The Truth About Creatine

The Truth About Creatine

Posted on February 26, 2019 · Posted in Uncategorized

Is this what comes to mind when you think of creatine? Mainstream media has feed us notions of kidney dysfunction, aggressive teenagers and “bloated muscles” when it comes to creatine users. But is creatine some sort of toxic substance that will land you in an emergency room or get you into an uncontrollable rage?

Many have espoused its benefits in the gym and on the field of performance but what is the truth about creatine.

About Creatine

Creatine has been around since the beginning of time! It’s a substance that your body naturally produces from 3 amino acids, all be it in very small quantities. You can actually get it through your diet too, from meat and fish.

You would need to eat large quantities of meat and fish to increase your creatine stores to make any significant impact on performance though.

Creatine as a substance was discovered as far back as the 1840’s but didn’t really come to light in Western training circles as an ergogenic aid until the 1990’s. The Soviets were ahead of the game though recommending creatine to their athletes long before their Western counter parts.

“Early work by Olexander Palladin established the role of creatine in muscle function. In the 1970s, Soviet scientists showed that oral creatine supplements improved athletic performance in short, intense activities such as sprints. (1)

Although you can probably guess creatine may not have been the only “nutritional aid” they were using!

Maximize Z Pump!

Creatines notoriety belongs to that of a “pump ergogenic” in that it will draw water into your skeletal muscle. This can increase your weight by a couple of kilos in a very short period, giving you more of a pumped look….Bigger biceps, bigger pecs and traps to match!

If you’re male this may be all you know about creatine. But there’s more to creatine than a simple beach body pump.

What the research says….

Since creatine came to prominence in the 90’s there have been hundreds of research studies on the effects of creatine monohydrate and performance. Creatine monohydrate is the form used in most research studies. Evidence proves that creatine does bring about significant improvement to athletic performance. Especially if you’re training involves short duration, maximal efforts that have to be repeated in quick succession.

How does it work?

Creatine can influence a number of physiological mechanisms that enables your body to produce and recover from maximal bouts of short duration exercise quicker:

  1. It can buffer acidity when you train. Acidosis can be a limiting factor to your performance. It essentially forces you to stop doing what you’re doing.
  2. If you “load” the skeletal muscle tissues with creatine you can replenish ATP stores quicker by enhancing re-phosphorylation. ATP is essential for maximal, short bursts of effort.
  3. Extracellular water is drawn into your muscle cells which can enhance muscle protein synthesis and also prevent protein degredation.

The Truth About Creatine
A 2005 review of creatine research papers undertaken in the University of Oklahoma states that,

  “if PCr concentrations are increased in skeletal muscle, PCr can then aid in the rapid rephosphorylation of adenosine diphosphate (ADP) back to adensine triphosphate (ATP) by the Cr kinase reaction during high-intensity, very short duration activities especially if the bouts of intense activity are repeated with short rest periods between them. (2) (3)

Performance Based Results

There are mostly positive results when it comes to creatines impact on performance. Several hundred studies have been undertaken with the majority of them indicating that creatine will benefit performance via significant increases in strength, power and the number of repetitions performed to fatigue when compared to placebo groups. These studies have used 1RM bench presses, half squats, counter movement vertical jump height and sprints as their measure.

  • 5-15% improvement in maximal strength efforts
  • 1-5% improvement in single effort sprints
  • 10-15% improvement in repeated sprints
  • 5-15% increase in work performed in sets of max efforts

(Kreider, R.B., Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Mol Cellular Biochem., 2003 Feb;244(1-2):89-94)

However, non-respondent groups have also been noted. That is, study participants that have taken creatine and trained alongside placebo controlled participants ending up with similar results.

One hypothesis is that creatine is more beneficial if you have fast twitch muscle fibres. Your fast twitch, type 2 muscle fibres are recruited for short duration maximal efforts where as slow twitch are used for longer duration. So if your muscle fibre make up is predominantly slow twitch you simply may not get the benefits.

Aggression, Kidney Failure and Cramping!

A major concern if you’re a parent of adolescents taking creatine is anger issues. Among the research produced to date on CM and exercise there is no scientific evidence of creatine causing an increase in unpredictable anger. If anything your son or daughter may be succumbing to the pressures of their sport or may even be taking more sinister substances.

Do we recommend adolescents take creatine?

No, not because it’s unsafe but we don’t recommend adolescents take protein or amino acids either unless medically necessary or elite level sport is involved.

Adolescents need to lay foundations with a good diet and proper strength training program. A multi-vitamin, fish oil and pro-biotic are okay. But young men and women need to learn the value of hard work and commit to looking after their bodies through a proper diet as opposed to throwing supplements down their gob.

And as for kidney failure, the concern around CM ingestion is that its breakdown or by-product, creatinine, has adverse impacts on renal function. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN),

there is no evidence to support the notion that normal creatine intake (<25gr/day) in healthy adults causes renal dysfunction. (5)

Aggression, kidney failure and cramping seem to be nutritional myths around creatine as no scientific papers see a cause and effect among normal, healthy individuals. So decide for yourselves folks, it this something that may be of benefit to your training and competitions or will it land you in the emergency department!

We’ll leave you with The ISSN’s final thoughts,

The tremendous numbers of investigations conducted with positive results on CM supplementation lead us to conclude that it is the most effective nutritional supplement available today for increasing high intensity exercise capacity and building lean muscle mass. (6)


(2) Terjung RL, Clarkson P, Eichner ER, et al. The physiological and health effect of oral creatine supplementation. Med Sci Sport Exerc 2000; 32 (3): 706-16

(3) Yquel RJ, Arsac LM, Thiaudiere E, et al. Effect of creatine supplementation on phosphocreatine resynthesis, inorganic phosphate accumulation and pH during intermittent maximal exercise. J Sports Sci 2002; 20: 427-37

(4) Kreider, R.B., Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Mol Cellular Biochem., 2003 Feb;244(1-2):89-94

(5) Buford W.T., Kreider R.B., Stout J.R., Greenwood M., Campbell B., SPano M., Zeigenfuss T., Lopez H., Landis J., Antonio J., International Society of Sports Nutrition positional stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of ISSN, Aug., 2007

(6) Buford W.T., Kreider R.B., Stout J.R., Greenwood M., Campbell B., SPano M., Zeigenfuss T., Lopez H., Landis J., Antonio J., International Society of Sports Nutrition positional stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of ISSN, Aug., 2007