While protein is the go-to supplement for serious athletes, many have questions and concerns about creatine. With myths swirling alongside facts around the internet, smart athletes could use a pointer in the right direction. Here we present common misconceptions about creatine accompanied by the truth, backed by credible scientific research.
Myth: Creatine Is a Steroid
Steroids increase the anabolic process, or protein synthesis within cells. They increase muscle size, but they also increase aggressiveness and have other dangerous side effects.
Creatine, on the other hand, is a compound that contains a phosphate group. The phosphate group refuels ATP molecules that provide energy to muscles. The extra energy reduces fatigue and helps athletes work out longer and get stronger. Creatine is not a steroid.
Myth: Creatine Loading Is Essential
While loading creatine is a good way to build creatine concentrations in the muscles, it’s not necessary.
One study showed creatine loading quickly increased body mass over 8 weeks. Those who didn’t use supplements increased body mass as well, but not as quickly or as much as those who took creatine.
Another study showed giving participants a 3 g dose of creatine brought creatine levels to maximum concentration after 4 weeks. Taking a lower daily dose builds creatine levels more slowly but just as effectively.
For quicker results, creatine loading is the best strategy. However, consistent low doses work just as well in the long term.
Myth: Creatine Causes Cramps
There’s a rumor going around gyms and blogospheres that creatine causes cramps and dehydration. There are several published scientific studies proving creatine use is unrelated to cramps and dehydration. In fact, one study found creatine is prevents dehydration in hotter climates that cause more sweating during exercise.
Myth: Creatine Should be Cycled
Creatine produces best results when it’s well concentrated in muscles. To get best results, keep supplementing your protein shakes with a steady stream of creatine.
However, since creatine causes water to accumulate in muscles, it makes muscles look a little puffy and less defined. Bodybuilding competitors cut creatine from their fitness regimen a few weeks before competitions to capitalize on muscle gains without sacrificing muscle definition.
Myth: All Creatine Forms Work the Same
This myth is usually accompanied by its opposite: new versions of creatine are more effective than older ones. Neither is true.
Creatine exists in many forms, from the tried-and-true creatine monohydrate to the fancier creatine ethyl ester. Studies show creatine monohydrate is the most effective creatine form. It consistently produces better benefits in muscle size and strength.
Myth: Creatine Needs to be Taken With Juice
Some gym rats claim the sugar in juice causes an insulin spike that helps the body absorb more creatine. Protein and carbs actually facilitate creatine retention better than sugar. So, add creatine to a protein shake or take it with a meal before exercise. It’s more effective than taking it with a milkshake.