Creatine Supplementation: Benefits and Side effects
Many people have heard of creatine. Whether they are an athlete, bodybuilder, high school student, job consultant, most people have probably heard the positive or negative aspects of creatine. For those in either position it is beneficial to know what creatine is, how it is beneficial and what the real, scientific facts are behind common myths. Though society has often had a negative outlook on creatine, the benefits are numerous, and there are no dangerous side effects if taken Correctly. Athletes all over the world want to build more muscle faster. Many like myself use creatine to help them achieve this goal. When athletes use creatine the right way, it can build muscle, strength, and enhance your performance. So, what is creatine? Creatine monohydrate is the cheapest dietary supplement on the market in terms of providing a supplement that helps the body build muscle. It helps hydrate the muscles allowing higher rates of protein synthesis to occur, which is the actual process of the body building muscle. However, the use of creatine monohydrate as a dietary supplement is a very controversial issue. Some athletes think that creatine can be harmful to the body due to adverse side-effects. People argue that creatine does more harm than good, and that can be very dangerous with short and long-term side effects. Some side effects may include; nausea, stomach pain, diarrhea, muscle cramps, and/or weight gain. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines creatine as being a dietary supplement (FDA,1994). However, they have not approved it and have made no statements regarding its effectiveness. Thus, the consumer is left with the responsibility of sorting through the information provided by the manufacturer to determine whether creatine is effective and safe. Though creatine monohydrate is an unapproved dietary supplement with possible side effects, it can be a safe and productive way to build both strength and muscle mass when used correctly.
There are so many different types of creatine available on the market today including creatine monohydrate, tri and di malate, creatine orate, creatine phosphate, creatine citrate, effervescent creatine, and a few others. There are also different forms in which creatine can be consumed; these include powered, liquid, tablets, capsules, and other forms. Creatine monohydrate is the most research creatine on the market today. It is also the basic form of creatine. Creatine monohydrate is essentially creatine bound with water. Each molecule of creatine monohydrate is made up of eighty-eight percent creatine and twelve percent water. This means that if you take five grams of creatine monohydrate you will really be putting 4.40 grams of creatine in your body (Daniels).
Before making the decision whether to use Creatine, athletes first need to understand what it is. In our body the creatine is a naturally a stored supplement. In the brain and the heart muscles, there is creatine stored for body use. It is also found in red meat and in fish. Most people consume one gram of creatine per day through their regular diets. Since creatine is a natural supplement, a person is just putting more of the natural compound into his/her body. The recommended daily dosage of creatine for optimal muscle gain is about five grams. A person would have to consume five to twenty-five pounds of meat to obtain the right amount of creatine without supplementation (Summer, 2009). It would be terribly difficult for the average person to consume this amount of meat daily, so supplemental creatine usage is an effective alternative.
Creatine is a component occurring naturally in the body therefore, consumers might wonder why it has been targeted as not being safe to supplement. It can be used safely if you drink a lot of water with it, and practice a loading phase, which is defined as periods of taking high amounts and low amounts of creatine (David, 2013). I have been taking creatine the safe way and started working out. Since starting creatine, I have seen a major difference in my muscle build, and strength gains. If creatine is used properly, it is the most effective legal supplement for gaining muscle size and strength because creatine will stop the muscle from burning out and allows you to push out some extra reps, with these extra reps you can gain increased strength and muscle. Creatine delays fatigue and improves recovery, which means the person taking the supplement can recover faster and exercise longer (Fairman, 2018). There have been a lot of studies done on creatine all supporting the fact that it is a safe supplement; unlike anabolic steroids, which create unpredictable mood swings and skin breakouts. A study was performed taking two groups of males. One group took the supplement creatine, and the other took a placebo powder. Both groups were on the same workout and diet regimen. After twelve weeks of the groups working out and taking their perspective, workout powder, the researchers recorded overall muscle gain in both groups. The creatine group had gained a statistically significant more muscle than the placebo group. (Volek, 1999). This study shows clinical results of the use of using creatine, but it is important to inform of the side effects of using creatine.
One of the severe side effects that could happen is kidney and liver damage. Any creatine a person’s body does not use is excreted as a waste product. If a person overloads and takes twenty grams of creatine a day, instead of the recommended dosage of five grams, the remaining fifteen grams are expelled from body. Over time, this constant excretion of creatine can put a lot of stress on a person’s kidney or liver and cause serious problems if you take it for more than six months straight, because it can lower the liver and kidney ability to synthesize creatine for the person. If a person has kidney problems, he/she should not begin usage at all. (Richer, 2018).The kidneys and liver are very important for expelling toxins from the body and taking a supplement that could damage these vital organ is very important to note.
Currently, the debate about creatine is focused on whether or not side effects can still occur through proper usage of the supplement. The problem is there have not been enough long-term studies done on creatine supplementation, which is why it is not currently recommended to use for a long period of time. A person should cycle it by stopping or reducing usage for a month. Many scientists and doctors agree that when taken within normal limits, creatine poses no long-term health risks. Even still, athletes would prefer to have comprehensive data demonstrating that it is has been tested over a long period of time before they will say it is safe. The long-term effects of creatine are still uncertain today; however, at this point, it is believed to be safer than any illegal performance-enhancing drug, such as anabolic steroids. Even the International Olympics Committee has not banned creatine and considers it a helpful supplement.
Many myths have arisen that make people opposed to ingesting creatine. Some people will claim that all weight gained during supplementation is due to water retention. This is only true during the loading phase. The loading phase is during the first week of supplementation. In order to fully saturate the skeletal muscle within the body the user must take a larger dosage during the beginning stage of supplementation. After the first five days or so, the user then goes into the maintenance stage. The user decreases the amount of creatine they take in during this stage only so that they can maintain saturation levels. When a person goes through the initial loading phase, they will bloat up by three to five pounds due to the cell’s ability to expand by absorbing more water. All weight gained after, however is purely muscle.
Another common myth is that people who take creatine are more susceptible to injuries such as pulled or torn muscles, cramps, and muscle spasms. This is false. Many people are quick to assume that it was the creatine they were taking that was the cause of their injuries, when it was due to lack of hydration, a low electrolyte balance, or a host of other factors. In a recent and very large study, creatine supplementation did not result in increased incidence of cramping amongst athletes. In fact, the groups using creatine suffered from less cramps then the non-creatine group (Evans). Another study was conducted on American football players. A study conducted using seventy-two NCAA Division One football players as subjects found that the athletes supplementing with creatine experienced less muscle cramps, muscle tightness, muscle strains, dehydration, and total injuries (Evans)
Of all the myths maybe the most prominent one is that the long-term effects of creatine are unknown. Over the last few years several researchers have begun to release results of long-term safety trials. So far, no long-term side effects have been observed in athletes, infants with creatine synthesis deficiency, or in clinical patient populations (Kreider). One cohort of patients taking 1.5 – 3 grams/day of CM has been monitored since 1981 with no significant side effects (Kreider). The longer creatine is on the market, the more studies that will be presented, but of all the ones that have been publicized so far, none have shown injurious side effects. Creatine has been proven over time and time again to be beneficial to the body with no damaging side effects. There have been hundreds of studies done on it, in fact over 600 studies done in total (Evans).
The American College of Sports Medicine stated that creatine was an effective aid in performance enhancement and there had not been nearly as many fields studies as there had been laboratory studies. The American College of Sports Medicine noted that the jury was still out on the safety and effectiveness of long-term creatine use. On November 12, 1999 at the 19th annual southwest American college of sports medicine meeting, two long-term creatine studies were presented from the exercise and sports nutrition lab at the University of Memphis. Both studies showed that nine months of creatine supplementation in athletes had no negative effects on muscle and liver enzymes, in comparison to athletes not taking creatine. (Kredier, 1998).
If the question was to be asked, “Does ingesting a creatine supplement increase the user’s strength and muscle mass?” , the answer would technically be no. Ingesting creatine by itself will do nothing for the body accept maybe put on unneeded weight. The whole purpose of taking creatine is to use it to the user’s advantage when working out. It must be ingested and the user must lift weights in order to see results. It must also be taken in the proper doses. It does not make sense to take it in high doses, above what the body needs, because the rest is excreted after skeletal muscle stores are saturated (Evans). Certain things can be done to boost the effectiveness of the creatine such as pairing it with carbohydrate or carbohydrate and protein (Kreider). Consuming creatine while on a nutritious diet only betters the chances of absorption of muscle cells. If taken correctly, creatine is the most efficient ergonic aid in improving exercise performance, augmenting strength gains, and increasing lean muscle mass on the market.
The use of creatine is clinically proven to enhance performance in athlete, and people who just want to build some extra muscles. Even though there has been recorded side effects of creatine, it is a very good and effective supplement to use if your goal is to grow bigger, stronger muscles.
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