Side Effects of Creatine Supplements and How to Avoid Them

Creatine is one of the most popular supplements for athletes and bodybuilders due to its abilities to enhance physical performance and stimulate muscle strength and size.

However, like most bodybuilding supplements, many consumers are a little confused about what this supplement has to offer - does it work? What are the side effects of creatine supplements? How do you use it? Is it legal?

Here's a basic break down of what creatine can really do. . .

What is Creatine?

Creatine is not a steroid. It's not a hormone. It's not even a prohormone. (Though, like steroids, it is banned from certain athletic organizations such as the NFL, NCAA, and the International Olympic committee.)

While it definitely enhances physical performance and is one of the best muscle-building supplements of all time, creatine is a naturally produced compound in the body and can be found in a wide variety of foods as well, such as fish and red meat.

It is a combination of three different amino acids: glycine arginine, and methionine. That's it. No synthetics. No frills. Just good old fashioned amino acids, the basic building blocks for muscle tissues and cells.

How Does it Work?

In order to understand how creatine works, you first have to understand a bit about ATP.

ATP, your body's energy source, is responsible for powering almost every bodily process and function you can think off, including the production of creating more ATP.

When a phosphate group is hydrolyzed (broken down with water), the energy in the form of heat is given off and used for fuel. Because a phosphate is lost during this process, ATP becomes ADP - which is pretty much useless until it is converted back into ATP again.

Here's where creatine comes in.

As creatine enters the body (or when it is first produced by the body), it binds with a phosphate molecule to create creatine phosphate. Creatine later donates its phosphate molecule to ADP so it becomes ATP once again.

By aiding in the conversion of ADP to ATP, creatine significantly increases your energy stores, which in turn enables you to work harder and train for longer periods of time.

Additionally, creatine is considered to be an "osmotically active" substance, meaning that it attracts water into cells. Because the cell is able to hold more water, it can also hold more ions that are important for the stimulation of protein synthesis.

Safety Concerns

Ever since it first became popular back in the 1990s, countless studies have been conducted on creatine to ensure its safety and efficacy, and time after time the results have been the same: creatine does not result in any significant long term side effects when consumed properly.

Though it may aggravate preexisting medical conditions (such as kidney problems), most healthy adults can tolerate the supplement fairly well.

However, side effects of creatine supplements (such as stomach cramps and muscle cramps) can still occur when individuals take too much creatine, use a poor quality supplement, or fail to consume adequate amounts of water - all of which can be easily avoided.

How to Get the Best Results

To avoid the side effects of creatine supplements and get the best results for your investment, you'll want to follow the following steps:

Follow the Directions: Creatine supplements can vary greatly depending on the manufacturers. Some supplements require that you take creatine after a workout with food, and others suggest taking creatine before bed or before breakfast. The instructions are there for a reason - to keep you safe - so just taking a creatine powder whenever you're in the mood is the first step to improving your performance.

Don't Overdo it: Typically experts recommend that you take an average of 3-5 grams of creatine per day if you're training extensively and want to build muscle mass quickly.
While some supplements promote the concept of loading creatine (taking 20 grams per day) for the first week or so and then cutting back, the end results are usually the same and the risk of side effects is much bigger. Your muscles can only store so much creatine at a time, and loading up with creatine only makes you go through your creatine powder faster.

Consequently, you should probably stick to the recommended amount and skip the loading phase entirely.

Stay Hydrated: Creatine pulls water into the muscle cells, but where do you think it pulls water from? That's right - the rest of your body. Studies have shown that the average creatine consumer gains an initial 2-4 pounds of water weight, and consequently, you'll want to increase your water consumption to reduce the risk of dehydration.

According to Dr. Jose Antonio, PhD, You'll want to drink an average of 4 oz. of water for every 3 grams of creatine you consume - that's about 12-20 oz. (or over 2 cups) of water on top of your regular needs. If you exercise and sweat heavily, you'll want to increase your water intake even further. Experts at WebMd suggest that you aim for at least 13 cups of fluids per day if you’re a man and 9 cups per day if you’re a woman.

Not all creatine supplements were created equal, so you’ll want to make sure you find the Best Creatine Supplement.

Pumped Extreme Creatine has proven to be one of the most effective creatine supplements because it delivers the energy your muscle need exactly when your muscles need it so you end up with the best results possible.

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