Myth Bursting: Creatine Myths and Truths You Should Know About

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Word cloud for CreatinePerhaps on your first day in the gym you heard people talking about it. Indeed, creatine is one of the most discussed and studied sports nutrition supplements out there. As with virtually anything else, controversies and myths around creatine abound. In this post we shall look at some of the most popular myths about creatine, and offer doses of truth (aka facts).

Myth: New “improved” forms of creatine work better.

Dose of truth: There are various types of creatine on the market today. These include the old monohydrate and newer often hyped ones. Many of the newer ones have not really been studied and tend to cost more. Don’t pay more for hype: stick to the old creatine monohydrate, at least until there is real scientific evidence of a superior form, as it is the most studies form so far.

However, if creatine bother your stomach you may want to try a different forms to see which one works better for you.

Myth: Creatine causes dehydration and muscle cramping.

Dose of truth: There is currently little if any scientific evidence that shows that creatine supplementation causes dehydration and muscle cramping. In fact, there is a study that suggests it may help reduce incidence of cramping and injury.[1] A separate study also showed that it may not cause dehydration either.[2]

Myth: Creatine is (like) anabolic steroids.

Dose of truth: The temptation is great to respond to this one in one word; balderdash. There is no similarity between creatine and anabolic steroids. While creatine has been found to be anabolic (supports strength and muscle growth), it is not prohormone as steroids are. Also, creatine is naturally produced in the body and can be obtained through eating certain types of food, such as lean red. Steroids are synthetically produced (that’s why they are called drugs).

Myth: Creatine causes kidney and liver damage.

Dose of truth: Neither short-term nor long-term use of creatine has been has been found to be detrimental to either kidney or liver.[3] However, people with a pre-existing kidney or liver condition should consult a healthcare professional before starting on creatine supplementation. A 12-week study showed creatine supplementation did not affect kidney function.[4] One study on an individual with one kidney that was slightly damaged showed no negative effect.[5] One study found that creatine may actually protect the liver from high fat diet.[6] Impurities in a product can have negative effects, which is why you should go for products from reputable companies.

Myth: Creatine causes excessive water retention.

Dose of truth: Creatine has been found to improve muscle hydration, or what others call inter-cellular water retention. However this is not the same as increased body water as in some medical conditions. Studies have shown no significant increase in body water as a result of creatine supplementation. Again, using a quality product is advised, as opposed to cheap inferior ones.


References:

[1] NIH: Cramping and Injury Incidence in Collegiate Football Players Are Reduced by Creatine Supplementation

[2] NIH: Creatine Use and Exercise Heat Tolerance in Dehydrated Men

[3] NIH: Effects of long-term creatine supplementation on liver and kidney functions

[4] JISSN: Does long-term creatine supplementation impair kidney function

[5] Examine.com: Does creatine cause kidney problems?

[6] Canadian Liver Foundation: Researchers may have found key to protecting liver from high fat diet

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