How Safe is Creatine for Building Muscle Mass?

Whether you’re new to the world of fitness or have been in it for some time, chances are you’ve heard of Creatine Monohydrate. Personal trainers and athletes use and speak about this effective supplement often, and for good reason. What exactly is it, and why do you need it? Well, we’re here to help break that down nice and simple for you. Creatine monohydrate is a commonly used dietary supplement. Its benefits include increased “muscle performance in short-duration, high-intensity resistance exercises,” according to the Cleveland Clinic [source]

Is Creatine Safe?

Yes, creatine monohydrate is safe and natural. Your body already produces it for a source of energy within your liver and kidneys. When you strain your muscles, such as during a lifting session or working out, your body sends creatine monohydrate to your skeletal muscles for energy and power. We typically keep our own levels up through our daily diet. However, you can also opt to buy the substance for a little extra boost both pre and post workout. Creatine has been shown to be safe when taken in the long-term, in doses of up to 10mg per day for an extended use of five or more years according to WebMd.

Who Should Use Creatine?

You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or professional athlete to incorporate creatine monohydrate into your supplement and workout regime. The supplement is popular amongst professional athletes and bodybuilders for good reason, and it’s popular amongst non-athletes and non-bodybuilders as well. It’s important to note that “creatine is not a steroid…this couldn’t be further from the truth”. Creatine works to make muscles more hydrated, which can also help muscles to “look bigger and fuller,” which is a desired effect for many[source]

How Creatine Builds Muscle

Creatine works to increase muscle strength and size by working with your “body’s stores of phosphocreatine,” a naturally occurring substance that is “used to produce new ATP during high-intensity exercise”. According to the study, something as minor as a week of loading creatine up to “2 gram/day” can “drastically elevate your muscle stores” [source]. Other studies show that it may take weeks to notice a difference. 

When to Take Creatine

Creatine monohydrate can be purchased at most in-person supplement retailers and online. It usually comes with a scoop and will dissolve in water. Creatine doesn’t take immediate effect. It takes some time to work its way into the system and muscles. Due to this, research and studies have shown that it’s more beneficial to take it for a few weeks on end before you decide whether or not it’s for you as it may take that long for your body to assimilate and show its effectiveness. 

Many people opt to mix it in their protein shake along with their pre or post workout supplement, shake it up, and reap the benefits. It’s entirely tasteless and odorless, you won’t even notice it’s there. But your muscles will. Try creatine for a consistent period of at least 12-weeks before you determine whether or not it’s made a noticeable difference for you.


Creatine pills or powder, which is better?

Creatine is one of the most popular performance-enhancing supplements available to athletes looking to go the extra mile and weightlifters trying to lift greater volumes for bigger gains. But how much does the way you take your dose of creatine affect the results?

And with so many different forms of the supplement available on the market, which one is the best and which one is for you?

We’ll get into that later. First, let’s take a look at just what creatine is.

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is a molecule found naturally in the body, and may also be ingested from food sources including seafood, eggs and meat.

Creatine is composed of three amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine. It can be considered a backup source of energy, as opposed to a super-drug that will give you instant gains.

Creatine speeds up the natural process of how our bodies produce Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP). ATP is used up and quickly depletes during high-intensity exercise.

By supplementing creatine you can increase the ability to store more, meaning that more ATP can be produced during exercise.

Your muscle tissue stores creatine as phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine synthesizes during high-intensity exercises, such as lifting weights, to provide your muscles with extra energy.

Creatine pulls water into your muscle cells, increasing protein synthesis. It is not a provider of extra energy in the same way as boosters like caffeine and glucose, but increases your reserves, thus allowing you to work harder for longer – therein lies the gains.

So you have done your research on this wonder supplement, but now you are uncertain whether the powder or pill form is the best. Opinions are widespread, with many suggesting there is little difference between the two.

Creatine Pills vs Powder: Advantages and Disadvantages

First, the pros and cons of creatine powder. It doesn’t transport easily. Anyone that has kept some in a shaker in their gym bag for when the time comes to train will know that the amount you measured doesn’t always end up being swallowed.

What doesn’t go up in a puff when you lift the lid can cling to the sides and corners, and can sometimes congeal in the shaker.

It doesn’t always blend with ease and can add a bitter chemical taste to your whey or whatever you mix it with when drinking.

These are all minor points, of course, in the bigger picture of creatine’s many health advantages.

In this respect, pills are the better option as you can better measure your intake with none of the mess. So what are the positives to powder?

Powder is more affordable, and we know that month on month the supplement shopping list can add up.

During the loading phase, you will be taking sometimes three to five times the recommended 3 – 5 mg dose. In pill form that means three times the pills, meaning you will see your supplies quickly diminish at the start of each cycle.

In pill form, creatine must first be digested before it can be used by your body. As a powder, it can be more readily absorbed. This is a major plus in favor of powder for anyone taking several supplements on a regular basis.

Why create another obstacle for your digestive system if an alternative is available? Add creatine pills to the vitamin tablets and any others that you take and, if shaken, you’ll rattle.

But how does the speed with which you digest creatine matter? There is much debate about the effectiveness of when to take creatine, but there is no conclusive evidence to suggest it is best when taken before or after exercise.

The unanimous opinion suggests a loading phase should be implemented, wherein you take three times the normal daily amount of creatine every day for two weeks to saturate your cells.

How quickly creatine is then absorbed into your system, subject to future studies, does not necessarily alter the results of your workout (as long as it is loaded constantly in your system).

Variety is key, and by choosing powder you will be able to create health cocktails of your own creation. Either way, it’s a good way to achieve the gains you are looking for.

More and more as you progress as an athlete and learn your body’s capabilities and your goals it is advisable to identify what you want to get out of your supplements. In doing so you can cut out blends and make your own, based on what you want.

By mixing creatine powder with other workout beverages that are sugar-loaded you can also increase your insulin levels.

Creatine in Food and Natural Sources

Creatine is made up of amino acids and is largely obtained from your diet. Creatine pulls water into your muscles and increases protein synthesis.

High protein foods like fish, eggs, and meat are rich in creatine. However, an easier way of ingesting creatine may be choosing the right supplement. For convenience, creatine pills may be the best route.

On the other hand, creatine pills are not as easily absorbed into the body as creatine powder is. Creatine powder is rapidly absorbed into the body, letting it do its job faster.

However, for somebody constantly on the move, creatine powder is not easily transported. For those types, choosing creatine pills may be the best bet.

All in all, research shows little difference between the two forms of the creatine supplement. In turn, it really comes down to preference.

So which do you prefer? Would you rather your creatine supplement work at a faster rate or would you rather get in over with quickly by taking this supplement as a pill?

There are pro’s and con’s to both forms. Either way, creatine is an essential supplement for building muscle mass. If you’re having trouble bulking up, taking creatine may be the best way to get gains fast.


Creatine and Sarcopenia Disease

Creatine has been shown to increase strength and muscle mass in young adults in practically hundreds of studies at this point. Additionally, there was scant studies examining its effects on older individuals until more recently. The greatest threats to an aging adult’s abilities to stay healthy is the constant reduction of lean body weight (muscle groups and bones in particular) as they age. The clinical term for the loss of muscle is sarcopenia, and it’s going to get the respect it deserves by the healthcare and scientific community. For decades, that community has focused on the weakening of bones (osteoporosis) of aging adults but paid not enough attention to the loss of muscle mass which effects a man’s ability to be truly useful as they age just as much – if not more so, then a loss of bone mass.

What identifies sarcopenia from a medical perspective?

Sarcopenia can be defined as the age-related loss of muscle mass, strength and functionality. One thing is completely clear: it’s much easier, cheaper, and more results-oriented to prevent sarcopenia, or at minimum dramatically slow its progression, then it is to treat it later in life. Sarcopenia in most cases occurs after age of 40 and increases soon after the age of approximately 75. Although sarcopenia is commonly seen in physically inactive individuals, it is also frequently found in women and men who stay physically active throughout their lives. Therefore, it’s clear that even though physical activity is very important, physical inactivity is not actually the only contributing key to sarcopenia. Just like osteoporosis, sarcopenia is a multifactorial process that may normally include decreased hormone ranges (in particular, human growth hormone, IGF-1, and testosterone), a lack of necessary protein and calories in the diet, oxidative stress, inflamation related processes, as well as the decreasing activity of motor neurons.


Creatine and Older Adults

As a result of aging and inactivity, almost all atrophy an elderly individual’s muscle group is observed in the quick twitching fibers that happen to be recruited over the course of high-intensity, anaerobic actions (example, weight training, sprints, etc.). Surprisingly, these are absolutely the materials creatine has the essential unique effects on. One study labeled as “Creatine supplementation increases isometric energy and physical structure improvements utilizing strength exercise and training in more aged men and women” fed 28 healthy and well balanced women and men (just above sixty-five years old) either 5 grams everyday of creatine or placebo utilizing a unique, double blind method for fourteen weeks. Both of these testing groups were put on a resistance workouts (weight lifting) system for the duration of the research study. 14 weeks of resistance fitness exercises caused extensive improvements in all specifications of toughness and workable activities and muscular tissue fiber area for both social groups. Whatever, the people taking the creatine led to considerably greater improves in non-fat mass, higher improvement in isometric knee extension, much higher gains in isometric line and flexion strength, as well as a remarkable boost in intramuscular creatine amounts. The scientists came to the conclusion : “The addition of creatine supplementation to the workout routine stimulus improved the boost in total and non-fat mass, and gains in quite a lot of indices of isometric muscle potency.” A full slew of latest tests have been noticing equivalent effects on more aged individuals and coming to practically similar results.

An additional recent study named “Creatine supplementation gets better physical functionality in more aged men” by using a synonymous project as the above mentioned study noticed almost the same results. They concluded: “… information signals that seven days of creatine supplementation is effective at enhancing plenty of indices of muscle abilities, including workable clinical tests in elderly males with no negative side effects. Creatine supplements could be a very useful therapeutic approach for elderly adults to attenuate loss in muscle potency and functions of functional way of life activities.” Additional research came to synonymous results. However, it ought to be mentioned that not all tests have found this effect (Effects of creatine monohydrate intake in exercise-free and weight-trained more aged persons but they were much earlier studies that could have had some methodological imperfections. Irrespective, the bulk of the data, in specific the latest data, simply points to creatine as having great effects on energy and body structure in old persons, particularly when combined with a weight training exercise project. One very helpful present-day survey found the beneficial effects of creatine on energy and lean muscle mass in older grownups continued after they stopped using the creatine at least for the twelve weeks they tested these people. They concluded: “Withdrawal from creatine had no influence on the rate of energy, strength, and decrease of good muscle mass with 12 weeks of reduced-volume training program.” However, it’s the experience of most creatine consumers, and even most surveys in younger persons, that the excellent effects of creatine do in fact reduce in the long run if one ends utilizing creatine. Since there is no certain fact to go off creatine once established, the most useful results will most likely come from continued use.


Can creatine cause injury or muscle cramps

This is maybe by far the most well known creatine myth among the athletes. This is a post hoc fallacy and something that becomes repeated so much that people without having prior knowledge of creatine will most likely and unfortunately believe it to be reality. If an sportsperson who is using creatine gets a muscle cramp they’ll point the fingers at their own creatine utilize, while in fact the cramp is most probably as a direct consequence of deficit of water, improper electrolyte balance, or number of other causes that could possibly result in cramping.

In a new and very large (nearly 1500 participants) research, creatine supplementation did not lead to enhanced incidence of cramping amongst more athletes. In fact, the people taking creatine actually suffered from considerably less cramps than the non-creatine team. In a comparable vein, a lot of professional athletes mistakenly believe that creatine will improve their risk of harm. Nevertheless, study has demonstrated that creatine is unable to increase the possibility of injury.


The quantity of myths I just included are the most widespread you can find these days, although there are obviously more you will deal with if you look a little bit deeper. Hopefully I’ve suggested you to accept anything very negative you read about creatine monohydrate with a touch of suspicion from here on out. I recommend you to always try to find legitimate scientific materials when it comes to creatine or any other nutritional supplement. Don’t rely on the personal stories of good friends, fellow fitness enthusiasts, coaching staff, etc. Have confidence in published, peer-reviewed scientific tests. Be concered about any unrealistic claims you hear, whether they are negative or positive. While We’ve preferred to pay attention to debunking the negative myths related to creatine, the phrase of “buyers beware” obviously relates to the nutritional supplement business. Remember, creatine is not a steroid, so do not expect steroid-like effects, regardless of how lofty the manufacturer’s claims may be.