Creatine is one of the most researched supplements in the fitness industry, yet myths and misconceptions still abound.
Is it safe for teenagers? Can endurance athletes benefit from it? Should you cycle it?
If these are the questions you’ve been pondering, you’ve come to the right place. In this episode, you’ll get answer to these questions and I’ll delve deeper into the myriad benefits of creatine.
Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a fitness beginner, press play to learn how creatine supplements can help your fitness journey and get guidance on how to take it properly.
0:00 – Please leave a review of the show wherever you listen to podcasts and make sure to subscribe!
0:55 – How does creatine work?
2:15 – How is creatine made?
3:32 – Which form of creatine is best?
4:52 – Can creatine expire?
5:18 – Is creatine bad for you?
8:32 – Does creatine need to be a powder or a capsule?
9:28 – Try Recharge today! Go to https://buylegion.com/recharge and use coupon code MUSCLE to save 20% or get double reward points!
11:40 – Should I take creatine when I’m cutting?
14:24 – Is it okay for teenagers to take creatine?
16:24 – Is it a good idea for endurance athletes to supplement creatine?
17:45 – When is the best time in the day to take creatine?
18:25 – Do I have to take creatine every day?
19:00 – Should you cycle creatine?
19:51 – How effective is creatine? Is it really worth taking?
Mentioned on the Show:
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Hello, friend. I am Mike Matthews. This is Muscle for Life. Thank you for joining me today where I’m gonna answer some common questions that I’m asked about creatine, which of course is one of the most popular sports supplements in the world, if not the single most popular one. Whey protein may be bigger, but creatine is certainly one of the biggest and many people still don’t know much about it.
Many people have heard that creatine can boost your performance. It can boost muscle growth, it can boost post-workout recovery, but few know how it works, how it’s made, which form is best if it’s good for women as well as men, if it’s good. For teenagers and even younger children as well as adults and so on.
And so I wanted to record what will probably be a, a relatively short episode where I answer those questions as well as a few others that people are asking me fairly often. Okay, let’s start with how creatine works. What is its primary mechanism of action in the body? Well, that relates to something called adenosine triphosphate or a t p.
And a t P is the most basic unit of cellular. Energy when your cells use ATT P, they split it into smaller molecules and then the body has a process whereby it can reassemble the fragments of the used A T P into usable a TP molecules, whole molecules again. And the more a T P that your cells can store and the faster that your body can regenerate a T P upon using it, the more work it can do.
So in the case of working out, the better your physical performance is going to be. And so creatine helps your body replenish a T p more effectively faster by donating a molecule to the process called a d p Adenosine di Phosphate. And because a T P plays such an important role in so many different physiological processes, that’s why creatine has been shown to boost.
Muscle growth and increase strength and power, and increase anaerobic capacity, reduce fatigue, lessen muscle damage, and muscle soreness after exercise, and even favorably alter the expression of certain genes that are related to muscle hypertrophy. Okay, the next question is, how is creatine made? Well, let’s first start with the creatine that’s made by your body because your body does produce creatine in the kidneys and in the liver.
By combining three different amino acids, you have arginine. Glycine and methionine, and your body takes those and puts them together to create creatine, phosphate and phospho creatine, which then stores in your muscles. Now, supplement manufacturers produce creatine exogenously, so outside of the body by combining heating and pressurizing sodium sarcosine, which is an amino acid that is produced in the body as a byproduct of metabolizing, creatine, and a substance called cyanide.
Which is not to be confused with cyanide. Cyanide is an acidic compound that’s used in different domains. Agriculture, chemistry, medicine. It can be synthesized artificially or it can be obtained from different types of plants. And so supplement manufacturers take those two substances, they combine them, they heat them, they pressurize them, and then they.
Cool, the resulting product and then that turns into or creates creatine crystals, which then they purify using a centrifuge and some other machinery, and finally they mill it into a fine powder and it is ready for use. Alright, the next question is, which form of creatine is best? Is creatine monohydrate still the winner?
And yes, it is creatine. Monohydrate is still the most well-studied and scientifically supported form of creatine. Available research repeatedly shows that it is safe to use and it reliably produces all of the benefits that you want compared to other forms of creatine that either perform as well as creatine, monohydrate, but not better.
And these other forms are usually more expensive, so not worth spending more money on, or they can perform worse than creatine. Monohydrate, and so that’s why I recommend sticking with creatine monohydrate. You are going to save money and you are going to be taking the form that has the bulk of the weight of the scientific evidence behind it, and you might want to go with micronized creatine.
Monohydrate because it’s going to be easier to mix and it also is going to be easier on your stomach. Some people do get an upset stomach from creatine. It’s not common, but it is a side effect that many people in an absolute sense. Not a relative sense, but in an absolute sense because many people take creatine and many people do experience some gastrointestinal upset.
And if that’s you, try micronized, creatine monohydrate, and it might resolve that for you. Okay. The next question is, can creatine expire or does it stay effective forever? No, it does eventually expire, but research shows that creatine monohydrate is very shelf stable and it doesn’t degrade for years so long as you keep it in cool, dry conditions.
But if you have creatine that is several years old, and especially if it has not been consistently kept, In cool, dry conditions, then you might just wanna replace it, right? The next question is, is creatine bad for you? Now, usually when people are asking about potential unwanted side effects, they’re asking about their kidneys and they’re asking about their hair.
So let’s talk about kidneys first. Study after study after study has shown that creatine does not harm. Your kidneys. Even if you have impaired kidney function, research shows that you are unlikely to experience any problems. That said, if you do have a a kidney issue, consult your doctor before taking creatine if you have any questions, if you have any concerns and how it might affect your kidney health.
Now, speaking of doc, I have heard from many people over the years whose doctors have told them to stop taking creatine because it is bad for their kidneys, because specifically of a substance called creatinine, which your body produces when it metabolizes creatine. So when you supplement with creatine, you are going to have elevated creatinine levels.
Now, if your doctor is not well versed in the creatine literature, they could see that. They could see that your creatinine levels are elevated and become concerned because in. Sedentary people who are not supplementing with creatine that can indicate that there are kidney problems. But studies show that if you are exercising regularly, especially if you are doing regular strength training and you are supplementing with creatine, you should expect high creatinine levels.
And in that case, it does not necessarily indicate that anything is wrong. And so now let’s talk about the hair loss claim. You’ve probably heard that taking creatine can lead to hair loss, and this is according to the results of one study that was conducted by scientists at Stellan Bosch University, and they found that creatine appeared to raise levels of dihydro testosterone, D H T, which is a hormone that can exacerbate hair loss in men who are susceptible to male pattern baldness.
Now that sounds bad and many men don’t take creatine because of it, but I don’t put much stock in that study for several reasons. One is design flaws. For example, actual hair loss wasn’t evaluated. Only D H T levels, and two, it’s at odds with the weight of the evidence. If you look at a number of other studies that have been conducted on creatine with physically active men athletes, in some cases, there have been no.
Changes in testosterone or dihydro testosterone, and there aren’t even any generally accepted mechanisms whereby creatine could somehow increase D H T levels. And so what we have here with this creatine D H T study that I just mentioned that is cited as evidence that creatine might make you go bald is research that is curious and flawed and anomalous and at.
Odds with the current weight of the scientific evidence, and that has not been replicated in any other studies. And so for being objective about the quality of the evidence of this anomalous study and of the studies that make up the weight of the evidence, It really does not make any sense to ignore the weight of the evidence and put a lot of emphasis on this one outlier study.
Okay. The next question I get asked is whether creatine needs to be a powder or if you can also take a capsule or a tablet. Capsules and tablets are just fine, so long as they provide enough creatine. You want three to five grams at least once a day, at least three to five. Times per week, and there is some emerging research that is showing that creatine can benefit our cognition and our brain health in different ways, but it looks like we need a bit more to obtain those benefits.
It looks like 10 grams a day is better for improving everything that I mentioned earlier, plus cognition and brain health, and so powder is fine. Of course, capsules fine tablets fine. But you would need to be taking then 10 grams a day of the capsules or the tablets, and that might get obnoxious. And that’s why most people just go with a powder.
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Yes, you should, but not because it’s going to help you lose fat faster. And yes, some people do claim that. I don’t know of any evidence that shows it can help you lose fat faster. But research does show that it can help you retain muscle and retain strength when you are in a calorie deficit. And so ultimately that means that creatine can help you further improve your body composition when you are cutting, because of course, when you are cutting, the goal is to lose fat.
And not muscle and creatine will not help you with the fat loss part, but it will help you with the not losing muscle part. Okay? The next question is whether women should take creatine. Yes, they should for all the same reasons that men should. Now, many women though have heard that taking creatine will make them bloated.
Some women have also heard that it will make them bulky. Of course, it is impossible for a supplement to make a woman bulky. The only way a woman can get bulky is to spend years. Diligently working on gaining a lot of muscle. I’m talking about 20, 25 pounds of muscle all over their body, and then maintain a body fat percentage, probably north of 25 to 30%.
That woman will probably look bulky by most other women’s standards, but if you take that same woman and then you bring her body fat percentage down to 18 to 20%, she probably will no longer look bulky. By most women’s standards, she probably now will look very athletic or very toned or very defined.
And so anyway, under no circumstances will creatine ever make a woman bulky, but it can make her bloated. It can also make men bloated. But anecdotally, I have heard more about bloating from women than from men. However, There’s a simple solution because bloating generally occurs if it’s going to occur.
Most people don’t get bloated at all, but if they are going to get bloated by creatine, it’s when they take a large dose all at once. It’s when they take usually the full three to five or even 10 grams all at once. If that happens to you, there’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. That’s how I do it. And if you can take all of your creatine at once and it doesn’t bother anything, just do it that way.
But if that does cause you to feel bloated, for example, or if that does cause some gastrointestinal upset, what you can do is, and I mentioned the micronized, creatine monohydrate can help, but if. Even the micronized, creatine monohydrate is upsetting in your stomach. You can then break your creatine up into smaller doses.
Take it, let’s say one gram at a time. Split the doses up by a couple of hours, and that will almost certainly resolve both of those issues, bloating and or stomach upset. Okay, now let’s talk about creatine and teens. A lot of teenagers get into weightlifting. They hear about creatine. They want to take creatine, and then I have heard from any of their moms who are rightfully concerned and want to know if it’s okay for a teenager to take creatine.
Now, in the past, there was a time when health and fitness experts and even scientists suggested without any evidence, by the way, a rationale that if teenagers. Took creatine, it might cause unhealthy or disturbing changes in their behavior, similar to what you might see in kids who are taking anabolic steroids.
And ever since then, many health and fitness experts have just been reluctant to recommend. Creatine supplementation for anyone under the age of 18. I remember being reluctant when I first got into the fitness racket and I was still learning about a lot of things, and I hadn’t yet looked into the details on creatine and teens or even younger children, and I said the same thing, only because I just.
Didn’t know. And I told people that. I was like, you know, I haven’t looked into this deeply enough to have a strong opinion, so I just have to kind of default to the do no harm and say what everybody else is saying because it’s safe. But in time I did look more into the matter and a number of studies have shown that creatine is well tolerated and is an effective supplement in teenagers just as it is in adults.
And I guess that’s not surprising, right? Because it’s really. Just refined amino acids, like that’s actually all it is. And so now I, I don’t know of any reason why teenagers shouldn’t take creatine. And many months ago here on the podcast, I interviewed a very well known creatine researcher named Darren Cando.
And that was his position as well. And he went further than that in the interview and explained why he feels that young children can benefit greatly from supplementing with creatine as well. And if you want to listen to that interview and listen to him, explain that. It is episode number 8 72. Okay. The next question is whether endurance athletes should take creatine.
And the reason many endurance athletes ask this question is research shows that it doesn’t appear to be very effective at improving endurance performance. And so is there any reason for them? To take it. Well, first, let’s just say that it’s not surprising that creatine doesn’t improve our endurance performance because our body uses a combination of glucose, glycogen, body fat, when we are doing endurance exercise, not phospho, creatine.
And as such, then creatine is not as useful for aerobic exercise, for endurance exercise as it is for exercise that involves brief, intense bursts of effort. So if you are a runner and you go for long runs, Creatine is not going to improve your performance, but if you are a sprinter, it is going to improve your performance.
That is not to say though that creatine is useless for the runners. Research shows it still can reduce muscle soreness. It can reduce muscle damage caused by running. It can reduce inflammation levels. It can protect against exercise-induced muscle breakdown. It can boost post-workout, post-run recovery, and studies show that it may even enhance.
Heat tolerance as well, which is beneficial for all of you who are in Florida with me right now. Getting ready for the nuclear reactor to turn on for the summer. Next question is, when is the best time to take creatine? Well, the absolute best time may be after a workout with some food, but if that is the best, it is not all that much better than.
Whenever you want to take it, it’s kinda like protein intake, right? What is most important is just getting enough protein every day, regardless of how you get it, how many meals you get it in, how much time there is in between the meals and so forth. So similarly, it’s most important that you just get in the creatine, the amount of creatine that you need to supplement with three to five grams or up to 10 grams.
As I mentioned earlier, by the end of the day. Now the next question is something that I commented on earlier, but I just wanna make sure it gets its own heading here. And that is, do I have to take creatine every day or a variation of that? Do I need to take creatine on my rest days when I am not training?
And the answer is no. You don’t have to take it every day. Research shows that if you take it three to five days per week, that’s enough. To maintain elevated creatine stores and get more or less all of the benefits that it has to offer. Now, if you want to take it every day because it might be slightly better, then take it every day, but you don’t have to.
It’s okay if you miss a day here and there simply because you forget. The next question is, should you cycle creatine? No. Now people sometimes though, will follow up and they’ll say, well, doesn’t creatine when you supplement with it, doesn’t it reduce your body’s natural production? Yes, that’s true. It does.
Research shows that when you supplement with creatine, your body does produce less, but that does not impact your body in the same way that steroids. Impact your endocrine system. So what that means then is when you stop supplementing with creatine, your body just starts making it again, as it always did.
You can’t ruin your body’s creatine production system, so to speak, by supplementing with it even for long periods of time. Whereas with steroids, you can ruin your endocrine system if you don’t know what you’re doing, and you can even ruin it if you do know what you’re doing. Another question is, how effective is creatine really?
Like how much of a difference is it gonna make in my training? Well, according to one review of about 300 studies on the matter, and this was published in a journal called Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, creatine. Can increase strength and power by about five to 15%. That’s what most people can expect.
Fairly significant. In another study that was conducted by scientists at Pennsylvania State University researchers found that participants who supplemented with creatine could perform 30% more reps on the bench press across five sets of 10 reps. That is a very significant increase in volume, and that of course can translate to more muscle and strength over time.
That said, you should know that research shows that 20 to 30% of people appear to be creatine non-responders. They experience little or no performance benefits from taking creatine. And so hopefully if you have not taken creatine, hopefully you, uh, are not in the non-responder crowd if you are going to start taking it.
But I should mention that as more and more research is done on creatine, more and more benefits are being discovered that are not. Related to performance or muscularity that are more related to health and longevity. I mentioned brain health and cognition, for example, and so it’s very possible that you could take creatine and not experience any performance enhancement, not experience any increase in muscularity, not experience any decrease in post-workout soreness, but still benefit from it in other ways that you simply can’t easily measure or feel.
Well, I hope you liked this episode. I hope you found it helpful, and if you did subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you.
And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have. Ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share. Shoot me an email, mike muscle for life.com, muscle f o r life.com and let me know what I could do better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.
I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.