Creatine: Is it effective? Is it safe?
In the fitness world, creatine is the source of much widespread debate. What’s most often debated regarding creatine is the safety of the supplement and to a much lesser extent the effectiveness of it. Considering there seems to be a ton of confusion regarding creatine and what it actually does, let’s first discuss this as well as the supplement’s effectiveness because if a supplement isn’t effective no one should be taking it in the first place. Once we discuss that, we’ll talk about the safety of creatine.
***(Note: While there are a number of creatine supplements on the market (most of which were created as a marketing tactic by supplement companies) creatine monohydrate is the most studied and most popular so we’ll be strictly referring that specific form of creatine in today’s article.)***
What Does Creatine Do?
Creatine’s use in the body has everything to do with ATP production. ATP is essentially the body’s main fuel source for high-intensity exercise i.e. resistance training. Creatine increases ATP production generally equating to more productive workouts which can help enhance strength, lean body mass, etc. when used in conjunction with a proper diet, enough sleep, etc.
That’s it? Yep. That’s it! Creatine simply gives your body the ability to produce more force during resistance training. Practically speaking, if you can typically rep out 225 on bench for six or seven reps, your cells being fully saturated with creatine might make that seventh rep a sure thing and even give you an eighth rep.
“But I thought creatine would help me gain a ton of muscle mass?” Not quite. Assuming you’re consistently getting 5g daily, will it make your workouts more productive long term which will in turn likely lead to more muscle tissue being added? Most likely. But, it will do very little for you in the short term in the way of adding size.
That said, when fully saturated with creatine you will very likely hold more intramuscular water leading to a fuller look and some weight gain (most people are generally 2-4 pounds heavier when fully saturated with creatine than when not) but this effect will be relatively minuscule and your physique wont appear dramatically different.
Is Creatine Safe?
As mentioned before, Creatine Monohydrate is one of the most studied supplement’s on the planet. The conclusion of all these studies? Creatine’s safety is no longer in doubt.
According the the International Society of Sports Nutrition, “Available short and long-term studies in healthy and diseased populations, from infants to the elderly, at dosages ranging from 0.3 to 0.8 g/kg/day for up to 5 years have consistently shown that creatine supplementation poses no adverse health risks and may provide a number of health and performance benefits.” In addition to the ISSN’s stance on creatine, the Mayo Clinic refers to creatine as being safe for “up to 5 years” at the very least.
It seems the consensus among experts and the general trend of studies point to creatine as being extremely safe. There have been some outlier cases in those reportedly in renal failure but for the general population you shouldn’t see any negative side effects as a result of supplementing with creatine.
It should be noted that much like testosterone, creatine is produced endogenously in the body. By supplementing with creatine you are simply enhancing the level of saturation you already have within the body.
Creatine won’t take you from Joe Shmo to Phil Heath in regards to its effectiveness, but it can certainly help your overall development long term. As discussed, it is also extremely safe and if anything possesses positive health benefits. Given creatine’s cost (cheap), effectiveness, and safety it’d be wise to start tossing back 5g daily and enjoy the progress.