March 7, 2014
Next to protein, creatine is the most popular supplement for athletes and bodybuilders.
With popularity comes many “gymbeciles” jumping on the creatine bandwagon without understanding how it really works.
We’re here to bust some common creatine myths and give you the straight facts on creatine.
Myth: Creatine is a Steroid
Truth: Merriam Webster defines an anabolic steroid as “any of a group of usually synthetic hormones that are derivatives of testosterone.” On the other hand, creatine is a chemical present naturally in the body. It elevates creatine phosphate levels, which in turn helps make ATP, a substance that provides energy for muscle contractions.
Myth: The More, the Better
Truth: Excess creatine isn’t used by the body. Instead, it’s excreted in the form of creatinine. So, overloading on creatine won’t do you much good.
Myth: Creatine Builds Muscle, Even If You Don’t Lift
Truth: Creatine provides the ideal environment for you to build muscle, but it can’t build muscle without work on your part. Creatine gives muscles energy, enhances protein synthesis, and delays lactic acid build up—all factors that enhance weight lifting and make muscle building easier.
Creatine also gives a pumped look by bringing water into muscle tissue, but this pumped look must be augmented by actual muscle building in the gym.
Myth: Creatine Causes Stomach Upset
Truth: It is possible for creatine to cause stomach upset, but it’s not common. Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky told Men’s Health about 5 to 7 percent of people in his creatine studies experienced stomachache or diarrhea.
Myth: Creatine Users Lose Muscle When They Stop Taking Creatine
Truth: Creatine doesn’t directly build muscle; it creates a better muscle-building environment. So, whether you’ve built the muscle with or without creatine, you retain it if you continue to lift.
Myth: There’s Only One Right Dosage
Truth: There are many unique theories on the best creatine dosing regimen. Some support the idea of a creatine loading phase, urging people to take around 20 g per day for 3 days, and then around 2 g each day following.
Myth: You Need to Cycle On and Off Creatine
Truth: For many ingredients (especially potentially dangerous ones), some people suggest cycling to give your body time to recover. Since your body makes creatine naturally, even during supplementation, no evidence supports cycling as safer or better for your body.
Some people theorize long term creatine supplementation may stop your body’s natural creatine production. Although no proof of this exists, there are no clinical studies with creatine that last long enough to be sure. So, you may want to cycle off creatine occasionally, just in case.
Myth: Liquid Creatine is Best
Truth: When exposed to moisture, creatine breaks down into creatinine, a byproduct that’s not useful for muscle building. Creatine powder is the way to go.
Myth: New Forms of Creatine are Better
Truth: Creatine monohydrate is the most studied and proven creatine form. While other forms are claimed to be digested more quickly or to work better, little scientific evidence suggests this is the case.
Myth: Creatine Affects Hormones
Truth: Creatine builds muscle by impacting energy production, not by increasing anabolic hormones. Research on creatine shows it does not affect growth hormone, testosterone, or cortisol.
Myth: Creatine Is Completely Safe
Truth: Creatine is relatively safe, but it comes with a small amount of side effect risk. It could cause stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, or muscle cramping. Some theorize high doses might harm the kidney, liver, or heart.
Myth: Creatine is Good for Endurance Exercise
Truth: Creatine assists the function of fast-twitch muscle fibers (fibers that utilize anaerobic energy to benefit high-force, short duration activities). Endurance athletes focus more on slow-twitch muscle fibers—fibers that use oxygen to generate fuel over a long time—and won’t benefit as much from creatine.
Myth: There’s a Perfect Time to Take Creatine
Truth: Creatine supplementation increases the amount of creatine available in your body, and this supply can be used at any time. Creatine can be taken at any time throughout the day without making much of a difference.
Myth: Creatine Helps with Weight Loss
Truth: Creatine may cause weight gain because it causes the muscles to hold water.
Myth: Taking Creatine is More Important than Drinking Water
Truth: Creatine causes muscles to draw water from the rest of your body. For this reason, it’s important to drink plenty of water while taking creatine to avoid dehydration.
Myth: Creatine Works the Same for Everyone
Truth: Each person may see a different result from creatine use. Those who don’t take in a lot of creatine from meat and other food sources may respond more to creatine supplementation. In addition, those whose muscles are made of more fast-twitch fibers also respond better to creatine use.
-  “An Overview of Creatine Supplements.”
-  “Creatine: A Complete User’s Guide.”
-  Karen Springen. “Creatine: Myths and Facts.”
-  “Creatine.”
-  Herda TJ et al. “Effects of creatine monohydrate and polyethylene glycosylated creatine supplementation on muscular strength, endurance, and power output.” J Strength Cond Res. 2009; 23 (3): 818-26.
-  Joe Cannon. “Do You Need To Cycle Creatine?”
-  “Creatine Truths & Myths.”
-  Ralf Jager et al. “Analysis of the Efficacy, Safety, and Regulatory Status of Novel Forms of Creatine.” Amino Acids. 2011; 40 (5): 1369-1383.
-  BO Eijnde and P. Hespel. “Short-term creatine supplementation does not alter the hormonal response to resistance training.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2001; 33 (3): 449-53.
-  Elizabeth Quinn. “Fast and Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers.”