is creatine actually dangerous

Creatine, to those unaware, can sound a little scary and often erroneously labeled similar to some more… serious substances. But like many things perpetuated on the innerweb, creatine information has succumbed to the unfortunate demise of faulty information. Or as we like to say in the fitness world: bro-science. 

Thankfully, a quick dive into the scientific literature can clear up some of the confusion. First, a quick breakdown of what creatine is. Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid that our body itself makes from two other amino acids, arginine and glycine.

Most of it presides in our muscles. There, it has a role in the ATP-PCr system, the system responsible for the initial 10 to 15 seconds of energy production during physical activity. Creatine essentially replenishes this system during rest, explaining its popularity among athletes employing bursts of speed and strength. For fitness enthusiasts, supplementing creatine generally means adding a few more pounds or reps to your lifts.

Which is great. But as great as this performance benefit is, how safe is creatine really?
Fortunately, creatine is perhaps the most studied supplement in the world, with over a thousand studies covering its effects. And with all this treasure trove of data, signs seem to point to creatine supplementation being safe. Here’s the gist. According to the findings of the Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, after doing to the legwork of sifting through the science, they found that short and long-term creatine studies consisting of different dosages, fitness levels, and age groups, including infants and adolescents, displayed no adverse health risks with creatine supplementation. No increased injuries, no dehydration, cramping, renal dysfunction, or even upset stomach.

The only potential side effect is slight weight gain potentially attributed to water retention. And for those wondering, the often-perpetuated side effect of balding is also, for the most part, untrue. There might be a link between creatine and DHT, a substance related to balding, but no direct connection. And it only pertains to individuals susceptible to balding in the first place.

Now we know that creatine is fairly safe, but the immense data also shows that creatine has quite a busload of additional health benefits. These benefits include but are not limited to, obviously improved exercise performance, improve injury prevention and rehabilitation, improved post-exercise recovery, improved anti-aging, and even improved protection to diseases like Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy.

Luckily, we can get most of our creatine simply from our food, especially in red meats and seafood. Supplementation, however, is often suggested anyway since we don’t store too much creatine in our bodies. Typical recommendation is roughly 2 to 5 grams of supplemented creatine per day. And to close, again, regardless of what you might have heard elsewhere, for healthy populations, creatine is definitely safe.

Taking a tip from sports nutrition, more dancers a turning to protein powder to pull off long days of rehearsals. I would like to know how creatine has been for you. Does it work for you or maybe you experienced your own set of side effects?

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