The Ultimate Guide to Creatine
Creatine is the most popular sports supplement on the planet, ringing up more than $400 million in annual sales in 20171. Though first discovered in 1832, this super supplement didn’t achieve mainstream popularity until over a century later, after it was revealed that the British track and field team used creatine in the 1992 Summer Olympic Games.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is an organic compound found primarily in muscle cells. It can also be obtained from various dairy products, red and white meat, fish, and mollusks (slugs, snails, etc.). Chemically speaking, creatine is somewhat similar to amino acids.
The creatine in muscles is stored as phosphocreatine and aids your body in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is an energy-carrying molecule that powers the body. Studies show that if you have more ATP in your body, you can perform better during exercise.
Creatine also changes other cellular processes in a way that increases muscle mass, strength, and recovery 3.
Does Creatine Work?
In a word, yes. In his paper “Effects of Creatine Supplementation On Performance and Training Adaptations,” Dr. Richard B. Kreider, head of the Department of Health & Kinesiology at Texas A&M University, explains why.
“Of the approximately 300 studies that have evaluated the potential ergogenic [positive] value of creatine supplementation, about 70% of these studies report statistically significant results while remaining studies generally report non-significant gains in performance.”Dr. Richard B. Kreide
“No study reports a statistically significant ergolytic [negative] effect,” Dr. Kreider says.
According to Dr. Kreider’s research, short-term creatine supplementation can improve power/strength by up to 15% and single-effort sprint performances by 1-5%.
“Moreover, creatine supplementation during training has been reported to promote significantly greater gains in strength, fat-free mass, and performance primarily of high-intensity exercise tasks. Although not all studies report significant results, the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates that creatine supplementation appears to be a generally effective nutritional ergogenic aid for a variety of exercise tasks in a number of athletic and clinical populations,”Dr. Richard B. Kreide
What Does Creatine Do?
Two things, mainly:
- When ingested in the form of a supplement, creatine bonds with a phosphate group to form creatine phosphate, which allows the body to create more ATP. As noted earlier, ATP powers the cells and plays a key role in muscular contraction. In turn, creatine users experience increased energy and enhanced performance, along with less short-term fatigue and lactic acid buildup.
- Creatine also hydrates the muscle cells by pulling fluid from outside the cell into the cell. This additional H20 boosts protein synthesis (the body’s ability to absorb protein), aids in recovery, and promotes the growth of new muscle fiber. Given these proven benefits, one might wonder why many weightlifters and athletes aren’t adding creatine to their supplement regimen. Well, undoubtedly some have been scared off by the negative press that creatine has received.
Is Creatine Bad For You?
The NCAA even banned the distribution of creatine by its member institutions, arguing that creatine’s long-term effects were not yet known and that it could lead to a competitive advantage for some college programs.
Proposal No. 99-72, which was passed by the NCAA Division I Management Council by a 46-4 vote in April 2000, states:
Because of the lack of long-term studies on possible side effects and lack of FDA [Food and Drug Administration] regulation, it is not advisable for muscle-building supplements to be provided. This proposal would prohibit an institution from doing so while allowing institutions to provide non-muscle-building nutritional supplements at any time. Further, although there is an ongoing dispute regarding the safety of muscle-building supplements, the fact remains that such supplements are performance-enhancing. Institutions that have the resources to provide such supplements to their student-athletes could obtain a competitive advantage. Identifying permissible expenses provides clearer direction to member institutions.
In addition to creatine, amino acids, ginseng, and protein powders were also put on the “naughty list,” while sugar-filled electrolyte-replacement drinks like Gatorade and Powerade were approved.
As Steven Scott Plisk, director of sports conditioning at Yale University noted, creatine “has been used in the United Kingdom since the early 1980s without any problems… if creatine caused long-term side effects, there would be indicators in the shorter studies. With anabolic steroids, you see some signs in the short term that warn you about what’s coming in the long term, and you don’t see any of that with creatine.”
Former Temple University Athletic Director Dave O’Brien concurred, pointing out that the ruling seemed “a little backward.”
“If it seems to be legitimate to use, it should be permissible for the institution to distribute it — then you have professional medical personnel handling the distribution.”
Does Creatine Use Cause Dehydration?
Long-term safety and a competitive advantage aren’t the only issues with creatine supplementation, some critics argue. It also causes cramping and dehydration, they say.
Ross Bailey, senior associate athletic director at Texas Christian University, claimed that creatine was the cause of frequent cramping and pulled hamstrings among athletes at TCU.
“We have no scientific evidence, but the use of creatine is the only thing that has changed,” said Baily in a 1996 NCAA news piece.
This may have been true. Most health professionals believe that a creatine regimen should include even more water consumption than normal. However, there is a preponderance of scientific evidence suggesting that creatine alone does not cause dehydration or muscle cramps among college athletes.
In 1997, two studies were conducted by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance regarding creatine’s effects on college athletes. Both concluded there were “no perceived side-effects or health-status problems associated with creatine supplementation.”
What Is the Best Creatine on the Market?
Although there are numerous types of creatine on the market, creatine monohydrate is the most studied, least expensive, and most widely available. For those reasons, it is preferred to other forms of creatine.
Another option is buffered creatine, or creatine monohydrate combined with an alkaline powder. According to its proponents, this type of creatine is more potent and has fewer side effects, such as bloating and cramping.
While the latter may be true, the increased potency claim has not been validated in any study. Still, it is a viable option for those that have issues with creatine monohydrate. Though no study has shown buffered creatine is better than creatine monohydrate, none have shown it’s inferior either.
Most studies show that creatine works. The evidence suggests that users get bigger and stronger with few, if any, side effects. Bang® Master Blaster® contains five grams of creatine monohydrate, along with other ingredients designed to help you realize your goals in the gym. Better still, Master Blaster® is backed by two university studies.
1Creatine Use in Sports. (2017, October 23). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5753968/
2Persky, A. M. (2001, June). Clinical pharmacology of the dietary supplement creatine monohydrate. PubMed. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11356982/
3International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. (2007, August 30). PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2048496/