A Jim of All Trades

Creatine

with 2 comments

I’ve taken creatine off and on many times over the past 10 or so years, and having recently just finished a cycle I thought I’d post some thoughts about it. There is A LOT if information about creatine online, so I’m not going to get into great detail, I simply mean to speak from my experience and offer some personal thoughts.

If you don’t know what it is, here is a definition taken from the website greatist.com: “Creatine is a natural compound produced by the kidneys, pancreas, and liver that plays an important role in releasing energy when the body moves quickly or powerfully. Used as a supplement, creatine supposedly boosts muscular performance.” (Check out the link for more info.) So, athletes and weight lifters take creatine as a supplement to improve strength, increase stamina and energy levels while training, to in the end get bigger, faster, stronger, etc.

I’ve taken it many times since my early twenties, and for extended stretches. After having not taken it for a couple of years, I decided to use it again recently to see if I could give my workouts a bit of a kick in the pants. So for the months of October and November I took a serving of creatine daily. I use Met-Rx Creatine Blast (I have no affiliation or experience with the site I linked to, just using it as an example.) Creatine Blast is relatively cheap, which was a major factor in why I chose it, but for less than $20 locally or online it provides a good creatine blend and I was happy with it.

So, does it work? Yes, I think it does, but I’m really not sure how much so. When I was taking it most recently, I noticed increased energy levels and had good productive workouts, but maybe only slightly more so than when I’m not taking it. I had a lot of energy in the gym, kept making progress, all that good stuff, but the thing is, after I stopped taking it and for the entire following month, I’ve kept having good productive workouts, I’ve kept making gains, and nothing has dipped.

The biggest difference I notice is my energy level. After taking a dose and going in the gym it was like I drank a full pot of coffee; I was pretty wired. So much so in fact that I had to stop drinking coffee over those two months. I’m a big coffee drinker normally, but when drinking some later in the morning, two hours or more after I had creatine, I would still get all jittery and wound up. Too much so, I had to cut out coffee. So that is proof enough that it gets you going. But here is the counter point: After I stopped taking it, I started drinking coffee again before going into the gym in the morning. Just a small mug; I’ve always drank coffee before my morning workouts, it helps me wake up and get going. I feel like I’m not quite as awake when I arrive at the gym as I was with creatine, but I still have excellent workouts and I’ve still seen improvements.

It really isn’t an overly scientific evaluation, but from this experience I’m not really sure creatine is worth taking. If you go in the gym and bust your butt working as hard as you can, you’re going to have gains regardless of what supplements you’re taking (assuming you’re getting enough rest, eating right, and working out right). Creatine might have helped me squeeze out one more rep than I realized in some exercises, but considering my overall progress from before, during, and after taking it hasn’t really changed, I’m not sure any real difference was made. I openly admit I felt more energetic and psyched while I was taking it, but again, that didn’t seem to make much of a difference overall. Looking back, I honestly can’t remember completely how much it helped me when I was younger, but I think it was about the same as my most recent experience: there wasn’t a huge difference.

So, would I recommend it? – Uh, maybe? I think it does what it is intended to, but not to the level advertised. Don’t take it and think that weights will magically be as light as a feather and you’ll get jacked over night; you still need to put in the work, it just might help you a little. There is a mental aspect to it too (placebo effect, maybe?). Knowing that you’re on it might be enough to trick yourself into pushing a little harder, and if that is the case, maybe it’s worth spending $20 to $30 bucks a month on it. I personally don’t think so, but I’ve talked to guys who have said it is. To each his own. And different things work for different people. Just like how foods, other supplements and/or medicines might affect a friend differently than you, creatine is the same. Just because I didn’t notice a huge difference doesn’t mean you won’t.

Also, please keep in mind I am not an elite athlete or expert. Seek info from nutritionists, professional lifters, athletes and body builders, and info from reviewers online, magazines, etc. to make your own opinion before trying it.

Choices: There are a ton of different products out there. Like I said, the kind I took last is relatively cheap, but I think it’s good quality. I’ve taken much more expensive ones and even some cheaper ones. Compared to the most expensive ones I’ve taken, I feel that Creatine Blast is just as good so I’m not convinced you need to take anything more expensive. One thing I will say though is take a blend if you’re going to take it. I’ve taken just straight creatine monohydrate before and noticed less of a difference compared to any blend, so I think a blend really is worth getting.

Cons: I should also mention that there are some supposed cons, but I haven’t had personal experience with them or known people who have. From the reading I’ve done and my personal experience it seems to be perfectly safe if taken as directed, and even if not.  I took it for nearly a year straight without stopping or cycling before and noticed no negative effects. I have friends who have done the same with no problems. I don’t necessarily recommend that, I’m just saying. I have heard a lot about it being hard on the kidneys and that you need to take in more water with it for the sake of hydration.  However some sources (like the one I linked to above) suggest that there isn’t really even any risk. Please do your own research and form your own opinion. I’ve always just taken plenty of water while I was using creatine and never noticed any negative side effects, aside from having to pee a lot. Here is a list of cons from livestrong.com though for the sake of being balanced. I personally haven’t experienced any of these, aside from a bit of weight gain, but that’s just me. Please do consider them and do your own research before deciding to start creatine if you’re considering it.

I hope this is at least somewhat helpful to anyone who might stumble upon it and make it through the whole thing.
Happy lifting.
And Merry Christmas!

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Written by Jim

December 23, 2012 at 11:42 pm

2 Responses

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  1. this is great info, Jim! i’m glad I got to hear your experience. I haven’t supplemented with anything besides whey protein, which i have found to be a bit spendy, so i’m glad that you think this specific supplement may not be worth it — for everyone, anyway :) when you say you noticed some weight gain, i assume you meant lean mass/muscle gain?

    dinnersforwinners

    December 26, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    • Thanks for the feedback, Sophie. As for weight gain – one common side effect of creatine is that it’s supposed to make you retain water, most people that take it do gain some water weight. I thought that might be the case for me this last time – I gained about 8 pounds – but having stopped taking it only 1 or 2 lbs came off. Sooo, I think I gained some fat (really unhealthy holiday eating!! and I haven’t been burning as many calories with it being fall/winter…) and maybe a pound or two of muscle. I could have my body fat % checked to tell, but I’m not brave enough.

      Jim

      December 26, 2012 at 5:13 pm


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