed to enhance physical performance, particularly in regards to strength, endurance, and muscle growth (hypertrophy).


Research on creatine has been extensive, with numerous studies conducted over the past few decades. The overwhelming majority of these studies have found creatine to be safe and effective. One meta-analysis of creatine supplementation studies, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, found that creatine supplementation was associated with an increase in muscle strength and power, as well as muscle mass. Another meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, found that creatine supplementation improved endurance performance in high-intensity, intermittent exercise.


Despite the positive findings of these studies, there are still some concerns and myths about creatine that need to be addressed. One common concern is that creatine causes cramping and dehydration. However, studies have found that creatine supplementation does not increase the risk of cramping or dehydration. Another myth is that creatine is only effective for men, but this is also not true. Studies have found that creatine is effective for both men and women.


One issue that some people may experience while using creatine is bloating. This is because creatine causes the muscles to retain more water, which can lead to a feeling of fullness or bloating. However, this is not harmful and usually subsides once the body becomes accustomed to creatine.


Creatine causes the muscles to retain more water by increasing the uptake of water into muscle cells. When creatine is consumed, it is converted into phosphocreatine in the body. Phosphocreatine acts as a reservoir of high-energy phosphates, which are used to generate energy during high-intensity exercise. The increased uptake of water into muscle cells is necessary for the production of phosphocreatine, as it requires water to be present for the reactions to occur.


This increased uptake of water into muscle cells can lead to dehydration if not enough water is consumed. When the muscles retain more water, it can cause a feeling of fullness or bloating, which can lead to a decreased desire to drink water. Additionally, when the body is dehydrated, it can lead to a decrease in blood volume, which can cause the heart to work harder to pump blood to the muscles, leading to fatigue and decreased performance.


To prevent dehydration while using creatine, it's important to drink enough water and stay hydrated throughout the day. It's recommended to drink at least 8-10 cups of water per day (see previous water consumption blog), and even more when engaging in physical activity. Additionally, it's important to monitor your urine color, if it's light yellow or clear, it means you're well hydrated, if it's dark yellow or amber, it means you need to drink more water.


It's important to note that when using creatine, it's crucial to drink enough water. Creatine can cause the muscles to retain more water, which can lead to dehydration if not enough water is consumed. Additionally, drinking water can also help prevent bloating.


Overall, creatine is a safe and effective supplement that can enhance physical performance. It's important to note, however, that no supplement is a magic bullet, so it's important to maintain a healthy diet, regular exercise, and proper rest to achieve optimal results.


References:

  • Poortmans JR, Francaux M. Adverse effects of creatine supplementation: a review. Sports Med. 2000;29(3):163-82.

  • Kreider RB, Ferreira M, Wilson M, Grindstaff P, Plisk S, Reinardy J, Cantler E, Almada AL. Effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength, and sprint performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1998;30(1):73-82.

  • Rae C, Digney AL, McEwan SR, Bates TC. Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2003;167(3):324-9.

  • Rae C, Digney AL, McEwan SR, Bates TC. Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2003;167(3):324-9.

  • McMorris T, Mielcarz G, Harris RC, Swain JP, Howard A, McKnight W, Barker JL, Phillips SM. Creatine supplementation and age influence muscle metabolism during exercise. J Physiol. 2007;580(2):637-48.

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