In everything we do in life, there are potential risks and potential rewards. However, something as simple as taking a supplement to better yourself, should be rewarding and not a risk. Creatine has an extensive history and throughout this history, concern of possible risks have been brought up, studied and discounted time and time again. The best way to combat fiction is with fact.
The Rewards of Creatine
Though the rewards of creatine from one individual to the next may differ, there is a basic thread that runs through all creatine users. First, and foremost is the burst of energy. This is indisputable as it has been proven on a cellular level. Creatine increases the ATP (Adenosine TriPhosphate) in the muscle which is fuel for the body. This burst of energy is what makes creatine so popular in sports such as weightlifting, bodybuilding and even sprinters. Any sport that requires that quick burst of energy benefits from creatine.
Second, there is the increase in performance. Due to the increase in ATP, weightlifters and bodybuilders are able to lift at a higher level which could mean more reps and heavier weight. Again, this has been proven true time and time again – which, subsequently, is why it is so popular in weightlifting/bodybuilding.
Another benefit is the muscle mass. There is a definite muscle mass increase that, again, is not only a result of the increase in performance, but because creatine pulls water into the muscle tissue, adding bulk.
Outside the gym, the rewards of creatine are being studied and utilized in medicine. An increase in memory and cognition is another proven fact. Just think, getting smarter while you pump up – it’s a win-win. Seriously, though, the studies are there and have proven that cognitive recall and acting on that recall are much improved with creatine. This is especially important for those who are vegetarians and for the elderly as vegetarians do not get creatine through food and the elderly’s production of creatine decreases with age. On an even more detailed and intense study level, creatine is being used as a possible aid in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, ALS, and has already been proven to help stem and those recovering from heart disease and heart ailments. So, as medicine keeps finding more and more positive uses for creatine, it’s list of rewards keep going.
The Risks of Creatine
The risks of creatine are sporadic at best and none have been proven through research. To date, there are no 100% side effects of creatine. The first risk claim has been that it will cause diarrhea and stomach cramping. There are too many factors that can be involved in either or those symptoms. First, most stomach cramping can be attributed to either misuse of the product or not drinking enough water. Not drinking enough water will cause stomach cramps every time. Creatine users know that creatine sucks the water into the muscle – every container of creatine screams to keep hydrated, drink lots of water. Every website, every medical journal all say the same: drink lots of water. Too much iron can cause stomach cramps too. Diarrhea can be attributed to too many other stimuli – too much vitamin c, bad or not properly washed foods, etc. Neither of these issues has been proven with any consistency are disregarded by the highest medical authorities.
Another claim, which is completely unfounded, is that it will hurt your kidneys and liver. There is NO proof that any healthy individual taking creatine powder has ever had kidney or liver failure or disease. “Creatine is likely safe when used in the long term” a direct quote from Mayo Clinic – one of the leading research hospitals in the USA. They would not stake their reputation on a product that may have any adverse effects on the human body.
Dr. Mike Roussell, PhD, of Men’s Health states that: Creatine contains no calories and no fat. Creatine causes no Kidney damage and No bloating except in muscle tissue where you want it. Another new comer to the list of “risks” is hair loss or loss in production of new hair. This has been reported on only one website that has any sort of decent reputation but they had absolutely no resources or facts to back it up. The reasoning is that creatine, according to them, increases DHT, a type of testosterone. This can lead to hair loss, again, according to their website alone.
Harvard Medical Journal, the Journal of American Medicine, Mayo Clinic, the National Olympic Committee, the NCAA and countless other research teams have all studied creatine – over 1300 trials and not one has reported hair loss as a risk of taking creatine. It is a completely unfounded claim. The one and only possible risk is to children under 18 and that is only because a study has yet to be conducted on growth and side effects on children. Unless in disease research, children under 18 would have no need for creatine use, as they have not finished growing yet. Otherwise, creatine powder, up to at least 25g a day has been 100% proven safe in people over 18.
Creatine, as a natural substance was discovered in the human body in the late 1800’s. In the 1900’s it was already being used as a supplement. It is probably one of the oldest known supplements out there. It is definitely the most studied and will continue to be as its medicinal value for devastating diseases continues to show promising results.
The risks that many have tried to place upon creatine have been proven false, are sporadic at best and/or are the result of pre-existing health issues, be it known or unknown. As with any supplement you take, consulting a physician is always advised. In the argument for the value of creatine, the beneficial results to not only your training but your heart health and mental health are indisputable. Knowing the facts about creatine, you are able to wisely reap the rewards.