Creatine is a massively popular supplement in the health and fitness world. Creatine is one of the most studied supplements ever sold. Due to its popularity and consumer demand, there have been over 200 studies on creatine alone. There have been many claims regarding the benefits of creatine, many of which have been substantiated through scientific research. If you have every used creatine yourself, you know from experience that it generally lives up to a lot of the claims made about it. Despite the great track record of creatine supplementation and usage, people who are thinking about using creatine for the first time often wonder, is creatine safe to take?
What is creatine?
Even people outside of the fitness and bodybuilding world have generally heard of creatine but many do not actually know what it is. People are often surprised to find out that creatine is a substance that is naturally found within the muscle cells of the human body. It is a combination of three amino acids, being glycine, arginine and methionine. If you have read my article on grass fed whey protein powder, then you will remember that amino acids are referred to as the building blocks of protein and muscle tissue. Creatine basically helps generate cellular energy for muscle contractions.
Creatine is produced by your liver, kidneys and pancreas. Aside from being found in the human body, creatine can also be found in animal products such as meat and fish.
Why is creatine used as a supplement?
While there is a large amount of science used to explain the benefits of creatine, I will break it down into the simplest terms that I can. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is basically the energy currency of the body. It is the breakdown of ATP that releases energy which the body’s tissues, such as muscle, can use. ATP is extremely important for every movement our body makes however, it particularly important for high energy demands on the body such as strenuous exercise.
Creatine has been found to enhance the production of ATP re-synthesis, meaning that it assists with energy production within the body and muscles. I’m sure that you can see how that would be an important piece of information when it comes to considering creatine as a supplement.
Creatine has been found to have many benefits when it comes to athletic performance. Creatine is most often used by bodybuilders looking to add muscle and strength. Aside from strength and muscle growth benefits, creatine has also been found to assist with high intensity exercise due to the increase in energy it provides.
Outside of bodybuilding and fitness, creatine has also been found to help the brain in some amazing ways. Research suggests that it can assist with Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, Epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease as well as brain and spinal cord injuries.
Safety Of Creatine Supplementation
Now to the million dollar question; is creatine safe to take? The exciting news is that Creatine is generally recognized as a safe supplement. Numerous studies have found that creatine is safe for long term usage. The International Society Of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), the world’s leader in providing science-based sports nutrition and supplement information, take a strong stance on the safety of creatine, stating that there is no scientific evidence that short or long term creatine supplementation is harmful in any way when taken by otherwise healthy individuals. They even state that creatine usage in young athletes is acceptable with proper supervision, which is something many other supplements cannot say.
Side effects of creatine
There are not many negative side effects of creatine to discuss. Even the doom and gloom medical websites that usually present a plethora of negative information about the side effects of supplements have very few negative things to say about creatine.
I will say that since creatine became popular in the 1990s, there have been claims that it can potentially be harmful to your kidneys, liver and heart. As I mentioned above, none of these claims have been substantiated despite the large amount of research on creatine. I should note that this is assuming you are a healthy individual prior to taking creatine. If you have any type of health issue to include kidney issues, you should obviously always consult with your doctor prior to using any kind of supplement.
Although rare, some report gastrointestinal issues with creatine. Another possible side effect is slight weight gain as creatine helps your cells retain water. Studies conducted however, have found no measurable increase in body water after creatine usage.
Overall, there are a few potential negative side effects that are brought up with creatine usage however, almost none of these side effects have been proven true despite the large amount of research and trials.
My Personal Experience
I have taken creatine on and off since I was 16 years old (I’m now 29). In all of that time, I have not experienced any negative side effects of creatine. To the contrary, I have experienced tremendous strength, energy and muscle gains while using creatine. I also notice much better muscle pumps and fullness while using creatine.
I am extremely picky about the supplements I use and would never use or recommend a supplement unless I felt that it was safe. What’s the point of using a health supplement if it can potentially harm your health? Seems really stupid to me but hey, people do it. I also would not use a supplement unless there was solid information and research demonstrating that it is or can be effective.
My personal research on creatine matches my two prong supplement test in which research has demonstrated both it’s safety and effectiveness. My personal experience with creatine also supports this test. I feel very good about taking creatine and have no plans to stop taking it anytime soon.
After reading this article, you now have a good working knowledge of the benefits and side effects of creatine which will allow you to make an informed decision on whether you should take it or not.
I would love to hear your experiences with creatine below.