Creatine facts, everything you need to know. In todays blog we take a look at the hugely popular supplement Creatine, what it is, what it`s good for, what it isn’t good for, side effects and warnings.
What it is
Creatine is an amino acid located mostly in your body’s muscles, as well as in the brain. Though it can be made synthetically, most people get creatine through seafood and red meat. The body’s liver, pancreas and kidneys also make creatine.
Creatine is most commonly used for improving exercise performance and increasing muscle mass in athletes and older adults. There is some science supporting the use of creatine in improving the athletic performance of young, healthy people during brief high-intensity activity such as sprinting. Because of this, creatine is often used as a dietary supplement to improve muscle strength and athletic performance. In the U.S., a majority of sports nutrition supplements, which total $2.7 billion in annual sales, contain creatine.
Creatine use is allowed by the International Olympic Committee, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and professional sports.
How does it work?
Creatine is involved in making the energy muscles need to work.
Vegetarians and other people who have lower total creatine levels when they start taking creatine supplements seem to get more benefit than people who start with a higher level of creatine. Skeletal muscle will only hold a certain amount of creatine; adding more won’t raise levels anymore. This “saturation point” is usually reached within the first few days of taking a “loading dose.”
Age-related muscle loss. Creatine seems to improve muscle strength in older adults who are also performing resistance training compared to resistance training alone. But it doesn’t seem to be beneficial when taken as a single dose or when used without resistance training.
Athletic performance. Creatine seems to help improve rowing performance, jumping height, and soccer performance in athletes. But the effect of creatine on sprinting, cycling, or swimming performance varies. The mixed results may relate to the small sizes of the studies, the differences in creatine doses, and differences in test used to measure performance. Creatine does not seem to improve serving ability in tennis players.
Syndromes caused by problems metabolizing creatine. Some people have a disorder that prevents their body from making creatine. This can lead to low levels of creatine in the brain. Low levels of creatine in the brain can lead to decreased mental function, seizures, autism, and movement problems. Taking creatine by mouth daily for up to 3 years can increase creatine levels in the brain in children and young adults with a disorder of creatine production called guanidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT) deficiency. This can help improve movement and reduce seizures. But it doesn’t improve mental ability. Arginine-glycine amidino transferase (AGAT) deficiency is another disorder that prevents the body from making creatine. In children with this condition, taking creatine for up to 8 years seems to improve attention, language, and mental performance. But taking creatine does not seem to improve brain creatine levels, movement, or mental function in children who have a disorder in which creatine isn’t transported properly.
Muscle strength. There is a lot of mixed research on creatine’s ability to improve muscle strength. However, analyses of this research show that creatine seems to modestly improve upper body strength and lower body strength in both younger and older adults.
Insufficient Evidence for
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease). Taking creatine by mouth does not seem to slow disease progression or improve survival in people with ALS.
Inherited disease called Huntington’s disease. Research suggests that taking creatine by mouth daily for 2 years does not improve muscle strength, coordination, or symptoms in people with Huntington’s disease.
Skin aging. Early research shows that applying cream containing creatine, guarana, and glycerol to the face daily for 6 weeks reduces wrinkles and skin sagging in men. Other research suggests that a cream containing creatine and folic acid reduces wrinkles and improves sun-damaged skin.
Lung disease (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Early research on the effects of creatine in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is inconsistent. Some research suggests that taking creating daily does not improve lung function. However, other research suggests that taking creatine may improve lung function or exercise capacity.
Heart failure. Some early research shows that taking creatine daily for 5-10 days improves muscle strength and endurance but does not improve symptoms of heart failure. Taking lower doses of creatine daily for 6 months does not improve exercise capacity or heart failure symptoms in men.
Depression. Early research suggests that taking creatine daily for 8 weeks enhances the effects of the antidepressant drug escitalopram in women with major depressive disorder.
Diabetes. Early research shows that taking creatine by mouth for 5 days reduces blood sugar after eating in people with newly diagnosed diabetes. However, the effects of taking creatine for longer than 5 days in people with diabetes are not know.
Fibromyalgia. Early research suggests that taking 5 grams of creatine four times daily for 5 days followed by 5 grams daily for 16 weeks improves strength in women with fibromyalgia. But creatine does not seem to improve aerobic exercise capacity, pain, sleep, quality of life, or mental function in people with fibromyalgia.
Vision loss (gyrate atrophy of the choroid and retina). Early research shows that creatine deficiency, which has been associated with this form of vision loss, can be corrected with supplements. Taking creatine daily for one year seems to slow eye damage and vision loss.
Inherited nerve damage (hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy). Early research in people with inherited nerve damage diseases such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, suggest that taking creatine by mouth daily for between one and 12 weeks has no effect on muscle strength or endurance.
Muscle diseases such as polymyositis and dermatomyositis. Early studies suggest taking creatine might produce small improvements in muscle strength in people with these conditions.
Muscle disorder called McArdle disease. Some early research suggests that taking creatine by mouth daily improves muscle function in some people with McArdle disease. However, taking higher doses of creatine seem to make muscle pain worse.
Muscular and neurological diseases called mitochondrial myopathies. Early research suggests that taking creatine by mouth does not improve muscle function or quality of life in people with mitochondrial myopathies. However, creatine might improve some measures of muscle strength.
Multiple sclerosis. Early research suggests that taking creatine by mouth daily for 5 days does not improve exercise ability in people with multiple sclerosis.
Loss of muscle tissue. Taking creatine by mouth daily does not seem to increase muscle mass or strength in men with muscle loss due to HIV. However, taking creatine seems to help maintain muscle mass and reduce the loss of muscle strength that is associated with having to wear a cast.
Muscle cramps. Early research shows that taking creatine by mouth before hemodialysis treatments seems to reduce muscle cramps.
Muscular dystrophy. Early research on the use of creatine by mouth in people with muscular dystrophy is not clear. Some evidence shows that muscle strength and fatigue seem to improve after taking creatine daily for 8-16 weeks. However, other research suggests that creatine provides no benefit for people with muscular dystrophy.
Breathing problems while sleeping in newborns. Early research shows that giving creatine to premature infants does not improve breathing problems while sleeping.
Brain injury. Early research shows that taking creatine by mouth daily for 7 days increases the ability to exercise by increasing lung function in people with a spinal cord injury. However, other research shows that creatine does not improve wrist muscle or hand function. Early research also shows that taking creatine by mouth daily for 6 months reduces amnesia following a traumatic brain injury in children.
Osteoarthritis. Early research suggests that taking creating by mouth daily in combination with strengthening exercises improves physical functioning in postmenopausal women with knee osteoarthritis.
Parkinson’s disease. Early research suggests that taking creatine twice daily for 12-18 months slows the progression of Parkinson’s disease in people who have not yet started conventional medicines.
Nervous system disorder called Rett syndrome. Early research suggests that taking creating daily for 6 months can slightly improve symptoms in females with Rett syndrome.
Rheumatoid arthritis. Early research shows that taking creatine by mouth daily increases lean muscle mass and may improve muscle strength but does not improve physical functioning in adults with rheumatoid arthritis. In children, taking a specific supplement containing creatine and fatty acids twice daily for 30 days might reduce pain and swelling. But the effects of creatine alone are not clear.
Schizophrenia. Early research shows that taking creatine by mouth daily for 2 months does not improve symptoms or mental function in people with schizophrenia.
Muscle loss in the spine. Early research suggests that children with muscle loss in the spine do not benefit from taking creatine by mouth.
Recovery from surgery. Early research shows that taking creatine daily does not speed up recovery of muscle strength after surgery.
Creatine is likely safewhen taken by mouth at doses up to 25 grams daily for up to 14 days. Lower doses up to 4-5 grams taken daily for up to 18 months are also likely safe. Some early research also suggests that creatine is possibly safewhen taken in doses up to 10 grams daily for up to 5 years.
Side Effects & Safety
Creatine can cause stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle cramping. Creatine causes muscles to draw water from the rest of your body. Be sure to drink extra water to make up for this. Also, if you are taking creatine, don’t exercise in the heat. It might cause you to become dehydrated. Many people who use creatine gain weight. This is because creatine causes the muscles to hold water, not because it actually builds muscle.
There is concern that creatine might cause irregular heartbeat in some people. But more information is needed to know if creatine can cause this problem.