Creatine is one of the best-selling dietary supplements in history, perhaps even in the first place – at least that’s what all the data shows. There are still a lot of myths and untrue opinions about creatine.
I’m often asked if it’s worth taking creatine, if it won’t harm your health, what the effects are and who it’s suitable for. I will try to answer these questions in a simple way.
Should I Take Creatine? How does it work?
ATP cellular resources contain enough energy for only a few stimulations. The quickest ATP resynthesis takes place at the expense of phosphocreatine decomposition and lasts several seconds. Phosphocreatine is used to regenerate creatine resources, e.g. in muscles, and creatinine, formed from creatine phosphate, is excreted with urine. Under normal conditions, there is about 4.4 g of creatine in 1 kg of raw beef or salmon, so people reach for a supplement because few people are able to eat so much meat day in day out (and even if they are able to, they may have many adverse metabolic effects).
They provide energy in strength training:
phosphocreatine -> creatine,
ADP -> ATP,
glycogen (glucose accumulated in the muscles, as a rapidly available source of energy).
Glycogen provides energy in an inefficient anaerobic glycolysis process. Phosphocreatine supplies the muscles and in 3 seconds the breakdown of phosphocreatine provides 70% of energy in the form of ATP. After just 6 seconds of exercise, carbohydrates (glycogen) become the main energy source. Phosphocreatine is rapidly regenerated – after just 30 seconds of rest half of its resources return, while lactates are removed from the muscles very slowly – half disappears only after 10 minutes. Due to its characteristics, creatine is best suited for short, intensive anaerobic work such as pendulum runs, intervals, rope climbing, jumps, sprints, tears and other power buoys. Phosphocreatine becomes the dominant source for ATP production there.
So this means that creatine gives profits only in short-term work?
No. Years later it was discovered that it is important for e.g. runners (and all athletes in general), because it can influence the threshold of anaerobic changes. The higher the PPA lies, the higher the heart rate you can work at, without going into “acute anaerobic”. For example, a trained quite young person needs 175 heartbeats per minute (or more) to be in the highest intensity zone. Such work cannot be continued for long. Creatine allows you to circumvent this limitation. In addition, an increase in strength and power is valuable for every active person. Creatine also influences regeneration, which is important for athletes, as they are exposed to greater strain than average people.
Creatine and myostatin
It is worth noting that legal and extremely cheap creatine can also affect myostatin. In one study from 2010 Saremi A. et al. investigated how creatine will affect myostatin and GASP-1. What is the significance of GASP-1 (Growth and Differentiation Factor-Associated Serum Protein-1)? Under normal circumstances 70% of myostatin is associated with propeptide, the rest with FLRG (type of protein). Both of these proteins act as blockers, making it impossible for myostatin to bind to its receptor. It has also been proven that myostatin can be associated with a completely new type of GASP-1 protein.
In short, what blocks myostatin => affects muscle growth, and what causes the release of myostatin => affects muscle breakdown.
It turned out that supplementation with creatine in combination with strength training led to greater decreases in myostatin levels in the blood.
It is suspected that apart from a few dozen (some say about 200) genes that are key for bodybuilders, the fact that myostatin inhibits the action of myostatin in the human body is also of significance. Creatine can therefore be a unique anabolic.
Does creatine allow me to build muscles and how much should I take?
Some say that only indirectly. Many studies suggest that creatine is a means to create an anabolic environment and allow you to train harder. It does not build muscles by itself, because you still need to eat and exercise properly. The greatest effects associated with the use of creatine are observed after several days of its administration. Then the muscles obtain an appropriate level of saturation. Hence the protocol of administering larger doses of creatine for 5-7 days (15-20 g per day) and then smaller maintenance doses. You can also give a longer time (several weeks) of 3-6 g of creatine monohydrate per day, e.g. when you are not in such a hurry to increase your performance.
Around 120 g of creatine is stored in a man’s body of 70 kg, of which 95% in the skeletal muscles. This amount can be increased to approx. 160 g, e.g. by administering a dietary supplement such as monohydrate or creatine malate. Therefore, in most people it is effective to administer 5 g of creatine per day – additional creatine from the supplement, not counting the one supplied e.g. with meat.
Summary: the creatine dosage depends on body weight. For the majority of people, doses of 3-5 g per day will work, for heavier people even 7-8 g per day.
Does creatine “burn” fat?
No, but indirectly allows to get rid of fat tissue. Fat-free body weight is an “oven” burning fat. The more muscles you have, the more effectively you affect, for example, the resting metabolism (energy expenditure related to maintaining vital functions, etc.).
Is 5 g ideal for everyone?
No. People who weigh 40-60 kg will reach for less, while 100-110-kg PERSONS will reach for more grams of creatine per day. If you weigh more than 100 kg and it is not mostly fat mass, nothing will happen if the daily creatine dosage is slightly higher (e.g. 6-8 g per day). Lighter people should be given 3-5 g a day.
Does creatine only affect the upper body?
This is suggested by Nunes JP et al. In my opinion, the reason is obvious – nobody likes to train hard on the lower part of the body, because it is a terrible struggle. That’s why the growth of upper body muscles is much more visible, compared to the front and back of the thigh, for example. Anyway, scientists once again used “trained people” who were just beginners. The described training program was based on machines and left much to be desired. Anyway, I completely disagree with the conclusions that João Pedro Nunes and others drew.
In the creatine group:
the weight of the upper limbs increased by 7.1 ± 2.9%,
the weight of the lower limbs increased by 3.2 ± 2.1%,
the weight of the trunk increased by 2.1 ± 2.2%.
In the placebo group:
the weight of the upper limbs increased by 1.6 ± 3.0%,
the weight of the lower limbs increased by 0.7 ± 2.8%,
the weight of the trunk increased by 0.7 ± 2.8%.
Consequently, it can be seen that the proportion of top and bottom body growth in the creatine group (0.45) is almost identical to that in the placebo group (~0.44). So how can you claim that creatine only builds up the muscles of the upper body when you can clearly see that the problem was insufficient lower body training. Perhaps (this is my thesis) creatine affects the water retention in the upper and lower limbs in a different way, hence the results are partly different as far as gains are concerned.
And doesn’t creatine cause kidney disease or cancer?
Contrary to the panic caused by the French, it has not been possible to confirm that creatine is harmful to the kidneys, liver, cancer or the body. If the French specialists’ claims were true, we would be faced with a scandal where the thalidomide scandal is nothing (the agent caused severe, irreversible developmental changes in foetuses). Here you don’t need sophisticated research, just a peek at the timeline. According to some sources, creatine was used as early as in the 1970s, its popularity flourished in the 1990s.
Should I Take Creatine? Summary
It has not yet been shown that creatine is a health hazard. On the contrary, new health-promoting applications are constantly being discovered. In fact, recent research suggests that the supply of creatine in chronic kidney disease is… too low. Yeah, these doctors aren’t crazy. They wrote an extensive text that was published in May 2019. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6567063/). In it, they suggest creatine supplementation in chronic kidney disease, even in dialysis patients. Other studies have shown that creatine (at a dose of ~10 g per day) improves renal function.
Of course, this is a hypothesis for the time being, but similarly, the new books already see much higher doses of protein, even for people who used to recommend that proteins be thrown out of the diet as much as possible!
It turns out that creatine supplementation combined with therapeutic procedures effectively supports the rehabilitation of tendon injuries. It has an impact on pain sensation, muscle mass preservation and strength increase during rehabilitation.
It has also been shown that the administration of creatine is particularly important for aging people. It increases muscle mass and strength and improves the functioning of these people in everyday life. This happens regardless of whether strength training is conducted in parallel or creatine administration without training. Of course, it is much more effective to use creatine with the introduction of a reasonable strength program, adjusted to the age, physical fitness and the ability of the person to perform the given exercises.
According to currently available evidence, creatine is suitable for both women and men, young and old. Its use is not recommended in the case of strong dehydration – it is necessary to ensure adequate supply of fluids, preferably water. There are no contraindications that even teenagers can reach for creatine if they are training for strength and follow a varied diet.