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A recent news article which popped up on the internets a few weeks back seems to have tarnished the well-known and most studied sports supplement ever—creatine.

Of course from the media’s perspective, it’s easy to sensationalise stories such as these and make sports supplements the enemy rather than pointing fingers where they should be. In this case, directly at the school’s staff.

So is creatine REALLY bad for your health? How did it get caught up in such a scandal? Surely It must be because of its steroid-like affects?

I’m hearing the sound of a thousand tiny testicles crying out in blame-laden obscenities right about now.

What is creatine and what are its benefits?

Creatine is a compound that’s involved in the production of energy in the body, in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Made in the liver, approximately 95% of the body’s creatine ends up being stored in skeletal muscles and the remaining 5% is found in the brain, heart and testes (for the guys only of course :)). Once it’s used, creatine is converted to a waste product called creatinine and excreted in urine.

Creatine is found in small amounts in red meat and fish. However, much of it is destroyed by cooking. It’s also made naturally in the body from L-arginine, L-glycine and L-methionine, amino acids that are principally found in animal protein. Insulin is needed for creatine to enter muscles, so consuming carbohydrates with creatine may increase the amount of creatine available to muscles.

What about creatine side effects?

There are a few, but I’ve rarely heard complaints from anyone that is using it.
But for the sake or argument, these include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weight gain

There is also concern that the fact creatine causes water to be drawn into the muscle, dehydration can occur as well as other problems involving the liver and kidneys. Based on my own personal experience however, the only side-effect I’ve found from using creatine for an extended period of time has been increased muscle-mass and strength.

Total bummer huh?

What about a scientific perspective on creatine supplementation? Tnation did a great interview recently with Dr. Richard Kreider, PhD, a legitimate creatine researcher and supplement expert at Texas A&M University.

The interview is in regards to the aforementioned article on the school kids which were hospitalised from supposed creatine use. I suggest you go and read it.

A key point to the interview was this Q & A

TNation: So if creatine didn’t cause these young athletes’ problems, what did? The unfortunate combination of intense heat and a negligent coach?

Dr. Kreider: This appears to be caused by excessive and inappropriate training in a hot and humid environment. There’s no excuse to put athletes in 115 degree temperature and have them work out. That’s like the old days when they worked out in a sauna. Those days are gone. It’s dangerous. It can put kids at risk. I’m surprised there weren’t more problems with dehydration or even heat stroke.

There you have it. The media strikes again and points fingers before taking in the facts. Of course, this is what sells papers so it’s no real surprise. Stick with the facts if you want to use creatine powder for weight gain.

Peace out.

Clint Nielsen

Author Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Hey Clint,

    I have used creatine off-and-on over the years, and (like you) I have found it really does increase muscle mass and strength. Going off the creatine did cause me to lose some of my gains…but not all of them. The one thing I would caution you about is making sure you drink enough water. I was taking creatine a few years ago and it was time for my annual physical exam. I gave a blood and urine sample, and when my Doctor read the results his face went white and he asked if I was feeling OK. I felt great, so I asked him why. He showed me the test results for creatinine levels in my urine, and they were extremely high. Apparently this is an indication of kidney failure. I told him I was supplementing with creatine, but he still insisted I get an ultrasound done on my kidneys right away plus stop taking creatine and get another urine test done a week later. The results came back normal, so he was satisfied it was just the creatine supplement. I’m guessing I didn’t drink enough water and this skewed the test results. He didn’t even really want to discuss it…he just said “Quit taking creatine. You don’t need it.” I still take it every so often…and I still get great results. I just make sure to drink lots of water AND I stop taking it a couple of weeks before my physical exam. :-)

  • Creatine is definitely awesome. I think the one concern is that there haven’t been many studies done on the long term effects of creatine on your kidneys. Short term it definitely appears to be harmless. Just to be safe, I cycle off every few months.

  • Creatine is the absolutely most studied supplement in history. Bottom line. I am so sick of hearing these sensational stories that are nonsense, I also wrote about this. Thanks for fighting the good fight.

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