Creatine is not a steroid; let’s hit that big taboo on the head straight away. It’s a perfectly natural substance found in the muscles and often absorbed in our diet through red meat and fish, though at far lower levels than the powder form you may purchase from the local supp-shop.
Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is the compound your body uses for energy. When a muscle gets working, it breaks off a phosphate molecule from ATP and releases the required energy; ADP (adenosine diphosphate) is left as a byproduct.
ADP just chills, because you can’t use it for energy until it’s supplied with more phosphate molecules. From person to person, we all have different baseline stores for ATP depending on our genetic makeup and nutrition. So, as the title suggests, maybe you’re born with it (a higher baseline), or maybe it’s creatine (our powdery friend, coming to save the day)!
Creatine supplements provide the additional phosphate for the ADP in your body, which hits you with a surge of sustained energy. Simple. While the impact will differ depending on that baseline of yours (if you’ve already got a lot of ATP stored up, it’s not going to hit you as hard as someone with, say, a deficiency), the blindingly obvious benefit is that you may potentially gain the ability to notably extend your workout session and to suddenly bust out 10 reps on a weight you previously maxed out at 5.
So, after days, weeks and months, the workload you have piled on will have tremendously assisted in the growth of lean muscle mass and increased strength. Doesn’t sound so scary now, right?
Here are four other discredited myths, before an easy-to-follow explanation to the natural energy process that creatine has proven to reboot. This might just be the trick to breaking that plateau in training; or, I guess, you could trust this guy and quit reading here.
CREATINE LOADING IS MANDATORY
If you happen to be a professional bodybuilder, a competitive powerlifter or an elite athlete then creatine loading may be something to consider. For the rest of us, the overload of product is unlikely to absorb or provide any noticeable benefit and could be wasted in the body’s natural processes; a 5g serving per day is more than enough.
CREATINE HARMS THE KIDNEYS AND LIVER
Unless you have a pre-existing medical condition, the use of creatine should not cause damage. Studies from the Oregon Health Sciences University presented results that the kidney function of 36 healthy male and female athletes, who consumed 10g of creatine per day for 12 weeks, was not adversely affected by the introduction of creatine; most of the negative-hype seems to have seeped from anecdotal reports.
CREATINE CAUSES CRAMPING
There is literally zero clinical evidence to support this popular claim. All we have are multiple studies that assure the user there is no association between creatine and incidences of muscle cramping, injury or illness.
ALL CREATINES ARE THE SAME
That bottle of £7 own-brand vodka from the corner shop down the road is probably going to skin the inside of your throat, whereas the well-recognised brand perched proudly next to a £30 price-tag is likely to sit a little better; the same theory applies to creatine. This isn’t to say “you must spend more money,” but rather that there are both inferior and high quality blends of creatine available on the market. Do your research and choose wisely.