Podcast: creatine An update, with Dr. Darren Candow

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Why don’t I notice any effects from creatine? Should the elderly take higher doses? Can you safely use it continuously? Does it make you bald? These and other creatine questions are answered by Canadian sports scientist Dr. Darren Candow, one of the world’s foremost researchers on creatine. He was put to the test by bodybuilder (and dentist) Dr. Dave Maconi of the Brains and Gains YouTube channel. Let this video podcast update you on the most popular strength sports supplement, based on the latest scientific insights (video below). For those who have little time, we paraphrase the most interesting passages.

Key points:

1.   Creatine supplementation can increase muscle strength and possibly muscle endurance, and help you recover faster from your workouts.

2.   For these effects, a daily dose of 3 to 5 grams is normally sufficient. People with a high body weight may benefit from a slightly higher dose. Also, as you get older, you may need more creatine to achieve the same effects, but this has not been sufficiently researched.

3.   A loading phase (~20 g/day for 5-7 days) at the beginning of your creatine course makes creatine work faster. This way you can also find out faster if creatine works for you. However, a loading phase is not strictly necessary, as you will also reach your maximum creatine levels with a normal dose, albeit a little more slowly.

4.   Whether and to what extent you are responsive to creatine supplementation depends not only on genetic factors (especially your natural creatine levels), but also on factors such as your diet. If you naturally have high creatine levels, you naturally benefit from creatine and supplementation will probably bring you little or nothing extra.

5.   It doesn’t seem to matter in the long run whether you use creatine continuously or in cycles. Both are fine.

6.   If you have taken creatine for at least six to eight weeks and you stop the supplementation, the creatine levels in your body will remain elevated for about 28 days. So after 28 days they are back to the original level.

7.   Creatine is by far the most researched strength sports supplement and its use has been conclusively proven to be safe.

WHAT EFFECTS CAN CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION HAVE FOR STRENGTH ATHLETES? (36:15)

Strength athletes who are responsive to creatine (monohydrate) experience that they can train longer and/or more intensively and/or that they recover faster from that training.

As soon as they start taking creatine supplements, there is an increase in neuromuscular activation quite quickly, giving them more power. And that can lead to more muscle growth in the longer term. That increase in strength indicates that creatine increases the high-energy phosphate metabolism, which also allows you to handle more training volume.

In addition, increased creatine concentrations may also cause your muscles to recover faster, allowing you to train more often.

CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION DOES NOT WORK EQUALLY WELL FOR EVERYONE. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? (9:30)

Creatine supplementation is only useful if you normally do not have too high concentrations of creatine in your muscles. The level of your natural creatine levels is largely genetically determined.

However, there are also other factors at play, such as the amount of type II muscle fibers you have. Those are the large, powerful muscle fibers that appeal most to you during strength training. The greater the proportion of type II fibers in your muscles, the better you will respond to elevated creatine levels.

A third factor is how much creatine you get through your diet. If you usually eat a lot of poultry and/or red meat, you will react less strongly to creatine supplementation than, for example, a vegetarian.

A fourth factor is gender: women seem to have naturally higher creatine levels and are therefore less responsive to supplementation.

Finally, the fifth factor is age. Some have higher creatine concentrations in their muscles later in life, while others have lower values, especially in powerful muscles. The latter group will therefore probably benefit more from creatine supplementation.

In short, if you have high creatine levels yourself, you naturally benefit from creatine and supplementation will probably bring you little or nothing extra. Then you belong to the so-called non-responders.

Note: non-responder means that you do not respond to the intake of extra creatine, but you are of course responsive to creatine itself.

If you have low creatine levels, the effect of creatine supplementation will probably be noticeable, especially if you eat little or no meat.

HOW DO YOU QUICKLY FIND OUT IF YOU ARE A ‘RESPONDER’? (35:06)

There are ways to measure the creatine levels in your muscles, but they are not readily accessible to most people. To quickly find out whether creatine works for you, you can start your creatine course with a loading phase where you take a larger dose (~20 g/day for 5-7 days). Your muscles will quickly fill up with creatine, so you will quickly notice the effects – or not.

That ‘filling up’ is also visible: your muscles will retain more fluid, so that they (temporarily) look a bit fuller. That fluid also causes some increase in your body weight. Even if you notice these things, you know that you are responsive. However, there are also individuals who do not experience water retention and/or weight gain, but who are still responsive.

By the way, the loading phase has no other advantages than that your creatine levels rise somewhat faster than with the normal dose of 5 g/day. Once the values ​​are at a certain level, no further increase is possible, no matter how much creatine you take. You pee the excess creatine out.

SO IT MAKES NO SENSE TO TAKE MORE THAN 5 G/DAY, EXCEPT FOR THE LOADING PHASE? (15:00 / 46:20)

In scientific studies, a relative dose is often used – usually 0.1 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. So someone weighing 70 kg takes 7 g of creatine per day. This is done to ensure that all test subjects receive an equivalent dose.

In real life, that doesn’t seem to be necessary. In fact, 2-3 g/day is probably sufficient to maintain creatine levels once they are elevated (whether or not after a loading phase). But I can imagine that as a very heavy person you take a little more to be on the safe side.

I also don’t rule out that as we get older we need higher doses of creatine (10-15 g/day) to achieve the same effect. Just like the elderly also need more protein. But we’re still investigating that.

Anyway, the position of the International Society Of Sports Nutrition is that 3-5 grams of creatine per day is sufficient and I agree with that.

DO YOU NEED TO CYCLE CREATINE OR CAN YOU USE IT CONTINUOUSLY? (32:00)

That still doesn’t seem to matter. Continuous use of creatine is safe and does not affect your natural creatine production. If it is already suppressed during the supplementation course, it will recover once you have stopped the course. Nor have any specific benefits of cycling creatine been demonstrated .

As far as training results are concerned, there is probably little or no difference in the long term between continuous or cyclic use of creatine. Although this is an aspect of creatine use that is difficult to study, precisely because of the long term.

HOW LONG DOES CREATINE STAY IN YOUR BODY WHEN YOU STOP TAKING IT? (33:17)

If you have taken creatine for at least six to eight weeks and you stop the supplementation, the creatine levels in your body will remain elevated for about 28 days. So after 28 days they are back to the original level.

Viewed from this point of view, you don’t actually have to take creatine continuously to have its effects more or less continuously.

IS CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION USEFUL DURING THE CUT? (40:30)

Yes, the use of creatine during a long-term energy deficit may contribute to maintaining strength and recovery from strength training, thus preserving muscle mass.

Keep in mind that creatine supplementation makes you retain fluid, so your body weight may drop less quickly than you expect. In addition, water retention is not desirable if you are a competitive bodybuilder who has to take the stage soon. (Still, that should normally not prevent you from using creatine in the cut, as we state in this article, ed.)

CAN YOU GO BALD FROM CREATINE SUPPLEMENTATION? (20:26)

There is exactly one study that suggests that creatine increases Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and DHT causes hair loss. But it is not said that this increase also effectively causes an increase in the DHT concentrations at the hair root follicles and therefore actually causes hair loss.

So there is still no concrete evidence that creatine use can lead to hair loss. I consider it a myth.

CAN CREATINE USE HAVE ADVERSE EFFECTS ON HEALTH, FOR EXAMPLE ON KIDNEY FUNCTION? (19:10)

No, that too is a myth. Creatine is one of the most researched supplements due to its popularity. Several long-term studies have also been conducted to test the safety of long-term use. Based on the extensive available research, we can now conclude without hesitation that creatine supplementation is safe.

Right now I consider creatine the safest most effective diatry supplement when it comes to muscle and muscle performance perspective.

IN SUMMARY

Creatine supplementation can increase muscle strength and possibly muscle endurance, and help you recover faster from your workouts.

For these effects, a daily dose of 3 to 5 grams is normally sufficient. People with a high body weight may benefit from a slightly higher dose. Also, as you get older, you may need more creatine to achieve the same effects, but this has not been sufficiently researched.

A loading phase (~20 g/day for 5-7 days) at the beginning of your creatine course makes creatine work faster. This way you can also find out fairly quickly whether creatine works for you. However, a loading phase is not strictly necessary, because you will also achieve your maximum creatine levels with a normal dose, albeit a little slower.

Whether and to what extent you are responsive to creatine supplementation depends not only on genetic factors (especially your natural creatine levels), but also on factors such as your diet. If you naturally have high creatine levels, you naturally benefit from creatine and supplementation will probably bring you little or nothing extra.

It doesn’t seem to matter in the long run whether you use creatine continuously or in cycles. Both are fine.

If you have taken creatine for at least six to eight weeks and you stop the supplementation, the creatine levels in your body will remain elevated for about 28 days. So after 28 days they are back to the original level.

Creatine is by far the most researched strength sports supplement and its use has been conclusively proven to be safe.

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