Do you know these common myths about creatine?

Creatine Supplementation, Part 1.  Myths about Creatine

Creatine use among athletes is widespread.  Much is known about creatine, as it has been extensively studied and published in scientific literature.  Despite the vast wealth of knowledge out there on creatine, there remains much confusion among the general public on what creatine is and the effects of supplementation.  Here are three of the biggest myths out there about creatine.


1. The weight you gain while taking creatine is all water weight.

Many people who take creatine gain weight.  Your body does retain additional water while on creatine, and this is because of the principal of osmosis.  If you put more creatine in your muscles (solute), more water will be drawn into the muscle.   Because of this, supplementing with creatine can cause dehydration in the absence of sufficient water intake.

Water weight isn’t the only thing that increases with supplementation.  Creatine ingestion also sets the stage for muscle growth through an increased training capacity.  With increased skeletal muscle creatine concentrations, you are able to perform more repetitions of a given exercise, which can (and should!) lead to positive muscular and strength gains.


2. Creatine is banned by the NCAA.

Not true.  Here is a list of the NCAA’s Banned Substances.


3. Creatine has the same side effects as steroids.

Creatine is not steroids.  Not even close.  It is a dietary supplement that does not directly impact the endocrine system.  Creatine is naturally produced by the human body and is stored almost exclusively in skeletal muscle, increasing the capacity of the Phosphagen energy system to produce ATP (the Phosphagen energy system is responsible for short bursts of high-intensity, anaerobic activity). Creatine is found naturally in most meats, and no serious side effects of supplementation have been reported.  Minor side effects include cramping and gastrointestinal (GI) distress.


Next week we’ll take a look at some details of creatine supplementation methods, including loading, maintenance doses, and timing.

Read Part 2


–Tom Sovocool, NOVA Strength and Conditioning coach, MS, CSCS, SCCC, USAW