A new report by the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) says it all: "Government legislatures and sport organizations who restrict and/or discourage use of creatine may be placing athletes at greater risk."
That's a pretty strong endorsement for a scientific organization to make about a dietary supplement. But based on the report's exhaustive look at years of performance studies, creatine merits every gram of praise it receives, and then some.
Creatine helps the human body maintain its supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the body's main source of energy. With the readily available source of ATP made possible by creatine, the human body can perform at significantly higher levels of intensity.
The ISSN report explains that the body needs to replenish 1-3 grams of creatine per day. You can get 1-2 grams by eating red meat and seafood, which naturally contain that amount per pound, yet at that rate, you'd have to eat more than a pound a day to maintain your muscle's creatine stores. Enter creatine supplementation, which makes it much easier and more convenient to reach that daily threshold.
The report notes that vegetarians usually have lower creatine stores in their body, and they can particularly benefit from adding creatine supplementation to their daily nutritional program.
The Benefits of Creatine
Per the ISSN report, creatine can increase high-intensity exercise performance, help prevent or reduce the severity of injury, help athletes tolerate heavier training loads, and reduce the occurrence of cramping, muscle tightness, muscle strains, and pulls. It can also reduce gastrointestinal upset and improve the body's ability to retain water in hot, humid environments.
The report points to a large body of scientific evidence proving that creatine supplementation enables athletes to increase performance of high-intensity and repetitive exercise by 10-20 percent. The report also reinforces benefits outlined in the Bodybuilding.com article, "6 Reasons Everyone Should Take Creatine." These include increased bone density, improved glucose metabolism and brain performance, and reduced oxidative stress.
The Proper Amount to Take
The ISSN report states that people who consume about 3 grams of creatine supplementation daily can see significant health benefits. If you do intense training—and especially if you're large of frame—you may want to take 5-10 grams per day.
If you want to quickly increase the amount of creatine your muscles store, ISSN recommends a loading phase of 5 grams of creatine monohydrate four times a day for 5-7 days, followed by a maintenance phase of 3 grams per day. Bodybuilding.com has an online calculator that can help you figure out exactly how much creatine is right for you.
Is There a Downside?
Some people associate taking creatine with liver damage, but numerous studies cited by the report's authors conclude that taking even as much as 0.8 grams of creatine per kilogram of body weight per day for five years—which is more than 50 grams per day—"poses no adverse health risks and may provide several health and performance benefits."
Creatine does help the body retain water, which helps maintain hydration but may also cause weight gain. As with most nutrition supplements, creatine works well if you stay active. Don't expect to sit on the couch all day and reap the many benefits outlined above!
- Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., . . . Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1).