Is Creatine Safe and Effective?

Here is a great article on creatine written by Jose Antonio, Ph.D who is one of the top guys in sports nutrition right now.

Creatine – Is it safe and effective?
“Yes, it’s safe and it’s effective”
by Jose Antonio, Ph.D.
For those of you with memory-challenged cortex, here’s the rundown.  Regular creatine supplementation (3 g per day for at least a month) will in conjunction with heavy resistance training:
  • Increase muscle strength
  • Increase muscle power
  • Increase lean body mass
  • Increase skeletal muscle fiber size
  • Activate satellite cells
  • May improve neuromuscular function in patients with neuromuscular diseases (e.g., dystrophic muscle)
  • May assist in cellular hydration
  • May decrease brain damage subsequent to head trauma (ok, at least in rats).
Will it harm you?
In a word NO. There is data showing that up to five years of creatine use result in no harmful effects on the kidneys.  So don’t believe the bull@#$% you hear in the mainstream press. 
The mainstream press rarely does its homework when it comes to the facts around creatine.  I mean why let the facts get in the way of a good story, right?  So what we’ll do is explore the facts (and there is a huge volume of scientific data!) surrounding creatine.  Explode the myths, and give you the latest in creatine research and development. 
Get Big!
Bigger… yes!  In fact, work by Dr. Rick Kreider of the University of Memphis showed that after one month of supplementation, the average fat-free mass gain in the creatine-supplemented group was 5-6 lbs compared to 2-3 lbs in the placebo group.  Also, Jeff Volek, Ph.D. performed a study in which he had subjects perform bodybuilding training and consumed creatine over a 12 week period.  Creatine consumption was 25 g per day for the first 7 days followed by 5 g per day for the remainder of the 11 weeks (maintenance phase).  The increase in muscle fiber size was more two times greater in the creatine group versus the placebo (29-35% increase versus 6-15% increase).  So clearly, creatine helps you gain body weight, fat-free mass, and most importantly, muscle fiber size!
It’s Safe
Despite the anecdotal reports, there is no evidence that taking creatine can increase the incidence of muscle pulls/strains, muscle cramping, dehydration, or kidney problems.  In fact, noted researcher Mark Tarnopolsky, M.D., Ph.D. stated that “creatine may be a useful adjunctive treatment in neuromuscular and neurometabolic disorders.”  So rather than worrying about some mythical side effects that creatine supposedly causes, realize that there is a lot of supportive data showing creatine to be safe and effective.
1,000% increase in Muscle Mass?  No way!?
You’re probably wondering why you haven’t made the gargantuan gains in size as promised by those ubiquitous and somewhat amusing ads.  Well let’s do some basic math.  Even if you graduated from public school, you’ll find this quite edifying.  Let’s say you trained for 8 weeks and during those 8 weeks, took 5 grams of creatine monohydrate.  On average, let’s say you gain roughly 10 lbs of lean mass.  But if you were to take the fake creatine (the Placebo!), you’d only gain 2 lbs of lean mass.  Now to you and I, that’s a difference of 8 lbs. 
So reasonably, you could rightfully claim that creatine monohydrate supplementation can increase lean mass by 8lbs more than the placebo.  Now let’s massage the data a little.  Massage? mmm…sounds titillating.  Actually, this is a term I learned in graduate school, not to be confused with the more relaxing massages one receives from the friendly but expensive young ladies in Vegas.  So if we “massage” it…I’m getting excited… you could say (and you’d be technically correct) that creatine supplementation produced 400% more gains in lean mass than the placebo.  How does that work? 
Follow this:  (10 lbs – 2 lbs) / 2 lbs = 4, then take 4 x 100 = 400%.
Now we can get even crazier; let’s say the placebo gained only 0.5 lbs of lean mass while the creatine group gained 10 lbs (and certainly this is possible if you use trained subjects).
Follow this:  (10 lbs – 0.5 lbs) / 0.5 lbs = 19, then take 19 x 100 = 1,900%
So there you have it.  A 1,900% greater increase in lean mass! 
OK, it’s statistical sleight-of-hand and skull-full-of-mush stuff.  But don’t fall for it. 
Creatine is a great supplement; but you don’t have to promise the second coming to believe in its value!


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