Creatine is a food supplement that is used in all power sports.
Its use is every day among ordinary visitors to the gym. This is also confirmed by the sales of sports supplements worldwide – creatine confidently ranks second here.
But despite the mass application, side effects are still there. Today we will see if they are so critical and whether the harm of creatine is actual.
Side effects – myths and reality
Creatine monohydrate is a supplement that still leads among all types of creatine. In the 90s, he was the only one.
Monohydrate has already been sufficiently studied by scientists, and all the accumulated scientific data on creatine by 90% concern only it. Therefore, in this article, we will talk about this type of supplement.
Next, we will tell in detail specific and fictional facts concerning it.
The harm of creatine to the hormonal system is a popular myth 25-30 years ago.
Monohydrate then triumphantly conquered more and more sports, proving its effectiveness for the growth of sports results.
This supplement gave such rapid progress in strength, the development of muscle mass, and increased physical performance that it was compared only with taking anabolic steroids.
It got to the point that the World Anti-Doping Committee (WADA) wanted to equate creatine with doping and prohibit athletes from using it.
But this never happened, as there were no severe side effects from the use of the supplement, including interference in the human hormonal system.
By its structure, creatine is an energy substance that improves and significantly increases energy production inside the muscle cell. Here, compared with taking anabolic steroids, a different mechanism of action on the muscles.
Creatine does not affect the production of hormones, significantly does not impair sexual function in men.
Effects on liver and kidneys
Here, as with the hormonal system, there are myths. But there are real negative consequences from the use of monohydrates.
The good news is that scientific studies have established the almost complete safety of creatine for the liver.
The bad news is that supplementing with this dietary supplement can cause kidney problems.
This is what opponents of creatine like to refer to. True, they do not mention all the conclusions of scientists.
And the results of the studies are as follows: for a person with healthy kidneys, creatine intake is safe, even if the recommended dosages are exceeded or used without interruption for a long time (from 6 months or longer).
Those who have various kidney diseases are advised to approach the supplement with caution. After all, it is in this category of people that it can exacerbate the disease. Again, it is best to consult a doctor before use.
About fluid retention
Another myth from the ’90s. In those days, the sports supplement industry only offered creatine monohydrate, which held the water up a lot.
Over time, manufacturers have improved cleaning methods, and now this category of additives practically does not retain fluid in the body.
This applies to all modifications of creatine monohydrate, including micronized and buffered.
And there are other species (malate, citrate, and so on), which are theoretically devoid of such a drawback. But in practice, this has not yet been proven by scientists.
Although it is worth saying that creatine “loves” water, and during its use, it is recommended to increase its consumption to 2-3 liters per day.
Effect on the gastrointestinal tract
Adverse effects on the gastrointestinal tract affect 40% of people taking creatine monohydrates.
Side effects in the digestive system manifest themselves in different ways. They start with mild discomfort in the stomach, which passes without a trace after 1-2 days of regular use and ends with bloating, flatulence, colic, and diarrhea.
If there is severe discomfort after taking, then it is better to refuse the supplement. In such cases, it is recommended to try other types of it.
As a rule, creatine monohydrate is advised after a meal to minimize the possible negative impact on the gastrointestinal tract.
The side effect of muscle cramps from taking creatine is rare. In addition, it affects indirectly here.
Thanks to the use of the supplement, the intensity of training increases dramatically in all directions at once. As a result, the number of exercises, approaches, repetitions, and working weight is growing. Often the rest time between systems is also reduced.
Such a five-fold increase in training load significantly depletes muscle tissue. And if the body does not receive all macro-and micronutrients in sufficient quantities, this can lead to regular muscle cramps.
Remember that an increase in load should always be balanced by sufficient recovery.
About the increased risk of injury
Unfortunately, creatine can increase the risk of injury. First of all, this applies to microtraumas of muscle tissue. Second, to a lesser extent, ligament injuries. This is easily explained – there is a sharp increase in strength in a short period.
Muscles and bone-ligamentous apparatus do not have time to adapt to the increased level of strength, which often ends in trauma.
In power sports, this feature of creatine is known. Therefore, during its application, training loads increase gradually, without a sharp increase in each workout.
The planned growth of the working weights helps to control progress in strength and muscle mass, minimizing the risk of injury.
Abuse and exceeding the recommended dosage
A separate conversation is the excess of the recommended dosage of the supplement.
Most types of creatine are taken in the amount of 3-5 grams per day. Such a portion is scientifically based and, in addition, guarantees the complete absence of side effects.
Increased dosages (15-20 grams) are also permissible, but only for a short time. As a rule, 3-4 days. It’s called the “loading phase.” After such a scheme, they switch to the standard one – 3-5 grams per day.
But despite the evidence base and the confirmed safe protocol of use, there are still people who put experiments on themselves.
Prolonged excess of recommendations for use (more than 20 g) is at least a waste of money. And the maximum is an additional load on the kidneys.
To understand this, it is enough to delve a little into the basics of human biochemistry.
Additional creatine intake will be adequate only in case of its deficiency in the body. For example, in the muscles of a man weighing 75 kg, his reserves are about 130 grams.
Once the body is saturated with creatine to the desired level, the supplement is no longer absorbed.
If you take it with a loading phase, the muscles receive the necessary amount of the substance in 2-3 weeks. Without downloading, it will take 3-4 weeks.
Further reception does not make sense since its excess body will remove urine (while additionally loading the kidneys).
Approximately the same picture and with increased dosages. The body gets used to so much supplement in a couple of days. As soon as the creatine deficiency in the muscles is compensated, the excess begins to be eliminated.
After taking for four weeks, it is recommended to take a break, lasting 3-4 weeks. Then the cycle can be repeated.
As you can see, taking creatine has both benefits and harms. Unfortunately, however, the ratio of positive impact and negative factors is incomparable.
The reputation of the supplement is based mainly on myths or outdated information. And the effectiveness is confirmed by numerous studies and many years of experience in use.