Creatine: Science, Dosing, and Side Effects

Science & Background of Creatine

Creatine is a natural and legal product. Not only is it a nitrogenous organic compound, but is synthesized naturally in liver, kidney, and pancreas of the human body and transported via circulation to the skeletal muscle. 98% of the creatine make it into the skeletal muscle, having a 4:6 ratio of free form to phosphory form. Creatine can be acquired via supplementation or through food sources like meats and fish (Haff, & Triplett, 2016, p.242). The substance derives from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine (Benardot, 2012). Creatine’s main role in energy metabolism is being the substrate for forming ATP, mainly in regards to high intensity training during short bouts. There is a correlation between decreases in creatine phosphate and decline in ability to perform high intensity training. Depletion of creatine phosphate is the leading cause for fatigue during high intensity physical activity (Haff, & Triplett, 2016, p.242). Based on a collection of reports, NSCA’s Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning by Haff and Triplet (2016, p.243) indicate that 37.2% of collegiate level athletes use creatine. Creatine is the “most popular nutritional ergogenic aids for athletes” (Kreider, et al., 2017).


NSCA’s Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning by Haff and Triplet (2016, p.243) explore the observation that most studies explore a 5 day loading cycle, and should be extended to 28-84 days to see improvements in dynamic / power performance. Typical supplementation regiments call for 0.3g per kilogram of body weight or a standard 20 to 25g creatine loading phase for 5 consecutive days, followed by 2g per day as maintenance. Without the loading phase, one can still achieve similar muscle creatine levels, but the time frame will take approximately 30 days versus the 5 days of loading (Haff, & Triplett, 2016, p.243). If concluded that this product improves power, the suggestion can be drawn that sprinters, along with fast burst, short duration athletes could see benefits from supplementation. Other sport athletes like football players could see improvements in power and strength training performance. Although the ingredient assists with training and recovery, creatine will not preserve muscle mass if one becomes inactive or immobile for a duration of time Backx, et al., 2017). .

Side Effects

Kreider, et al. (2017) Found that one could ingest 0.3 to 0.8 g/kg/day of creatine and no see any adverse effects while still achieving improvements in health and performance. This was during long-term use and not just 5 day loading phases. Creatine supplementation initially leads to an increase in body mass and weight gain. Supplementation has seen reports of cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and muscular problems, including muscle cramps (Haff, & Triplett, 2016, p.244). Although research has not been able to document any significant side effects, there are hypothesized concerns on the strain that creatine supplementation might have on the kidneys due to the increase in creatine excretion and high nitrogen content (Haff, & Triplett, 2016, p.244).

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