Since creatine is a natural substance, people often trust it more than drugs or steroids to take regularly and make muscles. But how much does it help us, and are there any problems with taking it?
What do we know about creatine’s pros and cons?
The potential benefits are muscle gain, higher strength, energy, and overall improvement in performance. You might also get to manage a few of your symptoms of any existing diseases. On the other hand, creatine also causes water retention, bloating, stomach problems, and sometimes kidney damage.
Continue reading to understand why creatine is still a great way of increasing muscles, even with drawbacks.
Creatine Pros and Cons
Most research has shown that creatine is very safe for use. Countless athletes and trainers have taken it for muscle gain without severe problems. The rumored issues are temporary and only happen for existing medical conditions.
Check which one is right for bodybuilders: Creatine or Glutamine.
The benefits are proven and more common to the users within a few weeks.
Improves Overall Performance
We take creatine to get more energy to train harder and be energetic. Fortunately, with creatine, people get a boost to exercise for longer and perform better in strenuous sports or those that require a lot of energy. You are all powered up with a single serving before any activity.
You have better resistance to fatigue and muscle injuries. Creatine allows faster recovery of damaged tissues with higher ATP. So, you have more power and endurance.
Increase in Muscle Size
More energy means more exercise, and your muscles will start to look prominent with rapid cell growth. The change is significant for lean muscles. Studies showed that the muscles increase by 2.2% and body fat decreases by 3.2%. Creatine gets stored in your muscle cells for extra fuel used for workouts. So, the muscle can contract more powerfully to get bigger.
Better Brain Functions
Creatine also helps the brain run different functions with a sustainable ATP level. When you have a lot of energy in the form of ATP, your brain operates well and gets enough nutrients to improve neuronal dysfunction and loss.
So, while you excel in physical activities, you are not far away from excellent cognitive skills like thinking, stronger memory, problem-solving, decision-making, focus, etc.
Besides, creatine shows some potential in helping with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons‘, and even depressive disorders. It reduces the side effects and symptoms of these diseases.
Creatine takes care of your heart to some extent by solving inflammation problems. It can decrease reactive oxygen species and inflammation, which usually damages the heart and vascular system. Besides, with reduced inflammation, you recover faster from workouts and heavy sports, meaning stronger immunity.
Regulates Blood Sugar
Taking creatine gives you more protein to transfer glucose to the cells. So, your blood sugar levels remain under control with better glycemic control. Your body can respond to insulin so that you aren’t at any risk of diabetes. So, creatine is also useful for people suffering from type 2 diabetes to reduce insulin resistance and some symptoms.
Since you are fueled for exercise, your muscles regain strength. This means you will have a therapeutic effect on lost mobility muscles. So, your risk of having muscle loss or sarcopenia at an older age reduces significantly. You also have better metabolism.
Creatine intake will also cause minor side effects in the initial phase, but they soon disappear. If persistent, consult with your doctor immediately.
The most discussed issue with creatine is whether the kidneys will become the victim of taking higher doses in the long run. Since creatinine levels increase with reserved creatine in the body, people get worried. But this can happen for other causes as well. The rise from creatine is negligible and hardly a concern for health problems.
However, if you have kidney problems, avoid taking creatine.
You will face a little bloating when taking a lot of creatine and not drinking enough water. For absorption, creatine will draw in water from the surrounding and cause the stomach to expand. You might mistake this as weight gain from fat.
To avoid this discomfort, drink more water to complete absorption and free you from bloating. This also becomes less common after the loading phase.
With a lot of creatine in your blood, you are susceptible to different common stomach problems. This includes nausea, cramps, diarrhea with 10g creatine per day, etc. The remedy for this is waiting until you lower the dose and drinking a lot of water.
Another common effect of creatine is that it causes a lot of worry. Creatine pulls out much water from the organ walls when absorption is difficult. So, you retain water in your blood as long as creatine is in it. This can make you feel bloated and puffy and gain some pounds, around 1-2% around the belly area. You can also suffer from dehydration when this happens, so drink a lot of water.
On the other hand, water retention also means that creatine is working.
This is rare and only experienced by those with existing heart problems or asthma. Your body adjusts to the excess creatine in the blood and the heavy exercises. For this reason, you might feel some irregular heartbeat, dizziness, fatigue after workouts, and breathing problems.
Once you are past the loading phase with a lot of creatine stored, this problem decreases. But before you take creatine, ensure with your doctor that it is safe for your health.
Interactions with Other Drugs and Treatments
Creatine can cause a counter effect with medicines like ibuprofen, anti-inflammatory drugs, and those to help with the kidneys and heart. So, before you get creatine, ensure your medications won’t interact with creatine.
Although creatine doesn’t affect any of your organs, the body does things to adjust to the new activities. So, hormonal changes happen when taking a lot of creatine past your daily requirements and undergoing heavy workouts.
High testosterone and DHT levels can help you to continue training. But this then leads to hair loss and sometimes even testicular cancer. This is unavoidable for people with a disease or genetic triggers.
How to Take Creatine?
Consider a few things before you start the creatine regime for better results.
This might differ among consumers, depending on various physiological conditions and overall goals. But 3 to 5 g per day is optimal and safe for intake for up to 5 years.
Since creatine monohydrate is scientifically proven to be the best and safest, better to get it. But you can also try others, especially ones with blends of other nutrients. Even then, monohydrate keeps you on the safe side.
Alongside creatine, you should maintain a healthy diet with carbs and proteins. Add creatine to your regular meals for reserving and absorbing creatine every day.
If you have low levels of creatine in your blood, you can intake a lot as a supplement for storage. Those who maintain a protein-rich and meat-based diet can’t store a lot of creatine. So, people with low creatine respond faster to the supplement. This means that your diet is enough for muscle gain, so there is no need for a supplement.
Why Creatine Monohydrate is the Best One?
Apart from all the benefits of creatine, creatine monohydrate is said to be the most effective one. It has more scientific support for proven results, is claimed as safe with little or no lasting adverse reactions, is cheap, and is easily available.
Is Kre-Alkalyn Good?
Kre-Alkalyn is a form of creatine phosphate that removes the cons of creatine monohydrate. You don’t need a loading phase anymore to gain all the benefits. Besides, it also eliminates problems like bloating, digestive issues, and water retention with increased strength.
Creatine is still one of the best supplements in the market that you can use for years continuously. It is natural and easily taken in by the body. The problems you face happen due to chugging a lot at once initially or when you already have a disease. But within a few days, there won’t be any problems.
To ensure that you get the best from creatine, plan a proper dose, diet, and timing for intake with your healthcare expert. They can check your diet, medications, regular activities, and overall physiology to determine whether creatine or a certain amount is safe for you to reach your goals.
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I started my professional career as a sports medicine consultant in Rola, Missouri. My primary role was to suggest suitable supplements for my patients according to their pre-existing conditions and lifestyle goals. I believe a healthy lifestyle is the most important if you want to make your life really meaningfull.