Myth: The more creatine you take, the better.
Truth: You’ve seen those sick bodybuilders chugging down 10-20 grams of creatine. Is it worth it? According to scientists at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, at 0.1 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, male athletes excreted 46% of the ingested creatine within 24 hours. For a 220 pound lifter, this means that if he consumes 10g of creatine, 46%, or 4.6g of creatine, is wasted. In another study performed at the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University, scientists confirmed that lower doses of creatine monohydrate (5g/day) are effective, and that results can even be achieved without a loading phase.
Myth: Creatine “loading” is mandatory.
Truth: Once again, research is proving that less creatine is needed to deliver results. The research cited above also suggests that creatine loading may be nothing more than a waste. Should you load? In most cases, probably not. If you’re an elite athlete, a professional bodybuilder or competitive powerlifter, you may want to consider loading, just in case. For the rest of us, 5g is all it takes.
Myth: Creatine harms the kidney and the liver.
Truth: Unless you have a pre-existing medical condition, creatine use should not damage your kidneys or liver. Most of the hype has been the result of anecdotal reports. In one study which tracked healthy athletes over a five-year period, football players who used creatine at levels up to 15.75g of creatine per day showed no effect on markers of renal or kidney stress. In another study conducted by Dr. Kerry Kuehl at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland and presented at the 2000 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, the kidney function of 36 healthy male and female athletes who consumed 10g of creatine per day was examined. After twelve weeks, Dr. Kuehl found that creatine did not adversely affect kidney function.
Myth: Creatine causes excessive water retention.
Truth: More bullshit. A recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that, after three months of creatine use, test subjects showed no significant increase in body water. In fact, the creatine group showed greater gains in total body mass and fat-free mass. Best of all, this recent study employed the latest in body composition measurements-deuterated water isotopic analysis which utilizes a non-radioactive “tracer”. Now it is possible that some inferior-grade creatine may actually promote water gain that results in a soft, puffy look. However, this can be due to several reasons. One, it may not be due to the creatine, but excess sodium. When cheaply manufactured, excess sodium remains in the finished product.
Myth: Creatine causes cramping.
Truth: The idea that creatine use causes muscle cramping is anecdotal with no clinical evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, clinical studies show that creatine use is not associated with cramping. In one study, researchers examine 16 men who either supplemented with creatine or a placebo. Under specific dehydration conditions, the occurrence of cramping and tightness were reported in both groups, but “nothing that would suggest a greater incidence associated with creatine supplementation.” Two other studies conducted at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro fond that creatine use by 61 Division I athletes during training camps had no effects on the incidence of muscle cramps, injury or illness. These athletes used 15-25g per day on the loading phase, and another 5g/day as maintenance.
Myth: Creatine needs to be taken with grape juice.
Truth: The concept behind taking creatine with sugar such as grape juice is sound. But the trick is not the grape juice per serving. It has to do with insulin’s function in the body. For creatine uptake to be enhanced, insulin release should be encouraged. Insulin functions as a kind of creatine pump, pushing it into muscles. If you’re going to stick to juice, make sure you get at least 100g of juice for every 5g of creatine. Depending on your level and your goals, juice loaded with sugars may not be suitable. Newer research indicates that you can take your creatine with protein for the same results. A new study reports that taking 5g of creatine with 50g of protein/47g of carbs produced the same results as taking 5g with 96g of carbs.
Myth: Creatine works better in liquid form.
Truth: In fact, in liquid form, you may not even be getting creatine, but creatinine, a by-product of creatine breakdown. Creatine, in powder form, is extremely stable. When exposed to an acidic environment or moisture for a long time, creatine will begin to break down into worthless creatinine. The citric and phosphoric acids found in many liquid creatines, which are used to preserve the shelf life of these products, actually helps break creatine down. So as a rule of thumb, if you’re going to make a creatine shake, drink it by the end of the day.
Myth: All Creatines are the same.
Truth: Just as there is a difference between $100 champagne and $15 dollar champagne, there’s a difference between high-quality creatine and inferior-grade creatine. Traditionally, Chinese creatine is a lower quality product, with more contaminants such as creatinine, sodium, dicyandiamide, and dihydrotriazine. German creatine, from companies such as SKW (Creapure), are cleaner, purer products.
Myth: New forms of creatine work better.
Truth: News flash: no form of creatine has been proven in published studies to work better than plain old creatine monohydrate powder. Whether you’re spending your extra dollar on effervescent, liquid or chewable creatine, the most important consideration is the creatine. And whether you decide to splurge and buy creatine citrate or creatine phosphate remember one thing: the major clinical studies have been performed on plain creatine monohydrate powder. Numerous studies have also shown that creatine powder is easily assimilated by the body. So unless you’ve got money to burn, stick with creatine monohydrate powder. Products such as effervescent creatine or creatine chewables offer convenience and a novel way to take plain old creatine powder. For real value, there’s no better choice than powder.
Myth: Creatine will affect the body’s anabolic hormone function.
Truth: While creatine can boost strength and lean mass, research from the University of Leuven in Belgium has shown that it doesn’t not alter anabolic hormone response to training. These hormones included growth hormone, testosterone, and cortisol. This research also might suggest that stacking creatine with prohormones or GH secretagogues might be a beneficial.
Myth: Creatine use is 100% safe. False.
Truth: While creatine is non-toxic, creatine use is not wholly risk-free. As with all other nutritional supplements, individuals with pre-existing medical conditions should not take creatine or other sports supplements. For example, there have been at least one case study which reported kidney inflammation in subjects who used creatine. However, in one case, the patient had a pre-existing kidney problem. So before you begin supplementing with anything, the best advice is to see your physician.
Myth: Creatine is ideal for ALL athletes.
Truth: Some athletes stand to benefit a great deal, others very little. Athletes who require sudden, high intensity bursts of power and strength are ideal candidates for creatine supplements. These athlete might include powerlifters, bodybuilders, sprinters, football, baseball, and basketball players, and the like. Endurance athletes or those who participate in sports which require steady aerobic output may not benefit from creatine use.
Myth: Creatine must be taken at a specific time.
Truth: While it has been proven that you can maximize creatine uptake by taking it with a 1:1 ratio of protein to carbs, no real evidence suggests that there’s a best time to take creatine. As a supplement, creatine increases your body’s pool of creatine. Whether you take it in the morning, afternoon, or evening probably won’t make a significant difference. For convenience sake, you might take it with your post-training protein/carb shake.
Myth: Cycling creatine will produce better results. False.
Truth: There’s no significant evidence which shows that cycling creatine is better than taking it continuously. There’s no compelling proof which shoes that creatine supplementation in athletes will down-regulate the body’s own ability to produce creatine.
Myth: You can get enough creatine from your diet alone.
Truth: The average person gets only about 1g of creatine per day from his diet. When you cook your meals, you also destroy a good part of the creatine found in foods such as beef, cod, salmon, and herring.
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