Don’t take creatine… your kidneys will explode! Even worse, your muscles will cramp up and contort your body like some person getting electrocuted, and you can overheat and go into a coma! We have all heard the rumors that creatine causes you to cramp during exercise, and some have speculated that creatine can lead to overheating. Athletes have used creatine supplementation for nearly 20 years, but speculation remains regarding its efficacy, as well as its potential side effects.
Headlines were being flashed all over the newspapers that creatine was linked to several deaths; but the newspapers failed to mention that the deaths from the autopsy reported that the cause of death was from exertional heat stroke, not creatine.1 Aside from the aforementioned media reports on creatine, most anecdotal reports of side effects have described muscle cramping or gastrointestinal distress. However, research studies never substantiated this.
Creatine Does Not Cause Muscle Cramps!
Researchers from the University of Connecticut performed a meta-analysis of all the studies investigating creatine supplementation. Despite anecdotal reports of creatine’s side effects in athletes exercising in the heat, none of the 10 studies showed detriments in thermoregulatory or hydration variables, including body temperature regulation, percentage of dehydration, urinary hydration measures, plasma volume, or sweat losses. The amount of creatine consumed was similar among trials (20-25 grams), whereas the supplementation duration varied (five to 28 days). Despite variations in dosages, the results of the 10 studies were similar with regard to changes in body mass and body temperature.2
No substantial evidence exists demonstrating that creatine supplementation hinders the body’s ability to dissipate heat or body fluid balance when appropriate doses are consumed. Controlled, experimental trials of athletes exercising in the heat over a short period of time resulted in no adverse effects from creatine supplementation. So bodybuilders can now rest knowing that good science has put another supplementation rumor to rest.
1. Terjung RL, Clarkson P, Eichner ER, et al. American College of Sports Medicine roundtable: the physiological and health effects of oral creatine supplementation. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2000;32(3): 706-717.
2. Lopez RM, Casa DJ, McDermott BP, Ganio MS, Armstrong LE, Maresh CM. Does creatine supplementation hinder exercise heat tolerance or hydration status? A systematic review with meta-analyses. J Athl Train, 2009 Mar-Apr;44(2):215-23.
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