Creatine is one of the most popular and misunderstood supplements on the market right now. It is used to increase lean muscle mass, improve overall strength and help muscles recover quickly. Our bodies make some creatine and it is also present in protein rich foods such as meat and fish, but in much lower levels than is obtained through supplementation.
So what exactly is creatine? Creatine is a combination of amino acids that our bodies convert to creatine phosphate. Creatine phosphate is responsible for making adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which provides energy for muscle contraction. As muscles contract, they break off a phosphate molecule from ATP turning it into a compound called adenosine phosphate, or ADP. The problem with this is the body cannot use ADP for energy and the body has a limited amount of ATP. By taking a creatine supplement, ADP will use the creatine phosphate to create more ATP resulting in a higher level of muscular activity which is important for people who are looking to build more muscle mass and increase strength.
There are, however, many misconceptions about creatine that scare some people away from the supplement.
Myth #1: Creatine can damage the kidneys and liver. Healthy individuals can supplement with appropriate amounts of creatine without any adverse effects to the kidneys or liver. Studies have shown that there is no significant difference in liver and kidney health between healthy individuals who supplemented with creatine and those who did not.
Myth #2: Creatine will cause weight gain. Does creatine make you gain weight? You may see your weight increase due to the fact that muscle weighs more than fat. The purpose of taking a creatine supplement is to increase your strength which will lead to more lean muscle mass. Therefore, if you do see an increase in weight it is probably due to muscle weight and not fat weight.
Myth #3: Creatine causes severe dehydration. A study in The Journal of Athletic Training conducted an experiment to examine the effects of creatine on dehydration and heat tolerance. One group was given a dosage of 21.6 grams of creatine per day which is the typical dosage taken during the loading phase of the supplement while the other group did not take the supplement. After a one week period, the two groups went through various exercise conditions to see if an increase in heat caused the group taking the supplement to dehydrate more quickly than the group not taking creatine but scientist found no significant difference. Therefore, results showed that creatine had no effect on hydration levels. Dehydration is the result of an inadequate consumption of water and is not a side effect of creatine supplementation.