Creatine is naturally present in our body. It is primarily found in our muscles, approx. 95%. In the muscle, it is found in the form of phosphocreatine and the rest 5% is found in our liver, brain and kidneys. Our body synthesises creatine using amino acids glycine and arginine.
Creatine supplement is one of the high used supplements by athletes to maximise their athletic performance. It helps boost energy levels, promotes muscle gain and improves stamina. When we consume creatine supplement, it increases the levels of phosphocreatine thus resulting in increased energy production. A study observed that consuming 20 g of creatine within a span of 5-7 days was able to enhance the phosphocreatine content by 50% in our body.
Creatine supplements are widely available in the market and various forms like creatine monohydrate, micronised creatine, creatine ethyl ester, liquid creatine, creatine magnesium chelate and creatine hydrochloride. Studies have indicated that creatine monohydrate is the most effective form as compared to the best ones.
But even with so many benefits, creatine supplements have always been controversial. Some suggest that it may cause liver damage, liver damage, digestion issues, dehydration, muscle cramps and compartment syndrome. However, there has been no study with conclusive evidence of these claimed side effects.
In this article, we will talk about the relationship between creatine and dehydration. This effect is linked with creatine’s ability to hold water in our muscle cells. But this alteration or shift in the water content of cells happens internally and are very minimal to cause dehydration. Due to this myth of dehydration attached to creatine, sometimes athletes are advised to avoid using it in hot and humid weather conditions. To examine this effect, a study was conducted to evaluate creatine use and exercise heat tolerance in dehydrated men. It was conducted in 2006 by Watson G et al, in which 21.6 g of creatine monohydrate was given to athletes for 9 days. No side effects were found among athletes, in fact, after 1 week there was an increase in body mass with an average of 0.88 kg. The group who received creatine had better plasma volume, there was increased creatinine excretion in the urine, which is a waste product of creatine metabolism. It was concluded that creatine supplementation is not associated with any side effects like cramping, heat injury, or any cardiorespiratory disturbances.
Similarly, another researchers team studied the effect of creatine supplementation on hydration status in 2009. In this study, the outcome was the same that creatine does not affect body fluid balance, does not cause dehydration or any heat-related issues during exercise and there was no adverse effect on our body’s ability to banish heat.
As per the International Society of Sports Nutrition, we all need approx. 1-3 grams of creatine in the non-supplemented form to prevent any deficiency. About 50% is met by dietary intake like meat, fish and rest is synthesised by our body. Therefore, athletes who are vegetarians or have low levels of creatine may choose creatine supplements. Generally, 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day is sufficient to maintain the adequacy. Creatine supplementation has been shown to enhance the rate of recovery after an intense exercise session. Creatine when consumed post exercise along with carbohydrates and protein or only with carbs results in increased creatine retention. Similarly, creatine when consumed before the training session prevents glycogen loss and promotes quick recovery afterwards.
There has also been evidence indicating that creatine reduces muscles damage and soreness. When it was given to some marathon runners before their 30 km race, it noticed that the levels of inflammatory markers were low among these athletes as compared to the control group. Not only the level of injury rate was reduced but the rate of recovery was better among athletes who got injured.
To conclude, it is evident that creatine monohydrate is a safe supplement to opt for. There has been no conclusive studies or evidence of the side effects which are commonly associated with creatine supplementation. If you are an athlete and looking to amplify your athletic performance then creatine monohydrate might be your ally. There has also been the use of medicinal and therapeutic use of creatine among people with neuromuscular disorders, inborn errors, myocardial ischemia, certain cancers and Parkinson’s disease. This ergogenic nutritional supplement does not affect renal functioning, however, in case of any pre-existing kidney or any disease, always consult your doctor before opting for a creatine supplement.
- Watson, G., Casa, D. J., Fiala, K. A., Hile, A., Roti, M. W., Healey, J. C., Armstrong, L. E., & Maresh, C. M. (2006). Creatine use and exercise heat tolerance in dehydrated men. Journal of athletic training, 41(1), 18–29.
- Lopez, R. M., Casa, D. J., McDermott, B. P., Ganio, M. S., Armstrong, L. E., & Maresh, C. M. (2009). Does creatine supplementation hinder exercise heat tolerance or hydration status? A systematic review with meta-analyses. Journal of athletic training, 44(2), 215–223. https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-44.2.215
- Sobolewski, E. J., Thompson, B. J., Smith, A. E., & Ryan, E. D. (2011). The Physiological Effects of Creatine Supplementation on Hydration: A Review. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 5(4), 320–327. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827611406071
- Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 18 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z