Can one magic supplement do everything?
In part 1 we looked at what creatine monohydrate is and how it can benefit you. Now in part 2 lets’s look at some potential side effects, how much and when to take it, what form to take, and what you need to be aware of before purchasing.
Creatine monohydrate is considered to be generally safe. However some individuals, especially if they start to take high dosages such as 10 to 20 grams a day, may have gastrointestinal discomfort, bloating, and digestion issues. You may have heard too that water retention, weight gain, and kidney damage can occur from using creatine. However, research does not support these claims. Water retention might occur temporarily because creatine is stored in the muscle which actually helps the body hydrate and improve strength. The feeling of holding excess water mostly goes away after three or four days. And when your blood creatinine levels are high, it does not mean you are damaging your kidneys. Mostly, if you are doing resistance training or supplementing, levels could temporarily go up. However, this is not alarming.
Creatine is a highly effective supplement for improving athletic performance, improving power output, improving cognitive function, aiding in sarcopenia, improving short term memory, helping with Alzheimer’s, and many more benefits as I mentioned in my previous article. Sarcopenia, defined as the age-related decrease in muscle mass, strength, and physical performance, is associated with reduced bone mass and elevated low-grade inflammation.
I normally rarely suggest someone to take any supplements unless they are deficient. However, with creatine monohydrate almost everyone could see some benefits, whether it be performance, aging, bone health, prevention of cardiovascular diseases, improved hydration, feeling stronger, or having a powerful immune system, to name just a few examples. The ideal dose actually depends on the individual’s weight and the purpose of taking the supplement. The safest daily dose is normally suggested as 3 to 5 grams a day. The timing of taking it does not seem to matter much. Even if you forget to take it some days, you will still see some benefits. If you are following a vegan or vegetarian diet you are most likely to especially see benefits from creatine supplementation as you have lower levels of creatine in your muscles due to the absence of meat in your diet.
The best form of creatine is “creatine monohydrate”, and it has been suggested that the powder form absorbs better than the liquid or tablet forms. It is also cheaper. Other forms of creatine available on the market include creatine hydrochloride and creatine ethyl ester, however creatine monohydrate is the most studied form and is generally considered to be the most effective. Before buying, make sure to choose brands that engage in third-party testing or follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). These are generally reliable. The supplement should ideally contain 100% pure creatine monohydrate. Be wary of products that have a long list of other ingredients, as these could dilute the creatine content or potentially cause side effects. Some creatine supplements are “micronized” or broken down into smaller particles. This is supposed to increase the solubility of the product and make it easier for your body to absorb.
Look for products that have been tested and certified by independent organizations such as NSF International or Informed-Choice. This provides assurance that it has been tested for harmful substances and meets its label claims. These are good rules that you can use for any other supplements before you buy too.
Remember that while creatine can help improve your health, you still need to consume good quality and sufficient quantities of food and engage in some form of aerobic activities such as Zone 2 and resistance training too. I wish one supplement could do everything, maybe this will be possible in the future but definitely not in our lifetime, so for now be sure to combine your supplements with good quality nutrition and movement.
“Creatine Supplementation for Health and Clinical Diseases”; https://creatineforhealth.com/book-and-papers/
“Creatine supplementation for older adults: Focus on sarcopenia, osteoporosis, frailty and Cachexia”; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S8756328222001442
“Is Creatine Safe for Older Adults?”; https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/is-creatine-safe-for-older-adults
“Effectiveness of Creatine Supplementation on Aging Muscle and Bone: Focus on Falls Prevention and Inflammation”; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6518405/
“Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?”; https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
“Chronic Dialysis Patients Are Depleted of Creatine: Review and Rationale for Intradialytic Creatine Supplementation”; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8400647/
“Creatine Supplementation for Health and Clinical Disease”; Prof. Richard B. Kreider and Prof. Jeffery R. Stout