CREATINE. Just the Facts

Phil Kaplan summarizes the answers to the most common creatine questions

Written June 14, 2003

As rumors continue to spread, the creatine facts remain the same. This page should answer most of the more common creatine questions:

  • Creatine monohydrate is the most effective creatine compound as proven in extensive research.
  • Despite rumors, there have been no significant findings indicating any risk in using creatine monohydrate as a supplement.
  • Many creatine formulas are loaded with sugar which allows manufacturers to increase profit margins (sugar is cheap). It's best, from an economy and effectiveness standpoint to first try pure creatine monohydrate in water. If after 10-14 days no increase in strength or muscle size is noted, you might try consuming it with 45 grams of sugar per 5 grams of creatine. Note that while this might enhance creatine absorption, it might also limit fat release. Most people benefit from pure creatine monohydrate powder without need to add any "factors."
  • Creatine is not a steroid and does not act like a steroid. It acts by drawing more water into muscle cells and by increasing phosphocreatine storage in muscle tissue. The result is increase in muscle size and performance.
  • Creatine is actually found in red meat and is fit for human consumption.
  • There isn't any documented research to suggest that creatine usage is unsafe for teens.
  • While creatine sellers suggest a "loading phase" amounting to 20 grams per day for the first 5 days, it appears "loading" isn't necessary. The one advantage loading may bring about is a quicker result, however, within 60 days, the result tends to be the same whether 20 grams per day are ingested at first, or a consistent 5 grams per day.
  • Too much creatine can lead to stomach upset. 5 gram servings seem to be tolerable for most people.
  • Creatine is sytemic, meaning once you've facilitated additional phosphocreatine storage in muscle, a daily 5 gram dose should be all you need. It is most effective when used if taken daily.
  • There isn't any need to "cycle" creatine. "Cycling" is a term that originated among athletes with anabolic steroid use to allow the endocrine system to repair after hormonal alteration. Creatine does not affect the endocrine system. You may choose to use creatine only during select times in your training, but there doesn't appear to be any risk in continuous usage.
  • Creatine doesn't have any masculinizing properties and it can be used by women seeking muscle or strength increase. Because it may lead to additional water retention, women seeking weight loss may find it psychologically hindering.
  • Brands that have proven reputable and reliable in their creatine compounds (although you may check pricing as the same compound will vary in price under different labels) are Weider, Parrillo, Labrada, EAS, and Sportpharma (this is by no means a complete list).
  • Creatine doesn't add muscle tissue but can act as a muscle gaining aid. In order to see a result from creatine supplementation, it's essential to incorporate it into a program including supportive eating, adequate macronutrition (proteins, carbs, essential fats) and resistance exercise.
  • It's also important to note, I haven't any vested interest in promoting creatine. - Phil Kaplan

[ If you haven't read it yet, also read Phil's full length article on creatine ]

[ Read The Simplicity of Growth ]

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