If you’re educated on creatine then this article isn’t for you. If you’re still not sure or think it’s “harmful” keep reading.
Creatine has been a foundation of supplementation for training for years. In fact, it is arguably one of the most researched and science backed supplements on the market. So, should you take it? Well, it depends. First, let’s understand what creatine and what it does when consumed.
WHAT IS CREATINE?
Creatine is a micronutrient meaning it is produced naturally within the human body. Nearly all the creatine in your body is stored in your skeletal muscles to help them function. Some of your creatine is removed through urine. Your body is smart and helps offset this loss by synthesizing creatine in the liver and kidneys. Creatine can also be consumed through food sources, predominantly animal meat (3-7g/kg) and small amounts from dairy (less than 1g/kg).
SHOULD YOU TAKE IT?
If your goal is to decrease body fat, build lean muscle, and/or improve sport performance, absolutely. However, the benefits of taking creatine coincide with anaerobic (i.e. lifting) and/or high intensity training. Numerous studies have shown supplementation of creatine greatly increase work capacity during training bouts. In other words, you can push hard and longer with less recovery time. More volume equals greater results.
HOW SHOULD YOU TAKE IT?
There’s a common “broscience” belief that you need to go through a “loading” phase for creatine to help your body absorb it for the added benefits. This is, technically, true. However, the amount and time frame for loading your body with creatine is greatly determined by personal preference. The two best options are 1) consuming 3g of creatine per day for 4 weeks or 2) consume 20g of creatine (4 x 5g/day) for 1 week. To be safe I would suggest sticking with the first option; less likely to cause any issues in the event your stomach is sensitive to the influx of creatine into your system. Once you’ve completed the “loading” phase you may continue with 3-7g/day of supplementation.
WILL IT KILL ME?
No, unless you choke on it. Many people are concerned that creatine supplementation could be harmful. This couldn’t be further from the truth, especially if you’re a vegetarian or vegan. If you are, you should consume creatine daily. In addition, creatine supplementation does NOT cause cramps, diarrhea, muscle cramps, or damage to the liver or kidneys. Any of these systems are from isolated incidents with a very small population. Even the Euorpean Food Safety Authority (far more stringent than our FDA) categorizes consumption of up to 3g of creatine per day as healthy.