Creatine...WHAT, HOW, and WHO???

"Should my son be using creatine", is one of the most common supplement questions I get.  Creatine is probably one of the most improperly used supplements on the market, which has given it a bad rep.  It is a very safe and productive supplement WHEN USED PROPERLY.  

First, I want to explain WHAT creatine is, and does.  The scientific answer is that Creatine Monohydrate increases intramuscular phosphocreatine, which is important because it increases ATP rephosphorylation...BLA BLA BLA...and here's the bottom delays the onset of muscular fatigue.  Any training can benefit from creatine supplementation, however, there is a time and place for this.  

The HOW (to use creatine) is where people and athletes really mess this up.  Let me clear up a few misconceptions.  Creatine is NOT a pre-workout, nor should it be taken as (or in) a pre-workout from.  To be productive, creatine must be accumulated and stored in muscle tissue.  If it's sitting in your intestines during a workout, it does NO good.  To optimize creatine usage, a loading period, followed by tapering down to a maintenance phase is essential.  The amount of creatine needed is based on the body weight of the athlete.  

WHO should be using creatine, completely depends on the athlete, sport, and time of year they are training.  For example, a football athlete training in the summer and early fall should AVOID creatine COMPLETELY.  Creatine use should be limited to training environments that are indoor, and/or during cool weather.  Any athlete can benefit from creatine use, but it should never be combined with hot weather training.  I will save you the thermodynamics lesson, and how the body cools off, but the bottom line is that creatine is stored in water (in the muscle) and does not allow the body to release that water to be redirected to the skin for cooling (in hot weather).  This keeps the body from being able to cool itself, leading to potential overheating, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.   Simply put, if you work or train in the heat, STAY AWAY from creatine.  On the other hand, if you train indoors in conditioned air, or during cooler weather outside, creatine is an extremely productive supplement for increased performance. 

If you are considering creatine supplementation for yourself or for an athlete, please come talk with me and lets get them started using it correctly.  

- Chris Garrett, MS, CSCS 

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