I Scream, You Scream We all Scream for…Creatine



This article has been written for Canadian Physique Alliance – Mar/Apr 2023 Edition

Jed Headshot

I scream, you scream, we all scream for… Creatine.

Safe to say, y’all are a little thrown off by the title. Creatine?, Jed, Don’t you mean ice cream? Ahhhhh ice cream. But no, NO ICE CREAM FOR YOU! (A little Seinfeld reference for those of us old enough). Just replace ice cream with soup and a little eastern European accent. We all love ice cream, at least the dopamine hit when eating it, even those lactose intolerant, aside from what happens to them next. Seriously though, why would we all scream for creatine? Many of you may have used it, maybe using it, and some of you may never have. Today in your reading you’ll find out why there’s much more here than just a “muscle supplement”; why we should all scream for creatine!

My experience and relationship with creatine dates back to the inception of my regimented training at 17. It has been ongoing for 25 years. When I was young and started working out, I wanted to look like Arnold. That started young, I was 8. It had been with me since I saw Conan for the first time. I suppose Conan was the thing that really got me started. I remember doing concentration curls with my mother’s sand-filled dumbbell plates. I would watch that movie over and over and do concentration curls with each arm until they gave out. So when I was 17 and I started seriously working out, Creatine was in all the magazines. Yup way back in the mid-90s, huge jacked guys advertising this new wonder supplement. So naturally, when I started creatine, I’d imagine myself going to bed that night, and waking up looking like Arnold.

Well, of course, that didn’t happen. I actually went to bed and woke up and didn’t look any different at all. However, and this is a big “however”… I noticed immediately that I recovered faster, I was barely sore the next day. My endurance was greater, much greater. Like, double that of my training experience pre-creatine, I was stronger, and I didn’t drag my ass to morning runs, or any workouts. At the time I thought it was only in my head, but I also felt much more focused and engaged during my workouts. Simply put, it worked. After three or four weeks I started to notice substantial growth. Yes, my weight was up, but I was leaner and noticeably bigger. Our basic understanding at the time, and with my novice level of experience, I was taking 5g a day with organic apple juice after my workouts. Yes, that’s right, apple juice. It was the doctrine back then, And very much still a dogma of today. Creatine had to be taken with sugar for it to work.

Well, it’s 25 years later, and I’m still using creatine. I cycle on and off of it, and I most definitely notice its effects when I reintroduce it after a few weeks off. It has not had a diminishing effect in these 25 years. Creatine has been with me the whole time for good reason. But until recently, I didn’t understand all of them. More new studies have come about unveiling even more positive effects and benefits of creatine supplementation. If used correctly, for healthy individuals, such benefits come with no negative side effects. I recommend it to many clients across-the-board from young people of adult age to certain senior citizens, and all sorts of clients. Why might you ask? Some of you may very well be thinking, Isn’t it just for bodybuilding? well friends, NO not at all, let’s get down to the brass tacks.

What is Cretine?

creatineCreatine, in recent studies has been shown to be not a mere luxury and optional, but really a “conditionally essential nutrient” for so many different kinds of people, ages and lifestyles. There’s so much to unpack here, the what’s and the whys and hows… we can all benefit from this. Ready to NERD OUT?! (My favourite part of writing) So for some of you reading this and thinking, hey wait, back up, what the heck is creatine? For many of you out there, you might know full well, but it never hurts to brush up a little bit on the basics. So, Creatine is pretty simple really. It’s a combination of three different amino acids: glycine, arginine, and methionine.

Yup nothing more than a combination of amino acids, one essential and two nonessential. Simple as it may be, this compound is involved in a vast number of processes in the body. It’s a fundamental component in how your body creates its primary form of energy in muscle cells, the compound adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. For example, when muscles contract explosively, or for brief, intense work lasting no longer than 8-12 seconds, creatine (bonded with phosphoric acid as creatine phosphate) is how the muscle creates the energy necessary to do it. Most of the creatine in your body is created in the liver and kidneys, but the majority of it is stored in muscle tissue, (and the majority of this is from dietary sources containing those three amino acids in surplus).

As you might imagine, Creatine historically was broadly dismissed in many circles as a placebo and just water retention. Certainly not considered a “Conditionally essential” nutrient. If the human body can create something, and, so, if you refer to the nomenclature if you can create it, it is not essential. All healthy human bodies are capable of creating it. It can also be obtained through a diet that contains animal products. However, we make very little. Dietary creatine pretty much only comes from animal products, and to get enough to show a marked influence you’d have to consume a lot of red meat, dairy and eggs. (The most rich source of creatine is red meat).

So unless you’re 5 steaks a day deep, and if you’re vegan or a vegetarian athlete, you don’t get nearly enough creatine in your diet. Ergo, why do we supplement with creatine monohydrate? Creatine monohydrate, the most popular form of creatine supplements, is simply creatine with one molecule of water attached to it, hence the name monohydrate. No, creatine is not a steroid. It does not influence your hormones, however, you may occasionally see people claim that creatine is a steroid. Plainly, friends, this couldn’t be further from the truth. So now that we know the basics of creatine and its purpose. I bet you’re asking yourself still, isn’t this just for weightlifting, or high-performance athletes? Well, just check this out.

Over the last few years there has been more and more research emerging, suggesting that creating is a “conditionally essential nutrient” for both young people and adults of all ages. This is regardless of their physical activity level in sports and conditioning requirements. There are many intricacies to this, that allow creatine to be the benefit that influences a broad spectrum of individuals properly. Most importantly, the timing of creatine (well get to this later on) and the association with creatine ingestion coupled with electrolytes.

Yes I know right, most of you familiar with creatine are thinking wait… it has to be sugar… well it turns out that there is a sodium/potassium/magnesium/creatine transport synergy that actually helps carry creatine into the muscle cells. It doesn’t have to be in the insulin transport mechanism alone. Carbohydrates in-fluence blood sugar rise, insulin release, Bango presto creating shuttling. Yes, most definitely it works, but there’s a caveat, not just everyone should be having simple sugar, sugar at all, or large amounts of it. Think of weight loss, obese, individuals, and people, following responsible, ketogenic nutrition programs.

People trying to remove sugars altogether to get off the glucose addiction. Let alone, diabetics, and people suffering from high blood pressure. The list of people that should avoid simple sugars is quite lengthy. When it is a matter of fact, only a select group of people should be using creatine with carbohydrates. So for the vast majority of people, to avoid the pitfalls of high glycaemic simple, sugar induction, but still, get the same bioavailability, and intracellular benefits, When you supplement with creatine, you want to ingest creating with electrolytes to increase the intracellular absorption. The carbohydrate strategy for bodybuilding, and physique athletes has merit, but it does not for the overall majority of everyone else. Anyone that doesn’t have a substantial amount of muscle mass, and operates under a training system and nutritional program as such a person like a bodybuilder or high-performance athlete. Refine processed simple sugar in all cases and for everyone, should be limited. So for most of you out there, the electrolyte strategy is much more strategic, benefecial and effective.

creatine bottlesI’ll circle back to that. For now, let’s unpack the more intricate roles that creatine plays in the body that are mostly involved in energy-related synthesis. The phosphorylation of ATP; so when you’re moving your working muscles, what you are doing is actually using phosphate groups to catalyze that reaction. The reaction comes from the intracellular currency of the cell known as ATP adenosine triphosphate. So when that phosphate group is transferred off the ATP it makes ADP (adenosine, di-phosphate), which helps that phosphate group catalyzes and sort out the muscular reactions.

Creatine helps the re-phosphorylated ADP convert back into ATP. This is great for training. But most importantly, it’s involved in that peak cognitive function as well. Remember, when I wrote above about how I felt switched on in my workouts, I wasn’t dragging ass anymore, and I thought it was just in my head because I was taking the supplement. Well turns out, because your neurones are utilizing ATP to function, with creatine your synaptic processing is very ramped up and acute. So you see, It’s involved in a bunch of different reactions through the body, from mind to body.

Now when you’re hard training and you need to be focused and prepared to generate maximum intensity, when it comes to more explosive intense exercises. Boom switched on mind and body. So clearly we can see how creating incorporation has been shown to increase one Rep Max and actually improve muscular strength and muscular endurance and recovery from exercise. Yes, by now know well documented and well-known. OK, so this is where I want you to rethink about how you view creatine, as not just something that is an ergogenic, performance, and recovery aid alone. But something that can be “conditionally essential” for cognitive function and for overall health.

Think about your heart, your heart is a muscle, it is most certainly utilizing creatine, utilizing ATP just like you’re working skeletal muscle when you exercise. Friends from any of my articles you get a constant theme, “our heart is our most important muscle”. Heart health is number one, anything that can help protect and improve the performance of your heart muscle. Well, that’s a no-brainer. Another reason why I think it’s important that we share this, especially with vegans and vegetarians people who don’t eat any animal flesh or animal products, because they are not getting sufficient creatine or any at all. Young people as well who are athletic, with hundreds over the years with all the sports teams and hockey Canada programs. Many of them really don’t eat enough animal proteins or complete protein for that matter. It is a critical part of a young person’s development of skeletal muscle tissue. So, Not enough, animal source, and complete protein means they’re not getting sufficient creatine. So if this is you, you might want to consider supplementing. Remember, it’s too nonessential and one essential amino acid in sur-plus needed to formulate creatine.

A recent study, called “Perspective Creatine, a conditionally essential nutrient building the case”. Conducted by a group of scientists, in Canada, really caught my attention. Specifically regarding the general public. It’s stated that creating a common necessary nutrient for energy production to support exercise capacity and maximizes exercise performance and cognitive function. Was drastically deficit in vegans and vegetarians and for people who do not eat meat. Also in people with kidney disease, no, they did not find the creatine supplementation harmed the kidneys. They did discover a disorder, of creatine transport which, was quite common.

A vast number of people that eat meat we’re not extracting the combination of the two nonessential and one essential amino acid to bond together to create creatine. Almost like we have moved so far away from our ancestor’s tenants of what we’ve been influenced, and supported in our development and evolution effectively for over 1 million years. Seems like all the processed food that we eat has completely polluted us, and hasn’t taken that long. Either, as it only began during the industrial revolution, and we now have a creatine transport disconnect, an estrogen, crisis, and obesity epidemic, and a sperm count in young men that has decreased by over 50% in the last 20 years alone. So no real dilemma here, most of us should be including creatine as one of those everyday nutrients.

This was pretty cool, Hey new moms, and moms-to-be. Creatine is also involved in methylation. Methylation plays, and essential role in conception. Poor methylation in it the female is directly linked to a poor fertility outcome. Methylation is directly involved in the regulation of genes responsible for metabolic adaptation during pregnancy. Protecting against aberrant DNA methylation that can lead to early pregnancy loss, preterm birth, and even trouble for the mother like hypertension. So for women who are wanting to get pregnant, trying to conceive and having fertility issues. Well, here is another case for creatine use as well. Crazy how back in the day it was Touted to be bad for women. I’m not saying in any way that creatine is to diagnosis, treat or prevent any disease. But it is important to recognize that methylations are so important for fertility. For having healthy offspring without birth defects. The prospective study on creatine, being a conditionally essential nutrient, research also showed that creatine supplementation in people over 65, improved memory, executive function, and cognition, reflexes, and endurance. It showed improvement in memory and cognition of people with Alzheimer’s as well. So as we get older looks like we have even more need for complete protein and creatine in our daily nutritional focus.

As I mentioned above electrolytes help enhance the uptake of creating. A study of 20 subjects found that when creating is co-ingested with electrolytes it improves intracellular hydration, as shown with different osmotic technologies. So looking at the ability of muscles to improve intercellular water which helps support performance because of the transport of creatine as well as magnesium, simply it makes a lot of sense. Magnesium is necessary to bring creatine across the cell membrane. Coupled with potassium and of course sodium, Himalayan pink salt is the best, helping support healthy hydration as well as athletic performance, healthy heart and cognitive function. Hey digging it or what? Y’all Screaming for creatine yet?

Now another study by Frontiers in Sports and Activity living, that I want to share with you. It is as important as to what creatine does, is the timing If you want it to work the best. Nutrient timing is key. Creatine is maximized and, best absorbed on an empty stomach around exercise. It is also highly available, but not as potent as the empty stomach scenario, when there are other complete proteins being processed simultaneously, so with a protein-rich meal. This could be with a pre-training meal, for example.

You see, the exercising muscle improves creatine uptake by about 20% research shows that creatine levels in the blood peak about two hours after ingestion. Ok so let’s say you had a rib eye steak. A 16-ounce rib eye steak, about two hours later would be your peak levels of creatine in the blood. Dare I say, not very digested for training, and still pretty heavy from the meal. But you have peak creatine levels available in your blood. Another key point of why we supplement. So in this particular paper, we see exercising muscle absorbs creatine much better than non-exercising muscle. So respectively, preload with a meal or drink intra-workout to improve the uptake. The gospel on this, for as long as I can remember and what I find still, is most people that use creatine with a carbohydrate to spike insulin. Because the insulin-to-receptor transport is fast and efficient for creatine uptake. But where does this leave you if you’re on a responsible keto-genic program or you’re on low carbs, or have health issues that would be negatively impacted by having a whole bunch of simple sugars like I mentioned above? Not in a very good place. Let’s talk a bit about that.

bodybuilderDoes anyone remember many years back, all that stuff when creating was said to be poisonous and bad for your kidneys or young people shouldn’t take it? Those two wrestlers apparently died from taking it. Well, it’s important to recognize that there’s a lot of misrepresentation and fallacious rhetoric around creatine. When people say well this increase in damage the kidneys, or overall health. Quite the opposite. This rhetoric surrounding creating that has to do with the fact, that in the late 90s when creatine became commercially available, the creatine researched was paired with dextrose. So there was a lot of simple refined sugar Co ingested, with high glycemic index sugar and lots of it. Some proclaiming mixtures came with 100 g of dextrose per serving. When this was Co ingested with creatine it led to some of the issues with regards to water retention, hypoglycemia reactive, hyperglycemia can put strain on the kidneys, this is sugars cause, not creatine. Clearly, these symptoms are associated with consuming that much-refined sugar. Moreover, it’s common knowledge that refined sugar (dextrose, table, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, liquid fructose, mechanically processed wheat.) leads to vascular disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, lipid disorder. Refined, processed, simple, sugar, lowers our bodies pH making our lymphatic system terribly acidic. This is a playground for potential health problems. So by taking creatine in that manner, as eg. 100 g of dextrose to transport your creatine, for the vast majority if people, we almost completely obfuscate the health benefits linked with creatine.

Friends, carbohydrates are not created equal. They may all have 4 cal per gram, but they have a vastly different effects on the body depending on the origin source and form. The kind of carbo-hydrate used to properly enhance bioavailability and intracellular transport in the resorption of creatine shouldn’t just be any old kind of sugar. Osmolarity rate is highly important, critical actually and should be the premise for the kind of carbohydrate source, that you choose when using creatine this way.

So for the bodybuilder with tons of muscle, and having 75g of cyclodextrine, or waxy maize (not dextrose) post-training on a leg day and an Intra Workout shake with creatine, some carb powder and other goodies no problem. Remember when I mentioned above these people have a high carbohydrate tolerance and glycogen utility? But for the broad spectrum of everybody else, you don’t NEED nor should you take creatine with a bunch of carbohydrates, to experience the powerful effects and positive benefits. Just take it with electrolytes around or during, exercise. Oh right! I almost forgot, Also, but not as effective if you want to take it as a stand-alone, not with the electrolyte mixture, sodium potassium magnesium. You can have it with some water after a meal rich in protein. Remember to take creatine every day so that you can keep an even blood life available.

OK cool got all that? Great! Are you wondering how much should you take?

roadNow what’s interesting here is most people are fixated on, this dogma regarding creatine. You must Load with 10 g for 5-7 days then take 5 grams a day. Why? Ya exactly why ‘cause that’s what’s been gospel for 20+ years. However, we now know if you’re getting sufficient protein in your diet you may not need to have 5 grams that you can get away with lower amounts. If you’re a bodybuilder, high-performance athlete, or someone of the like, there’s nothing wrong with loading if you like. It’s not going to hurt you. However, the research suggests, and in my opinion, and from personal and witness experience of clients, if you do that, you are having very expensive urine. I mean sure you can take more, but a major downside is some people might experience in some GI upset. No one likes poopy pants, or at least bad gas. So the higher doses of supplemental creatine monohydrate, redundant diminished return. The cool thing is if your diet is well rounded, with the right amount of adequate base complete proteins. You could probably get away with taking 1 to 2 g of supplemental creatine, monohydrate and get the exact same benefit as taking 5 g. Why have expensive pee?

I take 2 g a day and I have definitely noticed a greater benefit from coupling it with the Himalayan pink salt, magnesium, potassium, citrate, combination. The pumps are much more substantial. For the way that I train, and the carb cycle, I do combine it with a mixture of cluster dextrin, when in a heavy carb cycle, and some other amino acids intra workout, as a hyperaemia nutrient influence driver. Ok, so I say again for the way that I train and how I have my nutrition set up. I do strongly recommend, for most people, do not have it with a carbohydrate mixture, unless you fall into the category of a high-performance athlete, strength, endurance, or bodybuilding discipline, and you have enough muscle to support the carbohydrate utility. Or like me all of the above. Disclaimer: don’t do as I do, what you do, must be individually tailored to you. Having more than a moderate amount of muscle and a low amount of body, fat, including high-intensity cardio, endurance, explosive and heavy weight-bearing load training, opens you up to more carbohydrate utility potential. This links to proper carb cycling and glucose tolerance, so many nuances friends. So not to get too deep in the weeds, I could go on about this for hours, but now I’ll let you digest and soak this up, synthesize it all. Enough Nurding out for one day, friends, I love this stuff, I think creatine is fascinating.

So if you are or consider to use your creatine monohydrate. I trust you all found this information helpful, and of course, entertaining.

In the beginning, you may have thought that my title was a little over the top, but don’t you see now? I scream, you scream, we all scream for creatine! At the end of the day, something that has such a multitude of powerful benefits, so easily accessible, safe and effective for healthy individuals, why wouldn’t we be including region, monohydrate as a “conditionally essential nutrient”? Not a steroid, not harmful to the kidneys, not bad for young, old or women. Folks really all creatine does is help in a multitude of ways. We should always seek to improve our body and mind, connection of performance, recovery and longevity. We may have been awesome when we were 25, let’s continue and be even more awesome when we are 65, And if we’re starting at 65, then be even more awesome at 85. Each day is truly a gift and blessing, and I am so thankful for being able to write this for you all. Stay tuned for my next article, as we get further into the nerdy fun stuff, and series of important and much overlooked, micro, nutrients the essentials, Of more health performance, nutrition, and supplement awesomeness!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our Canadian physique, alliance newsletter, and to our AF newsletter, subscribe to our AF newsletter by clicking the logo on the last page here. I appreciate all of you, and all your questions. Every one of you is why I write. I am so grateful.

Which brings me to something very important to me. I want to leave you all with.

There is one person I owe my deepest gratitude, it is from his guidance and advice, I got my footing writing these for you all. So on a solemn, and final note, To my friend and editor of our Canadian Physique Alliance newsletter. John Douglas, working with you was an honor and an amazing experience for these three years. You read every word I wrote and edited each of my articles, you helped me with my writing immensely. Talking with you was always such an experience, the great lengths and depth of our discussions, a “quick chat” and then before we knew it, an hour or two later and so many layers. What you taught me will be with me always, Rest in peace, my friend.

For all of you out there, and all our AF Ohana.