Still on the fence about the safety of creatine supplementation? Let me tell you a personal story from when I was 15 years old…
Social status is everything, especially in high school. Growing up in the more rural parts of Central Florida, I was just like every teenage guy that wanted to be strong, athletic, and look cool in front of the other bros to get chicks. Sophomore year in high school was set to be a huge turning point for me because I decided to join both the weightlifting team and the track team all while working a part-time job.
Looking back at it now, most high school weightlifting instruction wasn’t the greatest considering the only two lifts being judged were bench press and sloppy clean and jerks. My school offered an actual weightlifting class to fulfill the physical education requirements so my friends and I thought it would be a great idea to enroll during that fall semester.
Not having much experience with lifting weights, I struggled in a lot of the lifts due to not having much of an athletic background. The experience was intimidating at first because the guys in the weight lifting class were athletes in some sport already, mostly football players. Practice throughout the semester was going really well leading into the weightlifting season because I was making consistent gains in strength hitting PR’s every other week.
Just when I was making consistent gains, things took a turn for the worse when I became ill with the flu, robbing me of precious training time and deteriorating my strength levels. It took a long time for me to be capable of benching 135 pounds (the barbell + one large plate on each side) being only 15 years old, 5’10” tall, and maybe 145 pounds. Coming back after recovering from the flu, I decided to give the bench press a go to see where I was. All the hard work I had put in went down the drain when I struggled pressing just 95 pounds on the bar! This was a HUGE disappointment. Crushed, feeling weak, I decided to explore my options…
To this day I’m not sure how it came about, perhaps it was by referral from a friend, but I decided to make my first supplement purchase. It was an earlier version; fruit punch flavored EAS Phosphagen (creatine). My mom was skeptical at first about me taking supplements especially since the label touted “Gains in muscle and Strength.” I specifically remember her asking me something to the extent of “Is it like steroid?” Now I get a kick out of it knowing that creatine is not even remotely related to steroids!
I followed the dosing protocol, which at the time was the loading phase of 20 grams a day for a week, followed by a 5-gram maintenance dosage. Needless to say, my strength gains started to come back within a matter of two weeks allowing me to bench 135 pounds for reps! By the end of the weightlifting season in the spring, I had worked my way up to a one-rep max of 180 pounds! This was astonishing considering that 5 months prior I struggled pressing just 95 pounds after coming back from the flu.
Now’s let’sreview some of the details of my story:
- Considering the fact this event was 13 years ago as a teenager and I still supplement with creatine monohydrate unto this day, I would personally say that long-term supplementation is safe. The data also confirms this . In fact, some of the first studies on creatine were performed in children.
- The aforementioned loading phase is a popular topic of debate with creatine supplementation. Truth is, it really isn’t necessary. You could take the 5 gram maintenance dose and experience the same results in a one month period as you would taking the 20 gram loading phase dose, just in half the time. Taking 20 grams just saturates the muscle cells more quickly allowing the consumer to experience more rapid results while also using more product. Save your money and just take the 5 grams because there have been reports of digestive discomfort with the 20 gram dosage. [2, 3]
- Again, creatine has been proven to increase strength in numerous studies. The combination of creatine supplementation and a structured resistance training program allowed me to almost double my bench press strength in less than six months. [4,5]
As a sports nutritionist, this is a strong recommendation. You should consult a qualified healthcare professional with a background in sports nutrition such as a registered dietitian.
1. Groeneveld GJ, et al. Few adverse effects of long-term creatine supplementation in a placebo-controlled trial. Int J Sports Med. (2005)
2. Hultman E, et al. Muscle creatine loading in men. J Appl Physiol. (1996)
3. Preen D, et al. Creatine supplementation: a comparison of loading and maintenance protocols on creatine uptake by human skeletal muscle. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. (2003)
4. Dempsey RL, Mazzone MF, Meurer LN. Does oral creatine supplementation improve strength? A meta-analysis. J Fam Pract. (2002)
5. Rawson ES, Volek JS. Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res. (2003)