Creatine is one of the most popular supplements on the market. It was discovered in 1832, but was not recognized as a sports performance aid until the early 90’s (1). Since then it has been one of the most studied supplements in the world.
Why use it?
- Increased lean body mass (1,3)
- Increased muscle fiber cross-sectional area (muscle density) (1,3)
- Improved performance in strength, power, speed, and endurance (1,3)
- Fat loss (1,3)
- Improved hydration (1,3)
- Improved exercise response in hot weather (1,3)
- Better cognitive capacity (1,3)
Since creatine’s use in sport and medicine, it has become one of the most researched supplements on the market. It has been studied in many different forms and with different age demographics. Many of the studies conducted include kids aging from 1-18 years of age and have shown no side effects from creatine supplementation (5). It is used commonly in the medical field , with no side effects, when young children have muscular disorders, cancers, and kidney issues. So why not use it if you’re healthy?
What to use?
Creatine hydrochloride is the preferred form of creatine to take because it has a better absorption rate than creatine monohydrate (2). However, studies have shown that creatine monohydrate remains readily bioavailable for longer. Monohydrate also tends to be less expensive (3). In multiple studies, both forms of creatine have shown positive results in muscle mass, body composition, and performance.
If looking for results in the quickest method possible, a bulking phase is recommended. When in a bulking phase take 10-20g a day for 7-14 days, then switching to what is called a maintaining load of around 5-10g a day (3). Larger athletes should be on the higher range for daily consumption (1). If bulking isn’t necessary take 5-7g of creatine a day (3).
Most supplement companies will say that athletes should supplement every day. This typically is to have the user consume more product in an attempt to increase sales. Creatine only needs to be consumed before and after training, practice, or competition (1).
It is ideal to use the supplement during training and competition periods. Once the athlete has completed the competitive season, and is taking time off from training, creatine supplementation should stop until training begins again. It is NOT harmful to the athlete to consume 5-7g a day while in season or training regularly, and if a long break occurs it is wasteful to consume creatine (1,3).
Creatine and Kidney Function
According to Poortmans and Francaux who conducted a study published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise:
“Neither short-term, medium-term, nor long-term oral creatine supplements induce detrimental effects on the kidney of healthy individuals.”
And it’s not just this study. Every major peer reviewed study has no conclusive evidence that oral consumption of creatine effects the kidneys in any way (3). In fact, there have been studies that have found evidence of improved renal kidney function when supplementing creatine (3).
It is important to note the final two words of the quote above, “healthy individuals.” You may hear the term creatinine used when talking about kidney function. Creatinine is a waste product of normal muscle function and is filtered through the kidneys (4). When testing kidney function creatinine levels are measured in the blood and urine. Elevated creatinine levels can be an indication of lower than normal kidney function. If you have a pre-existing kidney condition consult your doctor before taking creatine.
What Does This Mean?
This means if you are an athlete and you aren’t taking creatine, you should be. It is one of the most heavily researched supplements that has proven benefits, is safe, and legal. If you are a long distance runner it may not be necessary to take creatine, but almost all other athletes can benefit from the supplementation of creatine during training and competition.