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Creatine Supplements - Common Questions Answered

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Common creatine questions are answered. This article also addresses rumors and myths. A must read if you're taking (or planning to take) creatine.

Creatine Drink Aside from whey protein, creatine is probably the most-used muscle building supplement in gyms all over the world. Yet, creatine is surrounded by myths and rumors spread by people in gyms, magazines and on the internet who really do not understand what creatine is and how it works. It’s these rumors that either stop people from taking it or teaches them to use it incorrectly.

Common creatine myths:

  • Creatine stunts your growth
  • Creatine is a form of anabolic steroid
  • Creatine is illegal
  • Creatine makes you fat
  • If you stop taking creatine you get withdrawal symptoms
  • The more creatine you take the more you’ll grow

If you know anything about creatine you just have to laugh at some of those! So today I’m going to answer some questions I often get asked about creatine and hopefully clear up some of the rumors while I’m at it!

What is creatine?

Creatine is a substance made by the body and used to store energy. The chemical name for Creatine is methyl guanidine-acetic acid. Creatine is made up of three amino acids - Arginine, Glycine and Methionine. Our liver has the ability to combine these three amino acids and make creatine.

The other way we get creatine is through our diet, or dietary supplements. Foods that are high creatine include red meat and fish.

What does creatine do?

I could write a whole article about what creatine does so I’ll keep this short and to the point. Creatine has 4 basic roles.

  • Provides energy to your muscles
  • Enhances protein synthesis
  • Increases cell volume
  • Lactic acid buffer

The main points you really need to worry about are 1 and 3. The first point is providing energy. To understand how creatine works you need to learn about ATP. ATP is your body’s source of explosive energy. Your body can get energy from other sources such as carbohydrates, but it takes much longer to convert carbohydrates to a usable energy source. So when you need energy fast, your body turns to its ATP sources. ATP can provide a huge amount of energy to your muscles fast, but it doesn't last long. In fact, you can deplete your ATP stores in just 15 seconds.

This is where creatine kicks in. When you deplete your ATP stores you're left with ADP, which is basically useless for exercise. Now, the creatine which is converted into Creatine Phosphate reacts with the ADP to turn it into ATP. So creatine takes an essentially useless chemical and converts it into usable energy (ATP). Your body can continue to do this until your creatine stores are depleted. This is why it's best to take creatine supplements before your workout, but we get into that later.

Point number 3: increased cell volume. Put simply, creatine increases the amount of water in your muscles. Sometimes when a bodybuilder takes creatine for the first time they will put on a few pounds within a week or two. This is known as "water weight". Water weight can make your muscles appear larger. When a user stops taking creatine it’s not uncommon to drop a few pounds.

How much creatine is in our body and where is it stored?

The amount of creatine you have in your body depends on your lean muscle mass and bodyweight. The average 200 pound man has approximately 150 grams of creatine in their body. Around 95-98% of creatine is stored in muscle tissue with the remainder stored in other body parts like the brain.

Is creatine a type of steroid and is it dangerous?

First of all, creatine is naturally occurring and produced by the body. This makes it a very safe supplement. If your body has too much creatine that it doesn’t need it will simply convert it to creatinine and excrete it. That being said, there is such thing as “too much of a good thing is bad for you”. Taking too much creatine may place excess stress on the liver which could lead to problems after extended use. When it comes to creatine you have to adopt the “less is more” mentality. You will be wasting your money if you take too much creatine, your body can only take and use so much before it is excreted. And no, creatine is definitely not a type of steroid!

When is the best time to take creatine?

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Traditionally, most people take creatine after their workouts and at 1-3 other times throughout the day. This is what is also recommended if you read the label of most packaging. There are 2 theories when it comes to when you should take creatine.

Theory 1: You should take creatine about 1 hour before your workout for maximum benefits. I agree with this theory. When you take creatine it stays in your blood stream for about 1.5 hours. So, when you workout you want to have the maximum amount of creatine available for your muscles to use. Taking creatine 1 hour before your workout gives your body time to absorb the creatine and 1.5 hours for you to use it.

Theory 2: Once creatine is absorbed into your muscle cells it can stay there for long periods of time. This means, it doesn’t really matter when you take the creatine as long as your muscle cells are full when you workout. The problem I see with this theory is that yes, your muscles have optimum creatine levels, but where is the extra creatine going to come from to replace the creatine used during an intense workout?

I have yet to come across a scientific study that compared these 2 theories.

Do you need to “load” creatine?

Studies have shown that loading creatine for the first 5 days is the most effective way to saturate your muscles with creatine. You do not have to load it, it will make it's way into your muscles but it will take longer.

Do you need to “cycle” creatine?

The theory behind cycling is that if you keep giving your body a substance it will eventually get lazy and stop producing it itself. I agree with this theory. There have been no long term studies (I mean over 10+ years) that can conclusively prove or disprove this theory so I’d rather be safe than sorry! It’s always a good idea to give your body breaks for any supplement. I have found that 8 weeks on and 4 weeks off works well for me but by all means experiment for yourself!

Are all types of creatine supplements equal?

Definitely not. How the creatine is taken, and what type of creatine it is greatly affects how quickly it’s absorbed, how much is absorbed and how much makes it to muscle tissue. By far the most common type of creatine on the market is creatine monohydrate which comes in powder form and is taken with liquid. Other type of creatine supplements include Creatine Phosphate, Creatine Citrate and Creatine Ethyl Ester.

What is the best type of creatine supplement?

Of course no one agrees on what the best type of creatine supplement. For my money (and many others agree) micronized creatine monohydrate is good value for money, easy to take and has excellent absorption levels. Plus, all the scientific studies have been conducted with creatine monohydrate which means we know a lot more about it.

Can I increase my creatine level without taking supplements?

Yes, but it’s very impractical. This is because foods like red meat that contain creatine only have very small amounts. For example, a pound of raw steak contains about 0.9 grams of creatine. So if you wanted to get 10 grams of creatine per day you would have to eat 10 pounds of steak (preferably raw!). The fat content of the steak would cause severe weight gains as well.

Does taking carbs with creatine increase its effectiveness?

Creatine Monohydrate is absorbed best when it is taken in combination with foods containing a high glycemic index (GI). Those foods would contain a high concentration of simple sugars. Research has shown that taking Creatine with drinks such as grape juice (with a high GI) increases the effect of Creatine Monohydrate due to insulin release stimulated by the simple sugars take part in transporting Creatine to the muscle cells.

More information on creatine - creatine supplements section.

This article should have dispelled some rumors about creatine and helped you understand how it works. If you have any more questions about creatine or you just want to chat about building muscle head over to our muscle building forum.

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Josh
Posted Mon, 12/28/2009 - 01:51

Hi my question is in regars to Pure Micronised Creatine and cold sores.

Approximately 3 years ago i was weight training daily and taking Musashi Creatine Muscle Stack with no side effects( no coldsores).

I stopped training for about 1 year then started again with Whey Protein Powder for about 6 months then started using Pure Micronised Creatine and within 1 week of taking the creatine daily i got a cold sore.

I stopped taking the Pure Creatine and continued with the Protein Powder and had no more problems.

I recently started taking Musashi Creatine Muscle Stack for the last month with no problems and when i ran out i bought some Bronx Wild Bull Pure Micronised Creatine and started taking it, ( about 6grams a day) and within about 1 week a have a cold sore again.

Now is this just coincidence or is the Pure creatine having an effect on me and giving me cold sores??

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Michael
Posted Wed, 02/03/2010 - 12:40

Just a thought, many creatine products are complexes that combine a Nitric Oxide product. These NO products are probably the culprit as they contain L-arginine which promotes virus growth.

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crane111
Posted Wed, 01/19/2011 - 18:27

i heard lysine prevents cold sores, and i heard that if u use L-arginine you can get very healthy, strong, and have more pleasing sexual health because the nitric oxide produced by the cells in blood vessels dilate the vessels and make you stronger and i am still researching about on the internet and if anyone can tell me more, please i would like more information.

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Josh
Posted Thu, 04/21/2011 - 21:08

Lysine works like magic. It will prevent and slow down the cold sore.

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retired bench p...
Posted Sat, 06/25/2011 - 17:07

Ive suffered occasionally from cold sores. Ive noticed that when my body gets in a high heat, like a heat flash ill get a cold sore for me that is not good. I'm no doctor but your body is like a car, and when overheats u can create many internal problems, so i would immediately stop using this product

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 12/28/2009 - 08:16

Josh,

I would ask that question over in the forum. I'm never heard of that issue. It may be coincidence.

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david
Posted Mon, 06/21/2010 - 05:51

hi i wanted to ask if creatine or working out stunts ur growth?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Mon, 06/21/2010 - 08:48

No. Not at all. That is a myth.

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david
Posted Mon, 06/21/2010 - 09:48

kk great. thanks

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Joe
Posted Thu, 01/28/2010 - 02:34

I have been taking creatine for about 2weeks now, and since then have developed sores all on my chest and arms. I haven't changed anything else with regards to my diet or schedule, just the creatine.

Could this be an allergic reaction/side effect?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Thu, 01/28/2010 - 07:42

Joe,

I've never heard of this issue.

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Ryan
Posted Tue, 02/02/2010 - 04:32

Is creatine recommended for 16 year olds and is there any risks for teens to take creatine. eg Growth stunting.
Thanks

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Will
Posted Sun, 04/11/2010 - 12:39

hey I had the same question and when I asked my doctor she said it was fine, just keep the dosage low

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Tue, 02/02/2010 - 09:08

Ryan...Most recommend waiting until you hit 18 before using creatine. I would consult your physician and get his opinion.

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Mandy
Posted Mon, 10/29/2012 - 12:40

Steve, my son is 16 and wants to use a Creatine supplement. For what reason do you suggest waiting till age 18?

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Joey
Posted Mon, 10/29/2012 - 16:51

Hey Mandy,

Honestly, the biggest reason I would wait until he's 18 is the rack of studies done on younger people. Most would recommend waiting until at least 18 - after you've done most of your growing.

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Michael
Posted Wed, 02/03/2010 - 12:44

@ Josh

If your Creatine product is a complex with a Nitric Oxide booster (L-arginine), this is probably the culprit and not the Creatine itself. Google cold sores and Nitric Oxide for more details.

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Matt
Posted Sun, 02/14/2010 - 00:04

Is it bad to take Nitrotech protein, Creatine monohydrate, and XLEvol together? (if anyone hasn't heard of this it is a pre-workout like N.O. Explode but it has creatine in it).

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Matt
Posted Sun, 02/14/2010 - 00:07

Is it safe to take Creatine Monohydrate, Nitrotech Protein, and XLEvol together? (For those who don't know XLevol is a pre workout supplement that has creatine in it and it is much like N.O. Explode)

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Jamie
Posted Tue, 03/02/2010 - 05:28

Well written mate, helped me a lot on my Sports Science assignment.
Yes I credited your post.
Thanks

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Taylor
Posted Thu, 03/04/2010 - 02:35

i no that you have to keep hydrated when taking Creatine. y is this and would it cancle out the effects if u didnt keep well hydrated

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Sam
Posted Thu, 03/04/2010 - 04:46

I am 17 and a half and am looking into bulking up for football and appierence. I already use international whey protein as well as a well balanced diet and daily gym work etc. Will taking creatine (most likely Creatine Monohydrate -SAN FIERCE) effect my stamina on he field or have any effect on me putting on excess fat? Is there a more appropriate creatine supplement for me to take? What workout plan would create the best results for me?
Cheers

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Thu, 03/04/2010 - 07:55

Sam...I recommend heading to the forum with your questions. They required detailed responses which really can't be best covered here.

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/forum/

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Ed
Posted Sun, 04/18/2010 - 07:06

I am 60 years old. I have been working out with weights for years and am in really good physical condition. I weigh 212 lbs and my body fat is at 12%. I take NO Explode before my workout and Creatine after. My doctor says my creatine levels are high and could cause a problem with my kidneys. Are there any thoughts on this . I really enjoy my supplements and really don't want to stop.

Thanks

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Daryl
Posted Mon, 07/25/2011 - 11:03

I am 58 years old and get the same reaction from my Doctor. I also do not want to quit the supplements. Have you had any success in changing the levels. Let me know. Thanks

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AK
Posted Sun, 05/16/2010 - 13:29

I am 17 and have been weight training since 16. Will taking creatine have adverse affects on me as I have not fully developed or will there be no side effects? I want to grow still that is why I am curious.

Thanks

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Sun, 05/16/2010 - 17:03

I would talk to your physician about creatine supplementation.

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AK
Posted Sun, 05/16/2010 - 17:16

So it could potentially stunt my growth?

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Steve
Posted Sun, 05/16/2010 - 18:01

With supplements it's best to talk to your physician.

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Adit
Posted Tue, 05/25/2010 - 07:08

I am 19 and I am doing gym from last six months for weight gaining.
My current weight is 48kgs and i want to make it 68 in 2 months.
I am taking Oprimum Nutrition Serious Mass Daily(250gm)
and gyming for 1hour alternate day.
I want to increase my muscles and body size fast please suggest me which creatine to take with serious mass and what else to add and HOW TO TAKE with time....Please Help Me Out....!!!!

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Tue, 05/25/2010 - 08:17

Here are some of the top selling creatine products from the store. They are all quality products:

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/store/category/creatine.html?dir=asc&or...

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chris vu
Posted Wed, 10/20/2010 - 21:06

take cell tech hardcore best creatine in the world.......... 26 times more powerful than regular creatine.

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tim
Posted Tue, 08/23/2011 - 14:11

Makes no sense - prove it.

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smith
Posted Sat, 07/03/2010 - 18:30

hi
in your article you say to cycle creatine every 8 weeks for 4 weeks. do you think that i would lose any muscle during the 4 weeks off creatine?
im a bit confused at all the different information im getting :S:S

thanks

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James Moate
Posted Wed, 08/11/2010 - 02:17

What would you advise to a young man seriously considering taking Dynabolts?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Thu, 08/12/2010 - 13:16

Hi James,

I'm not familiar with that product. Do you have a link?

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sean
Posted Thu, 08/12/2010 - 20:16

Hi I recently purchased GNC Creadrive and GNC 100% Whey Protein today. I want to start using it right away tomorrow, but i'm not positive if I should take the loading week of creadrive (4 servings a day) or just take 2 servings (one in the morning and one at night post workout). And with the whey protein, how many times a day should I use it? I only used it post workout but now I am thinking I should use it in the morning and post workout the same time as the creadrive. I'm hoping to gain muscle mass and weight for football. Any advice would help out a lot. Thanks

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Steve
Posted Fri, 08/13/2010 - 12:20

Hi Sean,

Most people respond without loading, but there is certainly no harm in loading. There are a few people that need that extra kick start to get the benefits up and running. I think you should try the 2 servings per day approach, and if you don't notice pumps, start loading until you do.

For whey, I recommend first thing in the morning, and 1-2 scoops post-workout.

My best advice for muscle mass is to always push yourself on every set. When you can perform the recommended number of reps for a set, add weight. This constant effort will help you maximize muscle. This, along with eating big, will really help you gain strength and muscle.

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dante
Posted Mon, 08/23/2010 - 20:55

im 16 and looking to buy creatine monohydrate do youthink tthis product would harm my kidneys or liver or stunt my growth?

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Steve's picture
Steve
Posted Tue, 08/24/2010 - 14:07

Hi Dante,

Creatine is a safe supplement. But I do recommend waiting until you're 18 to take it.

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Greg
Posted Mon, 10/04/2010 - 23:56

Why do you suggest waiting till 18 instead of taking it as a 16 year old

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Steve
Posted Tue, 10/05/2010 - 11:26

Any product taken by teens should be discussed with parents and family doctor before taking, primarily for approval, but also so that it's intake can be properly monitored.

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Tyler Chewning
Posted Fri, 08/27/2010 - 14:39

Hello,
I have been on this product called NoxEdge. Its a pre-work out tablet thats chewable. It says take 3 before a workout. But that is not the case with myself. I am 16 years old, and I was suggested to take two. I would like to know if there was another product I could take with this. What I am looking for is a supplement I can take after workouts that are good to take and that will be acceptable with NoxEdge. I would really love to know! I have taken MuscleMilk before, but not sure if thats a good combination?

Thanks,
Tyler

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Steve
Posted Mon, 08/30/2010 - 13:18

Hi Tyler,

The best thing post-workout is whey protein and some form of dextrose, like waxy maize:

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/store/category/carbohydrates/waxy-maize...

Muscle milk is a great choice, btw.

A product like Scivation Xtend is also great post-workout.

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marilyn
Posted Fri, 09/10/2010 - 01:15

I am a senior lady of73yrs..... i am actively playing sports, but this past year my GFR for my kidneys is down from 60 to 47 and my creatinine thru my blood tests are too high.... is this the same kind of creatinine you are talking about??? thank you Marilyn

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Steve
Posted Fri, 09/10/2010 - 12:33

Hi Marilyn,

Creatinine is a by product of the metabolism of creatine.

Creatinine levels are a reflection of proper kidney functioning. The kidneys remove creatinine from the blood, and a high creatinine level may indicate that the kidneys are functioning as well as you'd like them to. Sometimes high blood pressure or diabetes can cause the kidneys to function at less than 100%, or normal range.

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Kevin
Posted Tue, 09/21/2010 - 17:31

Im taking Jack3d and curious if thats enough creatine being included into my workout or if I should supplement that with additional creatine. Also whats the difference between the creatine monohydrate and the ethyl ester??

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Steve
Posted Wed, 09/22/2010 - 11:42

Hi Kevin,

Jack3d by itself is not sufficient as a full blow creatine cycle. It won't hurt to add 3 to 5 grams of creatine both pre and post-workout.

As far as the differences between ethyl esther and monohydrate, check out this article:

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/supplements/creatine.html#4

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Paul Mckee
Posted Wed, 09/22/2010 - 08:09

I have had high blood pressure for 4 zears and been taking medication to normalise it. I have been a smoker for 30 years but now been able to stop and of course mz blood pressure dropped naturally, but not to healthy levels without help. I have decided to exersize and I am feeling better already but now I really would like to build as I have never done before. If I use creatine to help me train and grow a little will this have an effect on my blood pressure or can it be dangerous. Please dont tell me to ask my doctor as I am living abroad and its not so east to do this. THX

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