What is creatine and how it works.Dosing strategies and creatine types: Creatine side effects:
Possible risks and side effects of taking creatine and how to avoid them.
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Read how creatine benefits the elderly, as well as reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and old age-related muscle loss. Learn about the surprising anti-aging properties of creatine.
Read real personal experiences with creatine.
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Many articles on the use of creatine and other nutritional supplements for improved health and athletic performance.
Find here in-depth dosing protocols, muscle building tips, and learn what supplements you should and should not combine with creatine for optimum results. Which is the best form of creatine for muscle growth, monohydrate or pyruvate?
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- Simple Truths About Muscle Growth.
- Heavy Breathing Can Hurt You!
- What is Creatinine and Why Should I Care?
- Creatine Builds Strong Bones.
- How To Build Muscle While Sleeping
- Setting the Stage for Maximal Muscle Anabolics
- IGF-1: Fundamental for Muscle Growth
- Muscle Volumizing = Muscle Anabolism
- Insights Into Creatine Anabolics
The Original Creatine Guide
Creatine: A practical guide is the original best-selling guide to smart creatine use that first appeared in 1998 and has since been updated on a regular basis to reflect the latest information in the sports nutrition field.
Teaches how to safely maximize the benefits of creatine supplementation.
More than just a creatine guide. This comprehensive guide provides valuable information about how to best optimize athletic performance, improve overall health and promote longevity and well-being.
"It is, by far, the best report I have read, and, believe me, I have read not only numerous articles but several books on the subject..." Read more testimonials.
Support Muscular Dystrophy research. Give to the MDA.
Creatine: A Historical Perspective
Creatine is a Natural Component of Skeletal Muscle
In fact, creatine is such an integral part of muscle that it derives its name from the Greek word for flesh, or kreas, from where it was first isolated nearly two centuries ago (1835). The man credited with this discovery was the French scientist and philosopher, Michel-Eugène Chevreul. Shortly afterwards (1847) the German scientist, Justus von Liebig, helped promote a commercially available extract of meat that was marketed as an ergogenic supplement. And yes, the secret ingredient in Liebig’s “Fleisch Extrakt” was creatine.
Obviously, creatine has been in the consciousness of the scientific and medical communities for quite some time. Credible evidence now indicates that the former Soviet Union had begun research on the benefits of creatine over human athletic performance as early as the 1970s!
Creatine Powers Muscular Force Generation
Skeletal muscle houses nearly all of the body’s creatine reserve. Hence, eating sources of skeletal muscle (fish and meats) provides us with dietary creatine, which our muscles then absorb from the blood stream and later utilize for energy production and for stimulating muscle anabolics (read how).
Dietary supplementation with synthetic creatine salts similarly increases muscle creatine content and enhances athletic performance. The advantage of synthetic creatine, however, is that higher levels of creatine can be ingested at a lower caloric value and without increasing your intake of saturated fats.
Can Vegetarians Benefit From Creatine Supplementation?
Given their reduced consumption of meats, vegetarians typically possess lower than “average” creatine levels. Vegetarians hence have additional room in their muscles to absorb more creatine from the blood stream after being ingested. It is thus not surprising that scientific studies have shown that vegetarians respond quite robustly to creatine supplementation.
Learn how to calculate a creatine dose specifically designed to fit your own set of personal parameters.
Creatine Also Provides Mental Energy
It is widely accepted that creatine helps fuel muscular movement. New research now indicates that creatine also plays an important role in the brain. In the Central Nervous System creatine provides the energy for proper neuronal functioning as well as makes neurons more resilient to trauma and disease. Not surprisingly, inherited conditions where cellular creatine levels are depressed give rise to neurodegenerative developmental disorders.
Above is an image of the chemical structure of creatine and of the modified form of creatine (phosphocreatine (PCr)) that provides energy to the cells of our body.
Read about creatine’s role in providing energy for everyday brain functioning.
Creatine in Clinical Trials
Because of creatine’s broad physiological importance, creatine supplementation is currently being tested in clinical trials for many human diseases involving the nervous and muscular systems. The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) is planning a multi-center trial to test the effectiveness of creatine in humans with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Please give to the MDA and help support research investigating the neuroprotective properties of creatine supplementation. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of our e-book will be donated to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Thank you for your help in combating neuromuscular disease.
Read about other ongoing clinical trials employing creatine.
If nothing else, this brief history of creatine should correct any misconceptions you might have had about creatine being something exotic to the human condition. Creatine is, and always has been, a natural component of most cells of the body.
The “Creatine Boom”
Creatine supplementation simply takes a natural process to the next level by allowing one to consume more creatine than he/she could via a “normal” diet. In essence, what the athletic community was waiting for was the development of an inexpensive way of mass-producing creatine for human consumption, which happened quite recently.
With the advent of efficient commercial synthesis creatine (monohydrate) exploded onto the scene. In the year 2000 alone 2,500 metric tons (5.5 million pounds!) of creatine were sold worldwide while consumer demand continued to swell.
During the height of the Creatine Boom it seemed as if everyone was trying to get in on the action. Creatine manufacturers started appearing in some of the least expected regions of the world, as did the anticipated abuses of largely unregulated production. Expectedly, reports appeared that certain cheaper brands of commercial creatine were plagued with contaminants and impurities - a disturbing “byproduct” (figuratively speaking) of creatine mass-production on a global scale.
In the United States a legislative loophole makes possible the existence of contaminants in commercial creatine products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) justifiably classifies creatine as a dietary supplement (not a drug) and as such, supplement manufacturers are not held to the same Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) as is the pharmaceutical industry. These protocols include the proper maintenance and segregation of the packaging machinery. Quality control is largely left up to the discretion of the individual creatine manufacturers. Consequently, certain creatine products may have been inadvertently cross-contaminated with anabolic steroidal agents that are produced by the same manufacturers.
Learn what contaminants are commonly found in some cheaper creatine products.
False Positives During Drug Testing
The presence of steroidal contaminants in certain creatine products might give rise to false positives in drug tests, causing some athletes to be banned from athletic competition as well as having their titles and/or fellowships/sponsorships withdrawn. A mishap of this sort could prematurely end the career of a young athlete. Very fortunately, many previous producers of poor-quality creatine have since “cleaned-up their acts” and are now fabricating higher-grade creatine products. Overall, however, creatine supplementation is a relatively safe practice, if a person is in overall good health and if undertaken with prudence and moderation using only high-quality products.
Scientists Follow Suit
Creatine is clearly one of the best studied nutritional supplements of all time!
With the increasing popularity of creatine among athletes, many scientists focused their efforts on understanding the consequences of creatine supplementation. Consequently, since the early 1990s several hundred peer-reviewed scientific articles have appeared that have examined, or discussed, the implications of dietary supplementation with creatine monohydrate in humans and animals.
This website consists of several sections that summarize the information gleaned from some of these studies. They are the Creatine FAQs, Creatine Newsletter Articles, Creatine Breakthroughs, our Creatine Guide, and Supplement Reviews. After assimilating even a fraction of this information anyone should be able to make an educated decision concerning creatine supplementation.
Creatine’s Side Effects: Fact or Fiction
The fact that creatine monohydrate is one of the few nutritional supplements that has been clearly shown to provide an ergogenic benefit has made it the subject of intense scientific study and scrutiny. Paradoxically, the close attention that creatine has received from the scientific community has served to exaggerate any adverse consequences that it might possess.
Nonetheless, the latest research is showing that creatine supplementation is a relatively safe practice, especially when compared to other nutritional practices commonly employed in athletics. Moreover, creatine supplementation has been revealing some rather unexpected benefits at the cellular level that do not require an exercise stimulus in order to be manifested. Creatine supplementation is not without risks, however, and some discretion is in order. What these risks are and how to best circumvent them is discussed in our creatine side effects page.
Gastrointestinal complications are the most commonly reported class of side effect associated with creatine supplements. Many scientific studies also have corroborated that an increase in body mass is also a common consequence of creatine use. Initial weight gain is largely due to water retention by skeletal muscle (see Muscle Volumization).
Other side effects are somewhat more difficult to explain given our current understanding of creatine’s mechanisms of action. One potential source of unexplained side effects, however, are contaminants, or impurities. As such, these unexpected side effects are not the result of creatine per se, but from contaminants sometimes present in poor-quality creatine products.
Rumors about creatine abound and often stem from the public confusing creatine with anabolic steroids and not from factual occurrences. On the other hand, some unexplained side effects may be real, but may have escaped detection in the scientific arena. Unsubstantiated side effects sometimes attributed to creatine use include increased aggressiveness, anxiety, acne, male breast formation (gynecomastia), a reduction in penis size, hair loss (men) and body hair growth (women). Of these, aggressiveness, acne and hair loss are the most frequently reported.
Explore the possible link between creatine use and episodes of aggression.
Read examples of unfiltered personal experiences with creatine.
Selected Scientific Reference
Review: A critical review of the reputed benefits and adverse consequences of creatine supplementation
I have purposefully chosen a review article that takes a more cautious stance on creatine supplementation…, to represent the other side of the issue.
Benzi, G. (2000) Is there rationale for the use of creatine either as nutritional supplementation or drug administration in humans participating in a sport? Pharmacological Research, Volume 41 (3), pages 255-264.
Professor Benzi (above) is of the opinion that more than three times the amount of creatine that the body normally turns over in one day, or more than six times the creatine daily allowance (approximately 6 grams for an average sized male, 70 kilograms (154 pounds)), should be considered as therapeutic intervention and accordingly, only be prescribed by a physician. Placing this amount into context, a typical loading dose is usually 10-times one’s daily creatine turnover rate, or 20 grams for an average sized male. According to Dr. Benzi’s recommendation therefore, creatine users employing a loading phase should require a doctor’s approval. Something to think about…
Creatine: A practical guide provides a safe and effective no-loading routine for those seeking a more conservative approach to creatine supplementation.
Ironically, the controversy surrounding creatine often overshadows some lesser known, but equally important, benefits of creatine supplementation. New information is appearing in the scientific press each day demonstrating that the benefits of creatine supplementation extend far beyond the athletic arena.
Creatine supplementation has been recently shown to help reduce the risk of certain vascular and neurological disorders that plague the elderly. A major objective of this site is to expose new information about creatine as it becomes available.
Creatine Doses & Scientifically Proven Supplementing Strategies
Confused about how much creatine to take and how to take it?
We also provide detailed facts sheets clearly explaining how to exactly calculate your creatine dose according to the supplementing routines devised in scientific studies.
Alternatively, for the mathematically timid, we provide a dose calculator that will formulate a creatine dose specifically designed to fit your particular set of physical parameters.
An alternative heading for this section could be: “How to Make Creatine Seem New“. Creatine is constantly being combined with other nutritional supplements for purposes of marketing and/or innovation. The nutritional supplements sometimes included in creatine products include certain insulin-agonists (chromium picolinate, alpha-lipoic acid, D-pinitol, 4-hydroxyisoleucine and the amino acids taurine, L-arginine and L-carnitine) as well as other reputed ergogenic agents (L-glutamine, ribose, HMB, royal jelly, antioxidant vitamins, and B-vitamin complexes). Unfortunately, some of these hybrid products merely serve as expensive vehicles for creatine with no additional ergogenic benefit.
There is one notable exception: Creatine in combination with HMB (beta-Hydroxy-beta-MethylButyrate) has been shown to provide a true anabolic boost. View a recent article examining the consequences of combining creatine with HMB. The analysis of other creatine-nutritional supplement(s) combinations will be appearing in the Creatine Blog in the near future. Subscribe today!
The efficacy of some of the newer creatine formulations is a real concern for many athletes; with good reason. One of the most popular creatine serums currently on the market has recently come under harsh criticism by the scientific community. We analyzed the validity of these allegations in a recent issue of the Creatine Newsletter. Read the first part of a two-part newsletter series discussing a scientific study that compared the ergogenic effects of ordinary creatine monohydrate powder with that of a popular creatine serum; part two compares the ability of the same brand of creatine serum to raise serum creatine levels with reference to the elevation observed with creatine monohydrate powder.
Creatine Products Review honestly discusses the formulations of some of the most common creatine products currently on market. The Creatine Products Review comes as a free bonus download with the purchase of Creatine: A practical guide. Learn to discriminate fact from hype!
Learn the true rationale (and validity) behind the formulations of some of the most popular creatine products currently on the market.
Download your complete guide package today!
Synthetic Forms of Creatine
Creatine monohydrate is by far the most commonly used form of synthetically derived creatine. Accordingly, the vast majority of scientific studies examining the effects of creatine have employed the monohydrate salt. Other synthetic forms of creatine include creatine ethyl ester, creatine pyruvate, creatine citrate, di-creatine citrate, creatine malate, and creatine phosphate. Unfortunately, much less is known about the true efficacy of these alternative forms of creatine, as they have not been the topic of scientific study.
View a recent Creatine Newsletter article comparing the effects of creatine monohydrate and creatine pyruvate on muscle development in tissue culture.
Creatine: A practical guide explains what is actually understood about many of the different forms of creatine (pyruvate, CEE, citrate, etc) currently on the market.
Creatine: A practical guide
Our creatine guide openly discusses the most relevant issues concerning creatine’s safety, the most intelligent supplementing protocols for maximal muscle growth and improved athletic performance as well as the proper use of other nutritional supplements (and nutritional strategies) commonly used (or abused) in the athletic arena. No other source of creatine information anywhere is as comprehensive and of more relevance to the general public.
It is, by far, the best report I have read, and, believe me, I have read not only numerous articles but several books on the subject.
William Hudgins, USA
Creatine: A practical guide summarizes the most relevant facts about creatine for the non-scientist:
- How to design a creatine dosing protocol that maximizes your gains without harming your body;
- The possible contaminants that may be present in certain cheaper classes of creatine;
- The best international producers of high-quality creatine;
- An easy-to-implement anabolic meal plan that, when combined with intelligent creatine supplementation promotes muscle growth.