Creatine is often touted as king when it comes to supplementation, but for some it’s still regarded as a danger. But will creatine have a negative effect on your kidneys and is it worth the benefits gained in terms of performance?

In a world of gurus and fitness models, finding real answers can be a challenge. This can lead to all sorts of confusion about all sorts of things and today I’m going to tackle creatine. Despite the benefits of creatine being well established in research circles, people still avoid it for fear of kidney damage, weight gain and bloating.

In 2007 the International Society of Sports Nutrition conducted a review of the research and found: “Hundreds of studies have shown the effectiveness of CM (creatine monohydrate) supplementation in improving anaerobic capacity, strength, and lean body mass in conjunction with training. In addition, CM has repeatedly been reported to be safe, as well as possibly beneficial in preventing injury.”

Despite this, myths surrounding it’s use still prevail.

The researchers leading the review stated: “Creatine monohydrate is the most effective ergogenic nutritional supplement currently available to athletes in terms of increasing high-intensity exercise capacity and lean body mass during training.”

They also wrote: “There is no scientific evidence that the short- or long-term use of creatine monohydrate has any detrimental effects on otherwise healthy individuals.”

This is one of the most researched supplements in history and the evidence suggests it’s not only safe to use but hugely beneficial. In a paper on dietary creatine supplementation from 2000, Robinson et al showed that both acute supplementation (20g per day for five days) and chronic supplementation (3g per day for nine weeks) had no adverse effects on renal function.

There’s another study by Schröder et al (2005) that showed taking 5g creatine per day for three entire basketball seasons had no significant alterations in all health measures.

There’s even a study that found supplementing with 20g of creatine a day for five days, followed by 5g per day for 30 days had no effect on kidney function in a young man with just one kidney.

What’s the verdict on creatine?

The performance benefits of creatine are well established. Creatine can help with muscle gain, intermittent max effort performance, strength, endurance and general recovery in athletes. All of this combined with the emerging health benefits and the evidence showing there is no detrimental health consequences makes creatine a worthwhile addition to most supplementation regimes.

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Photo credit: Filip Mroz