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Monday, February 10, 2014

Creatine for Performance: Is it safe?

Creatine is one of the most studied supplements. It has been around for quite awhile and has been used by thousands of people seeking to increase performance. I have used creatine since the mid '90s and have used many different forms and brands. Did it work? Yes! Creatine increased my strength and power output greatly. 

The negative effects? I participated in a creatine study around 1997 while assigned to the Ranger Training Brigade at Fort Benning. We were given a 3 month supply of creatine monohydrate with instructions for use. 
While strength and power increased rapidly and substantially, water retention was an issue. Also, due to the large water uptake at cellular level and water retention, dehydration was a concern during endurance events. It hurt my runs and I had to really increase water intake. I had to make sure I only used it for strength training and not before any endurance events. 

Since then many different brands and formulas have come out eliminating the water retention issue. I started using muscletech celltech in the late '90s and had tremendous results with no negative effects. It quickly became my favorite form of creatine and I still use it to this day. Many of my clients have used it with great results. It's not popular but it works great. 

So creatine is great for strength and power training but not so great for endurance training. You have to use a brand that eliminates water retention and make sure you hydrate well. I will always recommend celltech.  

There are many articles and other reports claiming that creatine use can cause numerous health risks ranging from water retention, dehydration, muscle cramps, intestinal distress to kidney and renal issues. There is very little scientific data supporting these claims. There are, however, numerous scientific studies showing the benefits and safety of short term creatine use, without the alleged health risks.

While there is a vast amount of research data available concerning creatine use, there remain many circumstances, situations and variables that have not been analyzed and tested. Further testing is required for a more definitive spectrum of safety concerning creatine use. Current data that is available explores the use of creatine, primarily in short duration, while long term effects of creatine use remain unknown ( Cancela, P., Ohanian, C., Cuitiño, E., Hackney, A. C., 2008).

It is generally accepted, that taken in the recommended dosage, it is reasonably safe for a healthy individual, to use creatine (Lugaresi, R., Leme, M., Painelli, V., Murai, I., Roschel, H., Sapienza, M., Lancha, A., Gualano, J., Gualano, B., 2013).

Creatine use has been shown to have positive effects on performance in sports such as football, soccer, rugby, weightlifting and swimming. Creatine use in some long distance endurance events has had conflicting results, but has been shown not to have any significant performance enhancing effect (Hickner, R., Dyck, D., Josh Sklar, J., Hatley, H., Byrd, P., 2010).


Lugaresi, R., Leme, M., Painelli, V., Murai, I., Roschel, H., Sapienza, M., Lancha, A., Gualano, J., Gualano, B. (2013). Does long-term creatine supplementation impair kidney function in resistance-trained individuals consuming a high-protein diet? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10:26.

Cancela, P., Ohanian, C., Cuitiño, E., Hackney, A. C. (2008). Creatine supplementation does not affect clinical health markers in football players, British Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 42 Issue 9, p731.

Gouttebargea, V., Inklaarb, H., Hautierc, C. A. (2012). Short-term oral creatine supplementation in professional football players: A randomized placebo-controlled trial. European Journal of Sports and Exercise Science, 1 (2):33-39.

Hickner, R., Dyck, D., Josh Sklar, J., Hatley, H., Byrd, P. (2010). 28 days of creatine ingestion on muscle metabolism and performance of a simulated cycling road race. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7:26.

Eric Dempsey
NASM Certified Personal Trainer & Weight Loss Specialist
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