Creatine is a natural compound that occurs in small amounts in certain foods, especially meat and fish. However, creatine supplements are typically derived from two sources which are synthetic production in a laboratory, or extraction from animal sources such as cow’s or fish’s muscles.
Synthetic creatine is made by combining certain chemicals, including sarcosine and cyanamide, through a series of chemical reactions. On the other hand, creatine from animal sources is obtained by processing and purifying the creatine found in animal muscles.
Once produced, creatine supplements are commonly available as a white, odourless powder that can be mixed with liquids such as water or juice for consumption. However, there is a lot of misinformation surrounding this supplement. Below we discuss the many benefits and disadvantages of consuming creatine.
7 Benefits of taking creatine
1. Increased muscle strength and power
Creatine supplementation has been shown to improve strength and power output during resistance training, leading to enhanced performance in activities such as weightlifting or sprinting.
2. Enhanced exercise performance
Creatine can improve the body’s capacity to perform high-intensity, short-duration exercises by increasing the availability of phosphocreatine, a compound used for energy production during intense bursts of activity.
Creatine supplementation can promote muscle growth by increasing water content within muscle cells, leading to greater protein synthesis and muscle hypertrophy.
4. Faster muscle recovery
Creatine has been shown to decrease muscle damage and inflammation following intense exercise, promoting faster recovery and reducing the risk of overtraining.
5. Improved anaerobic endurance
Creatine supplementation has been found to enhance anaerobic endurance capacity, allowing individuals to perform repetitive high-intensity activities for a longer duration.
6. Neuroprotective effects
Emerging evidence suggests that creatine can have neuroprotective properties by promoting brain energy metabolism, improving cognitive function, and potentially slowing neurodegenerative diseases.
7. Potential therapeutic applications
Creatine has shown potential benefits in conditions like Parkinson’s disease, depression, and traumatic brain injuries, although more research is needed in these areas.
7 Downsides of taking creatine
1. Water retention
One common side effect of creatine supplementation is water retention, which can lead to temporary weight gain and a bloated appearance.
2. Digestive issues
Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal discomfort, including diarrhoea, nausea, or cramping, when taking creatine supplements.
3. Potential kidney strain
Prolonged and excessive creatine use may put additional strain on the kidneys, especially for individuals with pre-existing kidney conditions. However, creatine supplementation within recommended doses is generally considered safe for healthy individuals.
4. Dizziness and dehydration
Intense exercise in combination with creatine supplementation can increase the risk of dehydration, especially if proper hydration practices are not followed. Dehydration can lead to dizziness, muscle cramps, and heat-related illnesses.
5. Reduced natural production
Long-term creatine supplementation may suppress the body’s natural production of creatine, potentially leading to a dependence on supplementation to maintain previous benefits.
6. Unknown long-term effects
While creatine has been extensively studied, its long-term effects and safety when used for extended periods (beyond several months) are still not fully understood.
7. Misuse and overdose risks
Taking creatine in excessive amounts or combining it with other substances can pose health risks and may lead to allergic reactions, liver damage, or electrolyte imbalances.
It is important to note that individual responses to creatine supplementation may vary, and it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new dietary supplement to ensure it is safe and suitable for individual health conditions.