Our expert says:
Hi Bosch, and the readers who have read this 'advertisement'.
This is firstly not a site intended to advertise products, but since the ad is here, I will respond to a few of the claims and give as objective opinion as I can to each of the major claims in the advert.
Firstly, the statement to start with that "concrete evidence and real-world trials that have been done with creatine demonstrate that this powerful supplement is here to stay" is somewhat misleading. There have not been many very well controlled studies on creatine. In the early days of the supplement there was a sudden frantic rush to do testing and so many studies came out which in hindsight produced some questionable results. One of the flaws was that the creatine being tested often came from laboratories where steroids were also produced, and we know that this is a lot of contamination. Therefore, many of the studies concluding that creatine caused muscle growth may have in fact been showing that steroids cause muscle growth. That's the first problem. The second is that you always have to question the source. I am not saying that there are no good studies, but you will see two things: Firstly, the studies are not published in peer reviewed journals (magazines don't count, it must be a scientific journal, where the research is analysed and edited and then judged as being high quality). Secondly, many of the studies are funded by the companies who produce creatine. This is a major conflict of interest and it takes a brave scientist to find that a product does not work when the money is being supplied by the product. That means that a lot of the research on creatine is flawed.
Now, there have been some studies, which one has to assume are of a good quality that suggest it may work in some people. There is some evidence that there are 'responders' and 'non-responders', and so perhaps about 50% of people find that weight does go up when the supplement, 50% find no effect. The second thing is that it seems to affect only certain sports. The reason for this, as the article clearly suggests, is that the whole benefit is not the creatine, but the additional training you can do when taking it. So, someone taking creatine must train in order to benefit. If the person then trains very well, they should see some muscle growth. Now, the key question to ask is "if that same person trained well without creatine, would they also see some growth?" My suspicion is yes, but in some people (the responders) not quite as much. As for the sports, sprint swimmers, sprinters and weight lifters will probably benefit most.
NOw, for a few other statements regarding creatine. The first, that "creatine also acts as a cell volumizer, similar to Glutamine. Cell volumizing is a process whereby water molecules are pulled into the muscle cell, helping them look "fuller" or more "pumped" and thereby creating the necessary conditions for muscle growth" is quite misleading. There is absolutely no evidence that causing fluid retention in the muscle cell helps growth of the muscles. All it does is pump them up, until that fluid is lost (ie. to the bathroom over the hours), and so this is not a long term benefit and it most definitely is not a muscle gain.
This leads to the next statement that "Creatine supplementation leads to increases in size, strength and performance. Most significantly of all, is that athletes who use creatine tend to gain large amounts of lean body mass, sometimes 10-15 lbs. (4.5 - 6.8kg), within one to two weeks of use!". I have already addressed the studies that show this. Just to sum up: 1) only about 50% (or less) of people actually respond. 2) the training is absolutely vital to seeing improvements. 3) strength and performance only improve in certain sports activities, and 4) the increase in weight that is reported here is 80% to 90% water retention. Remember, creatine pulls water into the cells, and so when you take it, you retain water, and so your weight goes up.
Finally, to end off, here's a story from a few years back. Just after creatine gained popularity, all the rugby teams wanted to use it. One of the teams then decided that at half time they would stock up and go out for the 2nd half ready to perform, so, against the advice of the trainer (who knew better, because he was able to critically analyse the research on the topic), they all took creatine, and within 20 minutes of starting the 2nd half, more than 10 came down with cramps! Why? Water retention, perhaps, we don't know exactly, but cramping is one of the reported side effects. As for more serious side effects, things like kidney problems can't be ruled out, since the kidneys must handle all the body's broken down creatine (which is a waste and must be excreted). Finally, whenever you add to what the body is already producing, there's the question of whether the body stops producing its own stores. If this happens, then somewhere down the line, you must ask if the body is producing creatine like it should and what does this do later in life.
All in all, the jury is still out on creatine. It's not a new supplement, it's been around for a while now and it is widely used. But, it's not the miracle that this ad claims, and what we really need in the fitness industry is people who are responsible enough to look at the evidence and then say 'Do we need this product?" and what might it do, and not people looking to exploit people's desires for healthy living to make money in the supplement market.
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