Creatine monohydrate is one of the most popular sports supplements for increasing performance in the gym.
For years, the myth has been established that taking creatine is bad for the kidneys. However, studies have clarified that this only happens when a person takes creatine incorrectly. (2,3,4)
This article describes how to take creatine, its possible side effects, contraindications, and how to avoid them.
What is creatine monohydrate?
Creatine is a molecule that participates in muscle movement. An adult man’s body has around 100-150 g of creatine. This molecule is mainly concentrated in skeletal muscles.
Creatine monohydrate is a sports supplement used to increase muscle strength and energy indicators. Taking creatine in this way is recommended for athletes focused on muscle hypertrophy to increase volume.
There is a tendency to believe that creatine’s contraindications and side effects are severe. However, research shows that taking creatine correctly is safe for your health. (2,3,4)
How to take creatine? – Dose
Taking 2-4 g of creatine monohydrate powder per day; combining it with simple carbohydrates is recommended to improve its absorption (4).
Values can increase to 160 grams of creatine per day; The human body cannot absorb higher values. So taking more than 10g of creatine per day is pointless. (6)
Currently, current research has made it clear that the effect of the anabolic window is a myth. (7) Make it clear that creatine can be taken before and after training.
The idea that this supplement should be consumed in large doses at first (20g) and then down to 2-4g is still controversial for scientists. However, recent studies have ruled out that this way of taking creatine has more significant benefits since its effects on ATP are not better.
That creatine can accumulate in the kidney is a myth. It has been proven that the kidney can eliminate it without problems. The problem with taking creatine monohydrate is that when it is taken for a long time for long periods, it generates two other wastes.
After 4-6 weeks of taking creatine, the body metabolizes two compounds: methylamine and formaldehyde. Both compounds are cytotoxic substances associated with severe health problems. It is recommended to take creatine cyclically; interrupting for 4-6 weeks is enough.
What is creatine for?
An extra dose of creatine monohydrate can be provided through foods of animal origin. The presence of creatine in meat indicates its quality: a good meat product contains no less than 1.5% of this compound (1).
Taking creatine is of greater importance for athletes who carry out a vegan diet. Creatine is not found in plant sources, and when there is little creatine in the body, muscle work is less efficient. In these cases taking supplements is justified.
Creatine is used to increase performance in sports. Combining carbohydrates such as maltodextrin is one of the best sports supplements to increase volume. The reason: the body improves the transformation of food calories into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules. The presence of creatine in cells optimizes ATP expenditure; and increases muscle glycogen performance (2).
In addition, creatine phosphate is essential to avoid the typical fatigue of a lack of glycogen during a workout. This is common in high-intensity activities like CrossFit or during circular training. Taking creatine allows you to train with greater power and therefore achieve better results in muscle development.
Effects on the body
The effects of creatine on the body are:
- Increased muscle strength
Creatine, along with glucose, is the primary energy source for muscles. Combining creatine with carbohydrates will result in increased strength and increased maximum strength.
2 . Greater muscle volume
One of the effects of taking creatine monohydrate is increasing muscle volume. Studies have confirmed values of up to 3-5 kg of lean muscle mass compared to people who took a placebo. (2) (4)
- Better muscle recovery
By taking creatine, muscle glycogen is used more effectively. This fact translates into a reduction in muscle recovery times in the long term.
- Less cortisol when training
Studies have confirmed that taking creatine regularly can lower blood cortisol levels when training. (4) (5) One of the reasons it is recommended to take in stages of muscle growth.
- Increases BMI
Creatine monohydrate is capable of increasing the body mass index. (BMI) Weight gain occurs due to an increase in lean mass and temporary water retention in the sarcoplasm.
Creatine Monohydrate vs. Micronized Creatine – Which is Better?
The improved creatine variants are usually more expensive than the monohydrate version. However, no significant differences have been found in the scientific community. The only exception to buying a supplement other than the traditional version is in cases of allergic reactions.
For example, creatine phosphate, malate, and nitrate are the most common versions of this supplement. The downside of creatine nitrate is that it has a shorter breakdown time. As well, it can cause changes in body pH. (8)
Micronized creatine has been industrially treated to reduce the size of its particles. Some manufacturers claim that it is a great way to increase absorption. However, there is not enough scientific evidence to affirm that this is true. (8)
The same molecule is hidden in its monohydrate form underneath the creatine product with a transporter system. What at first glance seems like a much more complex supplement. It is unnecessary to invest large amounts in new technologies by choosing to buy this supplement. Focusing on training is more important than spending money on optimized versions.
Side effects and contraindications
Creatine monohydrate has been the most studied sports supplement to date. The consumption of 3 grams of this supplement per day is classified by the European Food Safety Agency in the category as a minimal risk of adverse health effects (5).
The side effects of creatine only appear after taking creatine incorrectly. The most common side effect is fluid retention in the first few weeks. We emphasize that creatine monohydrate does not accumulate in the kidney. (6) But it is transformed into cytotoxic compounds when taken for periods longer than six weeks.
Another side effect of creatine is potential dehydration. When taking this supplement, the water goes to the muscles and reduces its availability in the rest of the body. This is why it is recommended to drink more water when taking this sports supplement.
People suffering from chronic diseases and people who take medication regularly should consult their doctor before taking creatine monohydrate. Either way, its side effects cannot be compared to the development of anabolic steroids.
Side effects of taking creatine:
- Fluid retention
- Increased body weight
- Higher concentration of methylamine and formaldehyde in the kidney
The word creatine comes from the Greek area “meat” because it is a substance that only animals are capable of metabolizing. In the 1960s, this supplement was popular with elite endurance athletes. It is believed that the first to take creatine were athletes from the Soviet Union.
This supplement in high-performance divisions has seen improvements of up to 48%. (6) A curious fact in the history of creatine is that the 1966 Olympic Games were called the creatine games. The number of athletes with positive Olympic medals due to the use of this supplement broke records.
Today, it is an over-the-counter sports supplement in most countries. However, it is recommended to always take it under the recommendation of a sportsman or the control of a medical professional.
- Creatine is a sports supplement to increase performance and muscle power.
- It is recommended to take 2-4 g per day by increasing the water brought to avoid dehydration. To enhance its effects in optimizing ATP, it is recommended to combine it with simple carbohydrates.
- The most common side effects of creatine are fluid retention and dehydration. If taken for short periods, it is considered a safe health supplement.
- Creatine monohydrate does not accumulate in the kidney. The cases of severe side effects in the kidney and liver are due to the formation of two cytotoxic compounds: methylamine and formaldehyde. These are formed after taking creatine for periods longer than six weeks.
- There is no scientific evidence to justify the price of micronized creatine versus traditional monohydrate.