Caution To All But Mice

Creatine: Its Benefits and Secret Dangers

  • Graphic Christopher Olson

Being 6’2 and weighing 160 pounds gets you in trouble sometimes. You could bench press two plates when working out and maybe even be a hero and superset with widespread chin ups, but your regiment does not do your frame justice. Your spotter or testosterone filled colleagues tell you at the gym, “eat, eat, eat,” but the next step would be gluttony, and you don’t want to sin. So, your other buddy says, “make a shake,” and winks.

After you walk away from your buddy, you think about the next alternative: Creatine.

Experiments have shown that Creatine supplementation has improved the health of mice, but the positive effects on human beings are still quite uncertain. With the vast variety of muscle enhancement products out there, Creatine has somehow been affiliated with the loosely used and ambiguous terms “nutrition” and “enhancement.”

Discovered almost a century ago by two researchers from Harvard University, Creatine was not commercially available until 1993 when it was introduced to the sports nutrition market under the name “Phosphagen.” Creatine is usually taken by athletes and anyone trying to “body-build” in pursuit of gaining muscle mass or enhancing maximum power and performance in high-intensity anaerobic work like running/cycling and low repetition weightlifting.

There are a number of methods for ingestion; powder mixed with water/juice/milk, or capsules, on an average length of 2/3 months at a time which may or may not include a loading phase (different dosage amounts within cycle).

Before we get skeptical, Creatine, as I have personally witnessed, does work. It will give you that boost; it will do its job.

Alex Pierre, a former sports and conditioning trainer with LA Fitness, stated, “It’s going to give you that push you need, with size and strength you know, but there’s a limit on what it’s going to do for you. It depends on how long you’re willing to take it. I would say try it out for 8 weeks and then work off those results if you absolutely have to.”

Reza Tuserkani, who has over a decade of personal training and exercise science experience, answers, “It works, depending on your body, how you train and your lifestyle of course, but think about it—[the] body can gain about 1 kg in a week. You have to understand that it’s simply due to greater water retention inside the muscle cells.”

From my personal experience, I got the results I wanted. I was satisfied, I got stronger really fast, and, most importantly, the results were clearly visible. I took Creatine once a day, 5 days a week, for 8 weeks, and then I stopped completely. I just wanted to test my body; I wanted to see a change, one I felt I deserved. Of course I acknowledged that it was not permanent and therefore I never got too attached to my new and appreciated physique.

A few weeks after my trial, having the same conditioning program, diet and lifestyle it was clearly evident that the results were gone. I was not disappointed; I was now anxious and somewhat worried about the aftermath. Fortunately I did not see nor feel any harm after using Creatine, and if I did, it wasn’t visible to me.

When I spoke to Reza Tuserkani about my experience, he suggested that there were [biological] consequences, but having only taken it for 8 weeks in accordance with my nutrition and lifestyle was probably the reason they didn’t show, or if they did and it went unnoticed, were minimal.

Interested in what could have happened, I spoke to Linda Schruber, a local Naturopath and Holistic practitioner.

“I would really recommend athletes find another alternative, because there are many clinical studies that suggest [Creatine has a] severe effect on the kidneys after someone stops using it,” said Schruber. She asked me if I had any cysts, acne or rashes afterwards, and oddly enough I did, which I had dismissed at the time.

Schruber said that these cysts, the acne and the rashes, “is the body’s way of reacting to something—a discharge of something toxic the body has no place for.”

She told me that I was lucky if that’s all that transpired, adding that within her professional career, she has seen problems arise regarding the heart, liver, skin and joints.

Creatine is marketed well; most users are very much misinformed of the consequences. It is important that any curious individual does their own research, evaluates the risks involved, reads the instructions and researches the ingredients before making a decision.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 25, published March 8, 2011.

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