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Creatine and You
Author: Jim Gray
Publish Date: 5/16/2012 12:00:00 AM

How is your creatine research going? Setting aside my personal and the mainstream opinion of creatine- this article should help anyone interested in purchasing creatine for the first time. There are certain things you should know about creatine before you invest your time, money, and possibly your health.

First of all creatine is a naturally occuring compound in your body that assists in converting adinosine diphosphate into adinosine triphosphate, an important chemical in muscle contraction. The idea of taking supplemental creatine is to increase the body's level of creatine and thus increase performance. Increases in muscle growth as significant on creatine for a variety of reasons including improved muscle contraction, "speeding amino acids into muscle cells" (which is a loose translation of what actually happens), and improves "pump"- the muscle fullness one feels after a great workout.

Along with the beneficial claims, there has been claims that it is also dangerous product. Increases in non-lean weight gain, kidney damage, and the idea that not all of the different forms of creatine have been properly tested brings about the question of this product's safety. Please note that the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements, so in essence, any supplement you purchase may not be a completely accurate to it's representation. For instance purchasing a protein supplement that states it has 20g of protein per scoop might only have 12g of protein in a scoop.

Creatine Monohydrate – Ragepit.comIn addition creatine has come under scrutiny in the last decade as many health professionals state that studies conducted on the product only focus on one form of creatine and that these tests are not extensive enough to ascertain a closer understanding of the supplement. For instance, long term use of creatine supplementation, and its effects on kidney function, has been done using only 2g per day for two years, whereas normal loading of creatine is about 10g and peak loading can be upwards to 15-20 grams or more. Couple this with the supplementer's need for increased water consumption and the fact that most American's even athletes suffer from long term dehydration- and you have a recipe for disaster.

Although supplement companies and independent research has reviewed the benefits through professional study, the effects on body mass and safety have not bee so thorough. A quick search of the internet will elude to a community concern about weight gain as it seems a lot of people have experienced it. In an article I read recently, it was stated that increased adipose tissue growth or abdominal swelling may occur in some users of creatine, although rare, and should dissipate after a few weeks. Creatine has been loosely attributed to lean muscle growth by the same people who develop it, however, in my research this claim has not been substantiated by credible science (I'm also excluding "Weight Room Science" as credible science). Note: I'm not bashing creatine, I'm just being objective and thorough.

It seems funny how everyone seems to know everything about creatine even though complete and accurate studies are inconclusive on many of concerns surrounding creatine supplementation. With a multitude of creatine forms out on the market, you might be wondering which is the best. The only creatine form that has been formally tested (unless I missed something) is creatine monohydrate. The others have been tested but only by the companies that made them (I don't trust these tests to be complete or necessarily accurate). I want to take a moment to explain that creatine is a huge business and one should be wary about what the media says about businesses with money stakes. When money is involved in a product, sometimes it's true effects can be overshadowed by the money that surrounds it.

Injecting my personal experience and opinion, even though I said I wouldn't: I have taken creatine in multiple forms throughout my adult life. Each time resulted in explosive muscle gains quickly followed by explosive fat gain, abdominal discomfort, and lethargy. The first time I took creatine was creatine monohydrate from which I maintained lean muscle mass for about two months along with explosive muscle and strength increases with no increase in aerobic performance. Shortly after-wards I progressed to a different product consisting of two types of creatine, everything remained the same except I immediately gained 20lbs after taking time off from a cage-fight injury, even though I had adjusted my diet for the change in activity, and cycled off the creatine.

More recently I did an 8 week cycle of creatine kre-alkalyn, no increase in calorie intake, increasing my dosage after 3 weeks, peaking for two weeks, and cycling off for 3 weeks. I had no upper body increases in muscle strength but significant increases in muscle growth (what? Probably muscle water...). My leg strength increased by about 5% and my aerobic performance improved despite decreases in cardio exercise frequency. Note, creatine has not been shown to increase aerobic performance. Weight gain was an astonishing 30lbs, that even after cycling off creatine, and adjusting my exercise routine for weight-loss; I was unable to get rid of the weight for nearly 3 months after quitting. A large majority of the weight came from increased adipose tissue, which took me from blistering six-pack to fatty in as little as a week.

In my opinion, creatine is a hit and miss supplement for people. It seems while many achieve their goals with it, the risks of weight gain, or possibly kidney damage (because excess creatine is removed through urine) make it not worth the risk in most cases. On the flip-side, many people find it to be a great product that actually promotes weight-loss and increases in muscle and strength gains. I would suggest if you think creatine will work for you, then try it. Be sure to follow these guidelines for safety and success.

  • Follow the product's instructions
  • Don't get fancy, try just creatine monohydrate first with no additives so you can say for sure if creatine works for you.
  • Drink at least a gallon of water a day so you can flush excess creatine out of your kidneys.
  • Don't eat crap while on creatine. Making sure your diet is sound will help you ascertain if creatine is for you.
  • Workout hard and make sure you lift, lift wisely, and lift heavy.
  • Make sure to plan your cycles and make sure you stick to that cycle. Have a cycle down plan for if you get injured.

References: Mayo Health Clinic - creatine evidence
Mayo Health Clinic - creatine safety
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