Creatine divides some opinion but much of the negative chatter around it is based on myths and misunderstandings. Lets try and put some myths about creatine right here…
Myth #1. Creatine is a steroid
Creatine is defined as “a nitrogenous substance derived from arginine, glycine, and methionine, found in muscle tissue” . So I hope that helps…
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Okay so I’ll try to make this easier to understand. Creatine is a molecule, made up of three amino acids (Arganine, Glycine, and Methionine) and stored in the body in the form of Phosphocreatine (PCR) which is a compound of Creatine and Phosphoric Acid.
PCR is known as an “energy reservoir” and it can be rapidly broken down when needed by an enzyme called Creatine Kinase which creates energy by recycling ATP (ATP or Adenosine Triphosphate is responsible for providing energy for every action the body makes) .
Creatine occurs naturally in the body and can also be ingested from animal sources (meat, poultry, and fish) .
It can also be bought as a supplement
, in the form of Creatine Monohydrate. This has led some people to believe that it is a steroid. It is not.
As examine.com wrote; Creatine is neither a steroid in the scientific sense nor is it a steroid according to the common social definition. Which tends to include Anabolic steroids, injectable Testosterone, or similar illegal compounds .
Creatine is completely legal to use, even when competing. It was first used by the British Olympic Team in the 1992 Olympics .
Myth #2. Creatine is not suitable for vegetarians
As mentioned in the previous myth, most Creatine can be sourced from animal products such as meat, in fact half of all stored Creatine in the body of a non-vegetarian will come from meat rather than the body.
So there is a belief among people that Creatine is not suitable for vegetarians.
Firstly, the supplement form of Creatine is made from two chemicals, sarcosine and cyanamide so does not come from an animal source whatsoever.
Secondly, Vegetarians and Vegans actually benefit from creatine supplementation more than meat eaters.
Because the amount of Creatine stored in their muscles would be much lower, due to not getting any from their current diet.
Lukaszuk et al (2005) found that supplementing with Creatine Monohydrate helped to increase the stores of creatine in the muscle, to a similar level to that of omnivores . Another study by Burke et al (2008) found that Creatine supplementation during resistance training increased IGF-1 (a protein that promotes growth) concentrations in both vegetarians and non-vegetarians .
Myth #3. Creatine damages your kidneys
I hear this myth all the time!
Creatine and Whey protein constantly get blamed for any kidney problems that someone has ever had. But countless studies have found that Creatine is perfectly safe, and whilst there have been the odd reported case of Creatine supplementation causing kidney damage  the vast majority of studies have found that creatine supplementation does not affect Renal function .
I think this article by Robinson et al (2000) puts this best when it states “there is no apparent health risk associated with Cr supplementation to healthy people when it is ingested in quantities that have been scientifically proven to increase muscle Cr stores” .
Basically, if you have a history of kidney problems – then avoid.
Or if you don’t then stick to the recommended quantity and you’ll be fine. As Kim et al (2011) wrote “high-dose (>3-5g/day) creatine supplementation should not be used by individuals with pre-existing renal disease or those with a potential risk for renal dysfunction (diabetes, hypertension, reduced glomerular filtration rate)” .
Myth #4. Creatine loading is better than regular doses
Creatine loading is where you take a very high dose of creatine (20g per day) over a 5 day period before going back down to a more reasonable amount, the belief is that this will raise the amount of creatine stored in the body faster than any other method  but as I mentioned earlier, high-doses of creatine carry a risk
for renal dysfunction.
A safer way to ingest creatine is to take a small regular dose (around 3g per day) for a long period of time. Hultman et al (1996) found that doing this was as effective as loading in the long term .
Now, personally I believe that Creatine loading will be more effective as much of the more recent studies have found this to be the case  but is it better?
Considering the increased risks involved (plus the many side effects related to loading) and the fact that both methods will get you results I would say that no, Creatine loading is not better than taking regular doses.
Myth #5. You should take Creatine immediately before or during a workout
Whilst the debate still rages over whether Creatine timing works versus taking it randomly during the day, studies that have looked into it have found that taking Creatine Post-workout produces superior results to Pre-workout .
Myth #6 Creatine is only for Bodybuilders
This myth has to be the most commonly held belief amongst the general public. “Creatine is only supposed to be taken by bodybuilders alongside their Testosterone and Anabolic Steroids. I’m just a 50 year old woman, there’s no way this stuff is for me!”
Creatine has many benefits besides sporting performance, it can help improve brain performance
(significantly improving memory and intelligence)  and productivity . It also has benefits for anyone who wants to exercise. Under 18s could benefit from it due to a child’s ability to generate energy during high-intensity exercise being reduced when compared to that of an adult .
Due to the possible risks involved you’ll struggle to find anyone who recommends it, but as this study states “reports indicate widespread use in young athletes” .
Creatine can also be very beneficial to the elderly, and in fact many studies tend to look at the benefits for elderly populations rather than young ones.
A study by Tarnopolsky et al (2007) found that when combined with resistance-exercise, creatine had a positive effect on older adults .
Another study looked into the possibility that Creatine supplementation could have a positive effect on Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as age related muscle atrophy (muscles getting smaller with age) but concluded that more research is needed . Know you know some myths about creatine, hope you enjoyed reading this article.
Connect with Expert Matthew Smith.
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