Think of the supplements on the market today. Which one is the most misunderstood? If you said, “creatine,” you’re right. Creatine is often given a bad reputation merely because others don’t understand what it can do. It’s not surprising that even with the research on the biomolecule, people continue to conjure up myths to frighten others away from one of the most effective supplements around.
It’s time to do some creatine myth-busting. Here are several myths about creatine you can erase from memory:
Creatine: Myths vs. Reality
Myth 1. Creatine damages the kidneys.
Here’s an unproved theory that comes from the idea that kidneys get damaged when a byproduct of the phosphocreatine system, blood creatinine, increases in the body. There has been little validation of this, however. One study even concluded that when individuals take a 20 gram dose of creatine monohydrate for seven days, there was no significant changes to their renal activity. In other words, unless you have existing kidney problems, there is no reason to worry about creatine damaging your kidneys.
Myth 2. Creatine upsets your stomach.
While there is some truth to this, an upset stomach is a rare side effect. Only 5-7% of people get diarrhea, stomachaches, or both when taking creatine. If you know you’re susceptible to gastrointestinal upset, then you should try a small dose of creatine first to see what will happen.
Myth 3. Creatine causes weight gain.
Yes, people do tend to show increased body fat percentages when supplementing with creatine, but remember that correlation doesn’t always reveal causation. The fact is that most people who are supplementing with creatine are also trying to gain weight, so they have increased their caloric consumption to create a surplus. After 4-6 weeks, people who are trying to gain muscle and are using creatine will see a difference, but they will also have gained a little fat. That’s how your body works. Don’t blame creatine just because you’re eating more than before.
The truth is that multiple studies have found that creatine fails to directly result in any fat mass lost or gained when paired with a placebo. The University of Tulsa also did a study and found that weight gain on creatine is about 0.8 to 2.9 percent of body weight, but that was due to water retention.
The only real weight you are going to gain from creatine is the muscle mass. One 14-week study found that creatine significantly increases leg muscle mass, and another 12-week study reported that creatine increases muscle fiber growth by 2-3 times more than training without supplements.
Myth 4. Creatine users lose muscle once they stop using it.
No. The fact is that creatine will make you look softer. That is why bodybuilders will cut out creatine a few weeks to a month before competition. Creatine will eventually cause water to flow into the muscles, and that extra water increases the volume of muscles—but this volume looks doughy. Thus, once you go off creatine, you aren’t losing muscle mass. You’re only carrying dry muscle mass. As long as you continue with working out and eating for maintenance, you will keep that muscle.
Myth 5. You can get creatine from whole food.
Sure, you can get creatine from some foods, especially animal proteins like beef, but the amount consumed is no where near enough to help you achieve the benefits of creatine. The body naturally keeps 100 grams of creatine stored throughout the cells. 2-4 grams of creatine are used throughout the day. Half of that amount can be synthesized by the body from food.
If you wanted to maintain that 100 grams of creatine, you would need 500 grams of raw meat and fish.
Obviously, that’s not going to happen. That’s where creatine supplements come in.
Myth 6. You need to load creatine and cycle.
You can load creatine to expedite the saturation process. Loading isn’t mandatory, however. You can reach peak creatine levels in a few weeks with normal dosages. The only reason companies support loading creatine is to make you go through the container faster and make another purchase.
The other outlandish claim is that you should cycle your creatine. Though you shouldn’t continuously use creatine if you want to do competitions or show off your six-pack in the summertime, you don’t need to cycle creatine if you don’t want to. Creatine is most effective when it has reached its saturation point in the body.
Myth 7. Creatine is not suitable for women.
Because creatine is often called a steroid, most women weightlifters steer clear of the supplement. The other association is that, while building muscle size, creatine causes water retention—something women don’t want. However, there was a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology that examined strength and muscle fiber distribution in both sexes. The study concluded that there was no significant difference in strength to the cross-sectional area ratio of muscle, meaning that both females and males can benefit from creatine’s ability to stimulate muscular adaptation and enhanced ATP production.
Creatine can also increase the amount of calories burned during exercise, making it all the more beneficial to women, who generally have a harder time burning fat than men. Furthermore, creatine has been found to increase lean body mass, in turn raising the basal metabolic rate and accelerating weight loss in women.
Myth 8. Creatine is a steroid.
No. Just no. Creatine isn’t even related chemically to steroids. Creatine is an amino acid, meaning it is a building block of protein in the body. If you need further proof, just remember that steroids are banned in professional sports, but creatine is not.
Creatine is one of the most researched supplements in the history of dietary supplements. Evidence continues to point towards creatine’s effectiveness and nutritional benefits to elite athletes and even those just starting out in the gym. It’s time to leave the old myths behind and embrace the truth: that creatine is necessary if you want to be your best in the gym.
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