Creatine is the most researched supplement ever. It has withstood the wrath of critics, research projects, peer reviewed journal articles, and the glaring eye of the consumers scrutiny, but above all this… it’s withstood the test of time! Creatines effects are pretty much irrefutable, it is the unique energy source to your muscles meaning it can’t be poached for energy by your other organs etc; this enables you to train harder, for longer!
Creatine is approved in almost every country on earth, it has to meet the safety standards unique to each country and be free from adverse side effects. The pharmaceutical (drug) industry is very tightly moderated, but it is acknowledged that drugs manufactured to treat a condition or disease often come with some side effects such as itching, high temperature or lack of libido to name a few. Nutritional supplements or ‘borderline substances’ (as they are technically termed) have to be side effect free. Granted some supplements cause fidgeting or irritability if people are sensitive to some of the key ingredients (stimulants such as caffeine etc), and some proteins may cause bloating or flatulence (usually the lower quality blends) for example.
In 2004 the EU Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed that creatine monohydrate is safe at doses of 3g/d, obviously other brands may suggest 5g/d, and sports nutrition bodies such as the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) suggest approx 0.2g/kg bodyweight for the ‘loading phase’, and 0.05-0.1g/kg for the ‘maintenance’ phase.
Creatine can become dangerous when dosages are abused, it’s not uncommon to find some irresponsible athletes doubling recommended dosages which could prove to be extremely damaging! Other consumer innocently consume creatine non-stop, without observing a cycle i.e. 4 weeks on, 4 weeks off! The risk with this is that the kidneys are exposed to a high volume of solute, resulting in an osmotic shift of fluid into the kidneys meaning you pee like a race horse and place adverse strain on the kidneys!
Some scientists have always argued that Creatine generates toxic quantities of methylamine and formaldehyde when it is broken down in the body. Poortmans, (2005) found that people consuming large amounts of creatine (20g/d) did indeed have high levels of these substances, but NOT beyond the normal upper limits for healthy people! If creatine dosages are kept within normal recommendations, then creatine in urine and methylamine levels are much lower and not seen to be a risk.
All research seems to show that liver and kidneys are unaffected if healthy people with no underlying medical conditions consume creatine. Current guidance suggests that if you already have kidney disease or have an increased risk of developing it i.e. if you’re diabetic, hypertensive (high blood pressure) or have a reduced glomerular filtration rate (kidney function), then you should consult your Doctor before commencing a course of creatine.
The short and fast of it is this…The only real side effect of Creatine, is lean muscle mass!
Creatine in Health, Medicine and Sport, (2010). Report on the conference. Creatine. A simple molecule with the potential to improve health.