Are Pre Workout Supplements Harmful or Helpful? : Creatine

We discussed in the last two articles about beta alanine and l-citrulline and their benefit in pre workout supplements. Now lets take a look at one of the most known white powders used by beginners and pros alike; creatine.

If you missed the last two articles you can find them here:

Creatine is a chemical that is primarily located in human muscle. It helps the formation of ATP in the body which is our main source of energy. It is this energy that we all need to do anything and everything. Without ATP we die. Period. If we weren’t able to create ATP even for a couple of minutes, we’d fall over and probably die. That’s how crucial it is.

Creatine has been popular for several years and no doubt if anyone has been to a gym in recent memory you might have seen someone sucking down creatine in just about any color of the rainbow. There is a reason that so many people take it. It’s because it works.

One study showed that 1 rep max in arm flexion increased significantly more over placebo with creatine loading and maintenance. Fat free mass also increased in the creatine group but no difference was found in the placebo group. [1]

In another study, total work done during 3 Wingate tests. For those unfamiliar with the Wingate test you can find out more about it here:

One rep max on the bench press increased significantly by 6% and total lifting volume was increased. [2] These effect took 2 weeks of supplementation to achieve.

In a group of seniors (over 65 years old) creatine increased fat free mass and strength compared to placebo over 14 weeks of training. No significant side effects were noted. [3]

In another study 1 rep max on bench press, leg press and maximal reps on preacher curls was increased in the creatine group over placebo. [4] This study looked at two forms of creatine, the monohydrate and the phosphate forms. There was no significant difference between the two indicating that the form of creatine one takes isn’t important.

Another study found yet a similar increase in strength in knee extensions and time to fatigue, but noted no differences in hand strength, leading the researchers to conclude that creatine helps large muscle groups but not small ones. [5]

In one study of patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), creatine was loaded as is typically done with weightlifters. Maximal voluntary isometric muscular contraction was increased after 7 days of supplementation in 70% of patients in knee extensors and 53% in elbow flexors. [6] While not a cure creatine may be helpful for some of the symptoms of ALS.

So if you get an Ice Bucket challenge, maybe along with a donation you can give someone with ALS some creatine.

Another trial showed similar results for people with Parkinson’s that were weight training. [7]

Football players were divided into a creatine group and placebo group and given 5g/day creatine with no loading phase. They trained for ten weeks. Bench press increased by about 3kg, squats by about 25kg, and power cleans by about 7kg over placebo. [8] One conclusion from this study is the lack of need for a loading phase if someone is to take this in the long term.

In a meta analysis of 22 studies, researchers found that,

the average increase in muscle strength (1, 3, or 10 repetition maximum [RM]) following creatine supplementation plus resistance training was 8% greater than the average increase in muscle strength following placebo ingestion during resistance training (20 vs. 12%)” [9]

The average increase in weightlifting performance was 14% greater with creatine.

As far as dangers with creatine…well I’m not aware of any. Some claim that it will hurt your kidneys. Well from all the studies I’ve seen that’s just not going to happen. There are anecdotal stories about people having kidney problems and while I’m not one to dismiss anecdotes I think that if it were a kidney killer the FDA would’ve stopped it by now especially since it isn’t regulated.

There are many more studies that looked at creatine. It is probably one of the most studied strength enhancing supplements around. Bottom line is that it works and is effective.

Do you need to take creatine? That’s up to you. I’m not advocating for or against on this one but if you choose to it should be safe and not cause problems.

Some people don’t like creatine because they think it makes a person look “puffy” and that the muscles just are getting inflated because of the water weight. It is true that creatine does pull more water into the muscle cell. This is important for the muscle to get stronger and function properly. This is also a cause of dehydration if you’re not adequately drinking water.

Many people will load creatine when they start taking it, but as seen in the football players this is probably unneccessary if taken for many weeks. Some people do experience nausea during the loading phase. If this is the case reducing to a maintenance phase dose should take care of that.

Because of how it works, it isn’t necessary to supplement with creatine just before workouts like caffeine would be. That means you can take it at night before bed if you want.

Creatine appears to be better utilized in the presence of insulin, meaning that many take it with juice or other high glycemic carbs. Whey protein can spike insulin quite high too. [10-11] So taking some whey right after might be one way to increase utilization.

Some people are of the opinion that creatine should be cycled. I haven’t seen any data one way or the other and seeing as how most studies of this nature don’t last more than 14 or 15 weeks it’s hard to know for sure. Cycling may be wise in the long term using it for 2 months and then off a month.

Review Points

-Creatine is effective at increasing strength and power with weight training

-Likely no loading phase is necessary

-Side effect profile looks safe

-5g/day is the typical given dose

-8% increases are the average in strength augmentation

-Creatine will likely increase fat free mass

-Because of osmotic effects it is important to stay hydrated while supplementing

-Taking whey or high glycemic carbs may increase uptake in the muscles

-Cycling might be a good idea in the long term


I’d like to hear from you. Have you noticed a difference with creatine? Have you had any adverse effects from it?


Disclaimer: All info on this website is for education purposes only. Any dietary or lifestyle changes that readers want to make should be done with the guidance of a competent medical practitioner. The author assumes no responsibility nor liability for the use or dissemination of this information. Anyone who chooses to apply this information for their own personal use does so at their own risk.


1.Becque, M. Daniel, John D. Lochmann, and Donald R. Melrose. “Effects of oral creatine supplementation on muscular strength and body compositioin.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 32.3 (2000): 654-658.

2.Earnest, Conrad P., et al. “The effect of creatine monohydrate ingestion on anaerobic power indices, muscular strength and body composition.” Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 153.2 (1995): 207.

3.Brose, Andrea, Gianni Parise, and Mark A. Tarnopolsky. “Creatine supplementation enhances isometric strength and body composition improvements following strength exercise training in older adults.” The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 58.1 (2003): B11-B19.

4.PEETERS, BRIAN M., CHRISTOPHER D. LANTZ, and JERRY L. MAYHEW. “Effect of oral creatine monohydrate and creatine phosphate supplementation on maximal strength indices, body composition, and blood pressure.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 13.1 (1999): 3-9.

5.Urbanski, R. L., W. J. Vincent, and B. B. Yaspelkis 3rd. “Creatine supplementation differentially affects maximal isometric strength and time to fatigue in large and small muscle groups.” International journal of sport nutrition 9.2 (1999): 136-145.

6.Mazzini, L., et al. “Effects of creatine supplementation on exercise performance and muscular strength in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: preliminary results.” Journal of the neurological sciences 191.1 (2001): 139-144.

7.Hass, Chris J., Mitchell A. Collins, and Jorge L. Juncos. “Resistance training with creatine monohydrate improves upper-body strength in patients with Parkinson disease: a randomized trial.” Neurorehabilitation and neural repair 21.2 (2007): 107-115.

8.PEARSON, DAVID R., DEREK G. HAMBX WADE RUSSEL, and TOM HARRIS. “Long-term effects of creatine monohydrate on strength and power.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 13.3 (1999): 187-192.

9.Rawson, Eric S., and JEFF S. VOLEK. “Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 17.4 (2003): 822-831.

10.Claessens, Mandy, et al. “The effect of different protein hydrolysate/carbohydrate mixtures on postprandial glucagon and insulin responses in healthy subjects.” European journal of clinical nutrition 63.1 (2007): 48-56.

11.Morifuji, Masashi, et al. “Comparison of different sources and degrees of hydrolysis of dietary protein: effect on plasma amino acids, dipeptides, and insulin responses in human subjects.” Journal of agricultural and food chemistry 58.15 (2010): 8788-8797.



4 thoughts on “Are Pre Workout Supplements Harmful or Helpful? : Creatine

    • It’s hard to say the exact amount of caffeine because of the proprietary blend of this one. The total blend amount is 206mg. It’s entirely possible that the total amount of caffeine is 200mg, but it’s likely lower, which means less chance of jitters because of the dose.

      Its “Performance Matrix” is less than stellar. Once again because of the proprietary blend you don’t know how much citrulline and beta-alanine you’re getting, but because the total is 2.3gm, you’re likely not getting enough of either to really make a difference in performance, and any performance boost you are getting is probably from the caffeine. In my opinion, it’d be cheaper to just buy some caffeine tabs (100mg or 200mg) and play around with the dose of caffeine in between that range and you’d probably end up with the same effect. Just remember that if you use caffeine everyday, the effect will diminish, other than waking you up and trying to get off of it will likely leave you tired. Only use it 1-2x per week when you have a tough workout. Thanks for the question.

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