Creatine is arguably the most popular sports supplement available to date, and for good reason. Aside from it being a critical biomolecule, creatine is one of the safest, most effective supplements out there.
It’s only natural that with such prosperity there will come a few false accusations, so it’s time to dispel some of the myths that are attached to creatine. Read on to learn the truth about creatine and why it should be in your supplement stash.
10 Common Creatine Myths
Myth 1: Creatine is bad for the kidneys.
Reality: This theory is rather baseless and likely extends from the idea that the kidneys “are damaged” when blood creatinine (a byproduct of the phosphocreatine system) levels rise. However, there is little, if any, clinical validity to this supposition.
In fact, one study even gave individuals a hefty 20g dose of creatine monohydrate for one week and found no significant changes in renal activity. Unless you have pre-existing renal impairment there is little reason to believe that creatine supplementation will damage your kidneys.
Myth 2: Creatine will stunt the growth of teenagers.
Reality: This is another rather ludicrous supposition, almost on par with the idea that creatine is a steroid (which is also dispelled herein). I’m not even sure where the connection comes from between the premature closure of epiphyseal plates and creatine. Creatine is a biomolecule present in all humans and found in a variety of foods, it’s just as safe for teenagers as it is for anybody else.
Myth 3: Creatine has to be front-loaded/mega-dosed when starting use.
Reality: Not a necessity, rather just a way to expedite the process of saturating your creatine stores. Most companies purport that the front-loading protocol is necessary to reach peak creatine levels but even a nominal dose of creatine taken over a few weeks will suffice just fine. Furthermore, consider the fact that many companies post such outlandish claims on their labels to get you to use up the product quicker and thus re-purchase it.
Myth 4: Creatine needs to be “cycled”.
Reality: There are few supplements, especially over-the-counter, I can really think of that stand to benefit from cycling usage (on and off); creatine, however, is not one of them. In fact, I would suggest that creatine be taken rather consistently since it exerts most of its benefits once a saturation point has been established.
Myth 5: Creatine is a steroid.
Reality: All I can really do in response to this somewhat moronic claim is shake my head. If I must elaborate, creatine isn’t even close to being chemically related to steroid molecules. Creatine is an amino acid, so this theory would be analogous to me saying that protein molecules are full of steroids…Hmmmm.
Myth 6: Creatine doesn’t need to be supplemented with since it’s in certain foods.
Reality: Despite the fact that creatine is indeed found in some foods (especially beef), the amounts of these foods you would have to consume on a daily basis to achieve the benefits of a nominal dose of supplemental creatine would be exorbitantly large.
Myth 7: Creatine (monohydrate) needs to be taken with a large dose of sugar to be sufficiently absorbed.
Reality: Creatine is actually absorbed rather efficiently on its own and to achieve much “extra” benefit you need a rather large dose (>100g) of simple carbohydrates since the enhanced rate of creatine uptake is mediated by insulin (but only at high plasma levels). It’s just more practical to avoid the need for a bunch of sugar with your creatine intake.
Myth 8: Creatine monohydrate is less bio-available (read: absorbable) then creatine ethyl ester and kre-alkalyn.
Reality: Ironically enough, creatine ethyl ester and kre-alkalyn may actually be even less absorbable than basic creatine monohydrate.[5,6] You don’t need to get all fancy with creatine supplements, the monohydrate form is the most researched and time-tested form of creatine for a reason.
Myth 9: Caffeine interferes with the absorption of creatine since it’s a diuretic.
Reality: Actually, caffeine appears to enhance the rate of uptake of creatine, you just need to be more prudent about staying hydrated. Remember, creatine is anabolic in that it draws water into the muscles so keeping fluid intake nominal is key when supplementing with it.
Myth 10: Creatine is not safe for females.
Reality: Read the myth above myth about “creatine stunting growth of teenagers” and you should be caught up on why creatine is not a “sexist” supplement.
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1. Pline, K. A., & Smith, C. L. (2005). The effect of creatine intake on renal function. The Annals of pharmacotherapy, 39(6), 1093-1096.
2. Poortmans, J. R., Auquier, H., Renaut, V., Durussel, A., Saugy, M., & Brisson, G. R. (1997). Effect of short-term creatine supplementation on renal responses in men. European journal of applied physiology and occupational physiology,76(6), 566-567.
3. Buford TW, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2007)
4. Steenge, G. R., Lambourne, J., Casey, A., Macdonald, I. A., & Greenhaff, P. L. (1998). Stimulatory effect of insulin on creatine accumulation in human skeletal muscle. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology And Metabolism,275(6), E974-E979.
5. Giese, M. W., & Lecher, C. S. (2009). Non-enzymatic cyclization of creatine ethyl ester to creatinine. Biochemical and biophysical research communications, 388(2), 252-255.
6. Jagim, A. R., Oliver, J. M., Sanchez, A., Galvan, E., Fluckey, J., Reichman, S., ... & Kreider, R. B. (2012). Kre-Alkalyn® supplementation does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations in comparison to creatine monohydrate. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(Suppl 1), P11.
7. International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics; Creatine and Caffeine in Anaerobic and Aerobic Exercise: Effects on Physical Performance and Pharmacokinetic Considerations; Vanakoski J., et al.; May 1998.