Hey I'm relatively new to weight lifting and I have friends who take Creatine before working out. They said it really helps build muscle. But I've also heard it can be bad for you. How true is it, and is it worth the risk?
TL;DR: There don't seem to be many negative side effects besides water retention and the need to take in more water, although the benefit is limited for people who aren't already up against their limits and it doesn't seem to help for endurance training.
Creatine is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately for up to 5 years.
When taken by mouth in high doses, creatine is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. There is some concern that it could harm the kidney, liver, or heart function. However, a connection between high doses and these negative effects has not been proven. Creatine can also cause stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and muscle cramping.
Creatine causes muscles to draw water from the rest of your body. Be sure to drink extra water to make up for this. Also, if you are taking creatine, don't exercise in the heat. It might cause you to become dehydrated.
Many people who use creatine gain weight. This is because creatine causes the muscles to hold water, not because it actually builds muscle.
There is some concern that combining creatine with caffeine and the herb ephedra (also called Ma Huang) might increase the chance of having serious side effects such as stroke.
There is concern that creatine might cause irregular heartbeat in some people. But more information is needed to know if creatine can cause this problem.
There is concern that creatine might cause a skin condition called pigmented purpuric dermatosis in some people. But more information is needed to know if creatine can cause this problem.
BodyBuilding.com comes up with similar results:
- Creatine does not cause damage to skeletal muscle or the heart, liver, or kidneys.
- Creatine, at this moment in time, seems to be fine for kidney disorders that are not characterized by edema and tissue swelling.
- Based on limited research, it is probably wise to avoid creatine supplementation if you have polycystic kidney disease, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, or another kidney disorder characterized by tissue swelling.
Lastly a medical study found the same things, but also warns that commercial supplies may have other additives due to how badly regulated the supplementation industry is.
most people resort to creatine after an extended period of training where they're not getting bigger, or stronger, or both. as a beginner, you should see pretty rapid gains in both size and strength as long as you've got a solid workout plan and you're eating a ton. i don't think it makes sense for a beginner to take it. creatine isn't that risky compared to, like, anabolic steroids...but way, way riskier than a bunch of chicken breasts and whole milk.
if you do choose to try i would recommend against a "loading phase," which is several weeks of very high daily creatine intake (around 20 grams), followed by a moderate daily dosage (some call it a "maintenance" dose) of 5-ish grams, continued indefinitely. most of the creatine horror stories i've read are dosage-related.