Creatine: is it safe to take?
August 7, 1992. The Times Magazine did a report on Linford Christine; he had just battled and won the gold medal for the 100 meter dash with a time of 9.96 seconds. In this article, it was made public that he had supplemented with a revolutionary supplement called Creatine Monohydrate. This was a huge buzz because in the early 90’s there were major doping scandals involving anabolic steroids in the Olympics and in other major sports federations. So how this natural amino acid could still be talked about over 20 years later and not be banned is a major question. Creatine is still one of the most popular sports supplements out there and it is the most heavily studied sports supplement in history. Let’s see some facts on it:
What is it?
If you’ve ever set foot in a gym, you’ve probably heard of this popular supplement. Many classify it as a steroid, others think it will make their hair fall out, many even say that it will damage one’s kidneys. Although there are so many rumors about creatine, this is probably the most misunderstood sports supplement out there right now. Creatine is a naturally occurring compound in the body that increases something called ATP, which is a key factor involved when you contract a muscle over and over again. Creatine is specifically important when you are looking to increase your power output within the first 10 seconds of a lift. Not only does creatine give your muscles more available energy but it also improve your body’s ability to make protein within the muscle fibers, which will also increase the amount of water within your muscles, thus increasing your muscle mass. We ingest most of the creatine available in our bodies from our diet, primarily meats. Foods high in creatine include steak, salmon and tuna. In a study done by St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, 18 vegetarians and 24 non-vegetarians who were not supplementing with an outside source of creatine were examined. From this study it was proven that the ones who were vegetarians had significantly lower levels of creatine in their bodies. So why does all this science stuff matter to us if our goal is to gain as much muscle mass as possible? Because taking creatine as a sports supplement will allow you to execute more repetitions with higher weights, allowing you to train at a higher level of intensity, thus providing you with more progressive overload; the main factor involved in muscle growth.
Is it safe?
After so many studies done on creatine, studies show over and over that there are no long term side effects of creatine when taken by a healthy functioning human being at the recommended dose. Supplementing with creatine can raise your creatinine levels (which are used as a measure to check kidney function), but increased creatinine levels don’t necessarily mean poor kidney function when you are supplementing with external creatine. If this is the case it would be much better to ask your doctor to further test your kidney function and ensure you are drinking a lot of water to reduce the stress on your kidneys.
What kind of creatine should I take and how much?
There are many different kinds of creatine esters, the ester affects how your body absorbs it and many claim that some will have fewer side effects than others. Although these claims are commonly made, none of this has actually been proven in long term studies. The most popular form of creatine is monohydrate and most recommend taking between 5-10 grams a day depending on your size, what the specific brand recommends and your goals. Another popular concept is cycling creatine, a lot of people claim they cycle creatine because their body stops making its own levels of creatine, but no study has ever shown this to be true. No harm is done to the body by not cycling it, so you can try cycling it or just run it straight through, it is a personal decision with little to no difference in the long run. The best way to determine which one is best for you, is to try out different forms and to record the changes made with each different kind.
Creatine has been shown time and time again to be an inexpensive supplement that will help increase your performance in the gym or in a respective sport. It is a natural amino acid and no long term negative side effects have been reported in over the 2 decades of research done on it. Athletes from high school kids, to professional bodybuilders are using it and it has proven time and time again to work. If your goal is maximum strength and muscle gain, this is a supplement you do not want to be missing in your arsenal!
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With the pursuit of achieving the best possible physique and helping hundreds of clients do the same, Juan Rojas has dedicated his life to finding the best strategies for transforming human bodies. Constant research, trial and error and continous education in the exercise physiology and nutrition field, Juan Rojas thrives off finding the most efficient ways to transform your body and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.