Pros and Cons of Creatine Supplementation

creatine, blender bottle and scoop of powder

There was a time when I took a lot of supplements – a whole lot! Over time, I’ve weaned myself off many of them in favor of better nutrition. But, when I first started lifting, I had a hard time fueling my body for the workouts and life in general. My nutrition was terrible. Now, that I’ve learned how to eat healthier to meet macros, supplements are not as necessary for me. But, there are two that continue to be staples in my pantry – whey protein and creatine.

When I first heard about creatine to help muscle growth I was very skeptical. Most of what I’d heard about it was from the bodybuilding world and it all sounded negative. When I tried to research it for females, I had a hard time finding anything about it and those who seemed to have knowledge stopped short of recommending it or not. It was like you had to figure out on your own whether you should use it. I decided to try it and the first time was not a great experience. I have never been great at staying hydrated and I wasn’t replenishing all the water my muscles were retaining with the supplement. So, I quickly became bloated and developed chronic headaches. That combined with the increase in weight that I was able to lift left me lethargic and miserable.

The next time I cycled on to it was better. I was ready for the hydration issue and had developed better eating and sleeping habits to accompany the use of the creatine. I made huge gains and was happy! I did not stay on it, however, mostly because I ended up in a place where I wasn’t really lifting heavy anymore and didn’t feel it was worth it to stay on it. I wanted to give my body a break. I’m back on it now and feeling great! But, it reminded me that perhaps it would be a good idea for me to pay it forward for other women wondering if creatine supplementation is right for them.

Pros

  1. You can lift heavier. Creatine really helps you gain the extra edge to do one more rep or lift 5 pounds more. It’s a huge confidence booster!
  2. You look more muscular. Because creatine increases the water level in your muscles you end up with a “pumped up” look, which doesn’t hurt your ego!
  3. It might boost brain power! According to a 2003 study by scientists in Australia, creatine can boost memory power! Subsequent studies have backed this up.
  4. It helps slow bone and muscle loss in seniors. In fact, it’s often recommended for older people to help with age-related loss of bone density, muscle mass and physical performance.
  5. Affordable! You will find that creatine monohydrate is a pretty inexpensive supplement, as low as $5 for a container. This is refreshing when you consider the price of so many other supplements on the market today.

Cons

  1. You may experience bloating. Particularly during the loading phase when you’re dosing higher amounts of creatine into your body, you may be bloated as your body accommodates the supplement. Sometimes even going forward, you may also feel this way, if you’re not drinking enough. Decreasing the daily dose and increasing your water intake should help mitigate it.
  2. You need to keep taking it to keep it in your system. If you’re like me, you take creatine on days you work out and on rest days you might forget to take it. You can’t forget! It needs to stay in your system, much like an antiobiotic, so make sure you mix it into a shake on your off days, too.
  3. Those with kidney issues need to beware. Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements. In particular, those who have kidney-related issues should consult with their doctor before starting creatine supplementation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

It’s best to take the purest form of creatine you can find and make sure you use the monohydrate version as it’s the most studied of all the types. Personally, I find it to be most effective, too. The brands I would recommend are Optimum Nutrition and MuscleTech. If you do decide to take creatine, pay attention to your body. You know you. If it doesn’t feel right or you have any negative side effects, just stop taking it. Make sure you give it at least a week, though, to be certain it’s loaded into your system and your body adjusts to it. Like anything, it will take time for you to get used to it. Happy lifting!

Published by FitPRMomLife

Kerri Howell is FitPRMom, a working mom in public relations by day, a mom and partner always. A certified personal trainer and nutrition coach, she helps other busy women reach their health and fitness goals.

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