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What is Creatine? Benefits & Side Effects


Creatine is a naturally occurring nitrogenous organic acid, produced in the liver and kidneys. It is formed from 3 amino acids, including L-arginine, L- methionine and glycine, and is responsible for supplying the body’s cells with energy, primarily the muscle cells.

It is found naturally in foods such as eggs, red meats, poultry and fish, but it is also used as a popular bodybuilding supplement because it provides the body with high levels of energy and therefore longer endurance. [toc]

How Does Creatine Work?

In order for muscles to move and contract, the body utilises a fuel source called adenosine triphosphate or ATP.

When ATP is used in a muscle contraction, it loses its phosphate molecule and is turned into adenosine diphosphate (ADP).

It works by giving the ADP back its phosphate molecule, returning it back to ATP, ready to be used as fuel again. Therefore provides your body with increased energy and stamina, which enables you to workout at higher intensity levels for longer periods of time.

Benefits of Creatine

There are many proven benefits to be gained from supplementing with creatine, including:

#1: An Increase in Energy

It will help to increase the amount of phosphocreatine stored within your muscle cells.

It is this phosphocreatine that helps with the formation of ATP, a molecule that is used by your cells for energy.

During exercise, ATP is broken down for energy, so by increasing the amount of phosphocreatine you are able to produce more ATP. Therefore giving yourself more energy to fuel your workouts [1].

This is especially useful during high-intensity exercise, with studies showing it can improve performance by up to 15% [2].

#2: Muscle Growth

This is probably one of the main reasons why you supplement with creatine.

Not only does it alter cellular pathways that lead to muscle growth [3], but it can also increase levels of IGF-1 [4], which is a growth factor that promotes an increase in muscle mass.

You will experience cell volumization, which is caused by an increase in water content in your muscle cells [5]. This causes an increase in muscle size.

Finally, using creatine can reduce the amount of myostatin within your body [6]. This is a molecule that stunts muscle growth, so by reducing it, you are increasing your ability to build muscle.

#3: May Aid Parkinson’s Disease

One of the characteristics of Parkinson’s disease is a reduction of dopamine within your brain.

Research has found that creatine can prevent up to a 90% drop in dopamine levels [7]. Therefore helping to prevent brain cell death and several serious symptoms, which include a loss of muscle function and tremors.

#4: Lower Blood Sugar Levels

In studies it has been found that it may help to lower blood sugar levels [8], this can reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

#5: Less Fatigue and Tiredness

Supplementing with it has been found to reduce both tiredness and fatigue [9].

Potential Side Effects of Creatine

While using creatine is safe for most users, especially if the dosage instructions are followed there are still potential side effects you need to watch out for.

These potential side effects include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle cramps

There are also some precautions. For example, those who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid using creatine. Also, those who have bipolar disorder, kidney disease and diabetes should also avoid it.

There are a number of myths surrounding creatine usage and potential side effects, but these have been debunked by science. These myths include:

Myth #1: Kidney & Liver Damage

While those with existing kidney and liver damage should avoid creatine, those with a clean bill of health should not encounter any issues with its supplementation as long as you keep within the recommended dosage amounts.

There have been numerous studies to show that creatine causes no long term damage [10][11][12].

Myth #2: Gastrointestinal Distress (Stomach Ache)

We have listed this above as a potential side effect, and while minor pain is a concern, roughly only 5-7% of users will suffer any pain.

This stomach pain usually occurs when you consume too much creatine in one sitting, or if you consume it on an empty stomach.

Myth #3: Rhabdomyolysis

This condition is when your skeletal muscle tissue is broken down due to injury.

Reports have suggested that creatine can exasperate this issue. However, as creatine can increase water retention, lower body temperature and reduce your exercise heart rate [13] it is unlikely to be the cause.

Myth #4: Increased Water Weight

While it is likely that you will see an increase in water weight while you supplement with it, you will also see an overall increase in muscle mass, along with a decrease in body fat [14][15].

How are Creatine Supplements Made?

Although it is found naturally in animal products, it would be expensive and impractical to extract enough for supplement purposes.

Most supplements that are available today have been synthetically produced by reacting two chemicals together, sarcosine and cyanamide, in a glass lined instrument called a reactor.

There are 4 stages that take place in the production, they include the initial reaction phase, the cleaning phase before it is then dried and milled into the finished product.

What are the Different Types of Creatine?

There are many different brands available and many different types. Each different type is said to have its own benefits.

Creatine Monohydrates

This is the most popular form and is the one that is most used for studies and research. It contains 88% pure creatine per molecule.

Micronized Creatine

This is essentially the same product as creatine monohydrate, with the molecules divided up so that they are much smaller and therefore much easier to digest.

Creatine Phosphate

This has already bonded with a phosphate, though it only provides you with 62.3% creatine per molecule.

Creatine Citrate

It has been bonded with other molecules to increase absorption rates. This has the benefit of causing fewer stomach upsets in people who are susceptible. It is also a much more expensive form of creatine.

Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE)

This is creatine monohydrate with an ester attached. This has increased solubility, which is supposed to increase the absorption rate by 10 times that of other creatine supplements.


Processed at a higher PH level than creatine monohydrate, it is said to have the fastest absorption rate of all the creatine supplements to date

Creatine Serum

There are conflicting opinions as to the effectiveness of creatine serum. It is dissolved in water and can have vitamins and amino acids added. It is generally ingested through drops under the tongue.

However scientific evidence shows that it is in fact, unstable in water as it breaks down into creatinine.

Effervescent Creatine

Combined with either sugar or sodium, it is supposed to not only absorb better than creatine monohydrates but taste better too.

How to Take Creatine?

Typically it will either come as a powder or in capsule form. If you choose to use powder then it is usually mixed with water and consumed as a drink.

The timing of when you supplement will vary from person to person. Some will use it as a pre-workout, while others may use it post-workout.

Foods High in Creatine

While supplementation is available, it is possible to increase your creatine intake through diet alone.

I would suggest adding the following foods to your diet:

  • Steak – 5g of creatine per kg
  • Fish – 4.5g per .5kg
  • Eggs – 2g per egg

Creatine FAQs

Here are some commonly asked questions about creatine (if you have any of your own questions then they can be submitted using the comment form found below this article):

Are Creatine Tablets as Good as Powder?

This comes down to personal preference.

Some of you may prefer to swallow a pill, while others will prefer to measure and mix the appropriate amount of powder.

Regardless of which method you choose they will still be digested and used the same way.

Are Creatine Supplements Legal?

Creatine supplements are natural and are completely legal to buy.

Unlike some performance enhancing supplements that are currently available, they are not banned by the World Anti-doping Authority.

Are Creatine Supplements Vegan?

Most supplements are not suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

However, there are supplements available for vegans, they can be purchased at many of the big online stores including Amazon, and GNC. You just need to look for supplements that state that they are vegan certified.

Is Creatine Steroids?

No, creatine is not steroids. It is naturally occurring, unlike steroids which are synthetic drugs.

Can Creatine Kill You?

If you follow the dosage instructions then creatine will not kill you.

Remember that too much of anything is bad for you, even water [16].

Can Creatine be Taken With Milk?

Yes, you can use milk when mixing creatine. Most people would use water, but it can be mixed with pretty much anything.

When Should Creatine be Taken?

Typically it is taken either pre or post-workout.

As long as you are consuming a dosage of between 2-5 grams daily then you should experience the benefits.

Who Needs Creatine?

If you are looking to build muscle mass and strength, or if you are looking for an energy boost when performing short but intense exercise then it may help.

Will Creatine Make Me Bigger?

Yes, not only is there an increase in water weight but also an increase in overall muscle mass.

In Conclusion: Should You be Using Creatine?

Creatine has been proven to provide numerous benefits, and while it is certainly possible to get enough through diet alone supplementation is also an option.

If you are serious about gaining muscle and strength or are looking to boost overall athletic performance then I would certainly recommend its use.

With all these benefits, it is important to remember that creatine, like other bodybuilding supplements, is only beneficial when used correctly.

That means in conjunction with a focused workout routine that is targeting muscle development, and a substantial, balanced diet that is high in protein, carbohydrates, good fats, vitamins and minerals.

If used correctly, creatine will help you train harder and increase your muscle mass faster than you could without it.

What Creatine Supplement Should I Buy?

BRF CreatineIf you are wondering what creatine is best and which brand you should buy we have a suggestion for you.

The brand we have chosen is Battle Ready Fuel, who sell a range of supplements.

Their creatine comes highly recommended, is easy to mix and is suitable for use by both vegetarians and vegans.

  • It is proven to increase physical performance in high-intensity exercise
  • Increases both muscle and strength

This supplement is of the highest quality, with only the best ingredients and manufacturing methods used.

A 450-gram tub will cost £19.99 ($29.99), with FREE shipping available and a 100% money back guarantee.

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