Creatine Myths – the Truth Behind the Lies
Creatine myths have been around for a while. Most of them are created by people who are not familiar with the research that has been ongoing since 1992. There have been hundreds of studies performed by accredited science laboratories and researchers making creatine the most studied supplement of all time. Here are some of the common creatine myths I have dealt with.
Creatine is not a man-made synthetic substance. It is actually a naturally occurring compound similar to an amino acid. It has been used by thousands of athletes around the world. It is widely used to help build muscle mass, power and strength.
Creatine Myth #1: Creatine is not a safe supplement
In the over 500 research studies tha have been done, not one has shown a direct connection between creatine use and the bad side effects commonly mentioned: muscle cramps, strains and pulls, kidney issues, and surprisingly, death. A three-year study done on Division I football players showed that all of these side effects and dehydration as well were actually less of an issue for those taking creatine.
It is true that creatine does draw water into muscle tissue so you do need to drink more fluids while using it. It will give your muscles a “puffy” look and feel which is due to the increase of water.
Cramps are not caused by the creatine being used. It is more likely due to a lack of electrolytes like potassium and sodium so eat foods rich in these (banana, sports drinks) and stay hydrated.
Creatine Myths #2: Creatine is only for bodybuilders and football players.
It is true that these are two of the bigger groups of athletes using creatine but not the only ones. Any athlete involved in a sport requiring repeated, intense activity can benefit from creatine use. Creatine use has been shown to reduce fatigue and improve power movements in sports. Though not as common, endurance athletes have used a lower dose of creatine (3-5 grams per day) to help improve glycogen storage, the body’s stored energy source.
Creatine Myths #3: Creatine only builds muscle.
Creatine is naturally found in meat so if you eat a healthy quantity of it in your diet, you will be consuming creatine. This is why only about 75% of people find a real benefit from creatine use. Creatine is not found in only muscle tissue, it is also found in your brain. A lack of creatine, like in a vegetarian diet, can directly affect memory and intelligence. One study also found a connection between creatine levels in the brain and mood and sleep patterns.
Recent research done at the School of Medicine at Yale University showed that creatine can increase the brain’s energy capacity. Much like the use of omega-3 fatty acids, creatine has been shown to have a positive effect on concussions. It can reduce the severity of the injury and it can improve the recovery process. I strongly recommend both fish oil and creatine to my football athletes I mentor for this reason.
Creatine Myths #4: Long-term effects creatine use are not known.
Creatine monohydrate, the most commonly used form of creatine, has been around since 1992. It has been studied extensively so the long-term effects are very well known. The supposedly “better” versions of creatine are relatively new and have not been studied for long-term effects. These forms include creatine citrate, creatine ethyl ester, creatine malate and creatine orotate. The one group of subjects not tested for short or long term effects are teenagers under the age of 18. Testing youth athletes is not an acceptable practice so no data exists. I personally do not recommend creatine use in growing youth athletes.
Creatine myths do not follow the known science behind the most researched supplement known. It has definite benefits for athletes participating in sports involving fast, powerful movements and for developing muscle mass.
For a copy of my special document “Creatine Guidelines” which explains how to use creatine properly, visit my resource site: Sports Nutrition Resources.
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About the Author
Jacques Delorme has coached for more than 25 years at all age levels and is a certified coach in five sports. He has a strong background in sports nutrition including certification as a Youth Athlete Nutrition Specialist and a Football Nutrition Specialist. He is the Nutrition Advisor for the Regina Thunder Football Club and Sask Volleyball.
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