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Creatine Aren’t Steroids and Here’s Why

Creatine Aren’t Steroids and Here’s Why

Creatine Aren’t Steroids and Here’s Why

 

Ohhh creatine. I remember one time in highschool someone told me that creatine was like taking steroids. More recently I’ve been seeing videos floating around that creatine monohydrate causes bloating. It’s for this reason this article needed to be written. SO! 

Creatine:  

 What is it? Is it safe? 

 Should I be taking it? 

 How much and what kind do I take?

What is it/Is it Safe? 

 Creatine is a molecule only found in animal products such as red meat. The only trouble is that you’d have to eat almost two pounds of meat a day in order to get the same level of creatine that a typical supplement contains.

Creatine helps increase strength and performance and is one of the most highly studied supplements in the world (yes not an exaggeration, creatine has been studied for decades). The tricky part about creatine is that it does not have a transient benefit, meaning that if you take it one day you will not have benefits from the supplement that day. But why?! Well it’s actually pretty straightforward. See, creatine will only give you strength and performance benefits IF you have a constant build up of it in your system.

The science for those that want it (otherwise skip to the picture and below if you don’t care). We know our energy sources work on ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and that we create energy during our lifts by using the ATP and converting it to ADP (adenosine diphosphate). The cleaving of one of the phosphate groups is what gives us that energy. 

NOW! If we have an ample supply of creatine in our system it gets converted to creatine phosphate and is stored in our muscles (you might guess where this is going). SO! Those one to two extra reps in the gym you’ve probably heard about that creatine will provide you with, is simply due to creatine phosphate being in your muscles.

When we cleave ATP to ADP, that built up creatine phosphate in our system actually replenishes the ADP back to ATP allowing us to have a little more energy (the one to two extra reps in the gym). See the diagram below for a visual representation:

Anyway, if you didn’t bother to read the science part, pretty much in order to have the benefits of creatine, you have to have a constant supply of it in your system, meaning it has to be taken everyday. Oh yeah, and it is safe for human consumption. 

Like I mentioned before, it is one of the most highly studied supplements on the market. It is not at all a steroid that affects hormones, it is more like a vitamin that fills in a dietary gap you may not normally get with just food alone. 

Should I take it? 

I’m honestly not sure if there’s someone I’d say “don’t take creatine” to. I had a buddy of mine who works a high intense manual labor job who doesn’t use the gym. He came to me for some advice on optimizing his diet for his work life and one of the first moves I suggested outside of general food consumption was to start taking creatine. 

What he noticed after about a week's time was better recovery, less muscle aches, feeling stronger on the job, and more full looking muscle bellies. Don’t let someone fool you into thinking it's a man vs woman thing either. We all have muscles and creatine will help everyone in the same fashion. 

“But Randy, doesn't it cause bloating?” Absolutely not. This is a complete and total fallacy. Bloating is water retention subcutaneously or directly under the skin. As discussed earlier, creatine is stored intracellularly in the muscles, so you will retain water, but in your muscles which will give them that more full appearance.

Also, having more water around the muscles aids slightly in muscular contraction, think of it like greasing the gears. For this reason though, it is of the utmost importance that your water consumption is up to par (about 90oz a day for women or 120oz a day for men). This leads me to the next topic.

How much and what kind do I take? 

 So so so so so so much false information online about a “better creatine” as if no one is reading any studies. Which to the credit of the people trying to deceive you into buying their latest and greatest creatine *ooooooo* *ahhhhhh* they're probably banking on the fact that you probably don't read the studies. 

Well here, I’ll just briefly tell ya what they're saying: no creatine out performs creatine monohydrate and in some cases is actually worse. I’ve also covered this whole shindig on my podcast Bone Apple Tea episode 95. Anyway! Point is don’t overpay for something that already works really well, just get the gold standard creatine monohydrate and have 5 grams of it every single day sometime around your workout (post workout seems to be best but that’s splitting hairs).

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Writer

Randy Borruso

Certified Personal Trainer

NASM CPT 

University of Connecticut for Biomedical Engineering

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