Facebook Twitter


(Creatine monohydrate)

What is it?

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance in the human body and is stored primarily in the muscles in the form of phosphocreatine.

Does it occur naturally in the body?

Your kidneys, liver and pancreas make about 1 to 2 grams of creatine every day.

What are the claims?

THE SIMPLE ANSWER: Creatine monohydrate helps replenish adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

THE TECHNICAL ANSWER: Your body breaks ATP into adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and inorganic phosphate. This reaction releases energy to fuel explosive, short bursts of strength.

The problem is ADP by itself is useless as a source of energy until it regains a phosphate atom.

When you take in creatine monohydrate (CM), it helps increase the levels of creatine phosphate (CP) in muscles, which react with ADP, frees the phosphate from creatine and bonds with ADP to create ATP.

Then your body can break down the ATP back into ADP for more explosive strength. Got it?

Does it work?

Results are finally conclusive. Yes, creatine does build muscle and strength.

Many of the studies conducted over the years since creatine hit the bodybuilding world have been too limited or from dubious sources. The only real way to know for sure if creatine monohydrate is increasing creatine phosphate in the muscle is by doing muscle biopsies and measuring how various doses and methods of administering the supplement affect the levels.

A team of Australian researchers did just that.

Their results showed it takes only 2 to 5 grams per day of creatine monohydrate to maintain optimal levels of creatine phosphate in muscles.

Additional research has shown that taking whey protein and creatine monohydrate together boost strength and muscle mass more than taking supplements with creatine alone or whey protein alone.

To date, we have still not found a study that showed a significant benefit for runners, swimmers and cyclists. Creatine may slow some athletes because of the addition in their body weight.

For those of you considering "buffered" creatine, which can cost twice as much as traditional creatine, don't bother. Researchers at Texas A&M University found that buffered and traditional creatine formulations are absorbed in exactly the same way and provide the same end result. Buffered is no better, just more expensive.

What are the dangers?

The results of 3-year studies are now in, and it looks good.

Scientists have documented that people who take creatine supplements do experience increased levels of creatinine (a byproduct of renal failure).

To find out if those increased levels of creatinine were harming the liver or kidneys, Truman State University researchers tested college football players who routinely took 5 to 20 grams of creatine monohydrate daily for up to five years. The results of the study showed the athletes had no evidence of kidney or liver damage based on the results of standard blood tests.

Since these tests were conducted on healthy subjects, if you have kidney disease or are at high risk for kidney problems (such as a diabetic), we still believe you should not take creatine unless prescribed by a doctor.

WARNING: The following information is preliminary but may be of great importance to people with sickle cell anemia.

Sickle Cell Anemia is an inherited condition where the normal round red blood cells are instead shaped like a crescent moon. Instead of moving easily through the body, sickled cells can get stuck and block blood vessels, stopping oxygen from getting through. This can cause pain as well as organ, muscle and bone damage.

There is now some evidence that people who take creatine supplements that also have sickle cell anemia may be at increased risk for a rare condition called Rhabdomyolysis.

Rhabdomyolysis is clinically referred to when there is evidence of muscle damage (typically severe) and is usually associated with kidney dysfunction.

Triggers for a sickle cell event include cold temperatures, dehydration, and too much exercise. Low oxygen caused by cigarette smoke, high altitude, and plane flights are other common triggers.

Here's the working hypothesis. If someone has sickle cell anemia, increased levels of exercise can trigger episodes where not enough oxygen gets to the muscles that need it. Add creatine, which has the potential to negatively affect kidney function, and the twin stresses can create a potentially fatal combination.

If you have been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, you should NOT take creatine until more information is available from clinical studies. Sickle cell anemia is found in 1 out of every 12 African Americans and can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. If you are unsure, you should have yourself tested.

The Bottom Line

There does not appear to be any benefit for runners, swimmers or cyclists.

The results are good for bodybuilders. Muscle gains can now be directly attributed to creatine intake in doses as low as 2 to 5 grams a day, particularly when combined with a whey protein.

If you are looking for a supplement to help build muscle AND you don't have risk factors for kidney or liver disease, AND you have not been diagnosed or are at risk for sickle cell anemia, you might consider talking to your doctor about the possibility of adding creatine monohydrate as a regular supplement.

Links for More Info

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Logo and Link
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products - Extensive Information from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health - Overviews on Herbal Treatments and Supplements

National Institutes of Health

National Institutes of Health - Office of Dietary Supplements
National Institutes of Health - Office of Dietary Supplements

Operation Supplement Safety
Operation Supplement Safety

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Logo and Link
United States Department of Agriculture

WebMD Logo and Link
WebMD - Helping you make better decisions for life.

We at WeBeFit DO NOT recommend ANY supplements to ANY of our clients. ONLY a licensed Nutritionist or Medical Doctor can make those recommendations based on your individual needs.

This is being provided for INFORMATIONAL and EDUCATIONAL purposes only.

CAUTION: These supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety, effectiveness or purity. There may be unknown risks associated with taking any supplements. There are no regulated manufacturing standards for companies that make supplements. There have been instances where herbal or health supplements have been sold that were contaminated with toxic substances. If you should choose to purchase herbal or health supplements, please only purchase them from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.

If you should decide to use ANY supplement, ALWAYS consult your doctor or Nutritionist first.

Updated 10/29/2008
Updated 1/5/2013