Creatine supplementation has become a cornerstone in the health and fitness industry…
Despite a dramatic increase in cost post-COVID, it is still widely used by athletes and fitness enthusiasts for it’s potential to enhance muscle growth and improve athletic performance.
In this article, we’ll delve into the science, myths and facts surrounding creatine supplementation, and offer a clear perspective on it’s addiction potential.
Understanding Creatine: What is it?
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in small amounts of foods, and is synthesised in the body.
Primarily stored in the muscles, creatine plays a crucial role in energy production, particularly in sports that require rapid burst energy. Some examples include high-intensity exercise, and short-duration activities such as sprinting or weightlifting.
Benefits of Creatine Supplementation
Creatine is possibly the most researched sports supplement, with an array of physical and mental benefits.
Once ingested, creatine enters the bloodstream and is transported to muscle tissue. Here, it’s phosphorylated to creatine phosphate, which helps to replenish adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body’s form of energy currency, vital for muscular contraction.
This allows for an array of benefits including faster regeneration of ATP during high-intensity activities, allowing for more energy and power output. This also makes creatine perfect for sports involving power and strength, such as weightlifting.
Creatine has also been shown to have benefits associated with improved brain function, allowing for potential therapeutic effects for certain mental health conditions. This makes creatine the perfect toolkit for someone battling alcohol addiction, paired with something like depression.
Debunking Myths: Creatine Addiction
Recently, we discussed the use of creatine in alcohol addiction, having some evidence as a potential therapeutic in individuals with depression.
You can read more about this over here – Creatine: Could This Widely Used Sports Supplement Be Used to Curb Addiction?
The concept of “addiction”: to creatine is more of a myth than a reality. Addiction is typically characterised by a compulsive need for and use of a substance, despite harmful consequences.
Given this knowledge, creatine supplementation doesn’t really align with this, but let’s unpack it further.
Creatine Dependency from a Scientific Standpoint
From a scientific perspective, the mechanism of action regarding creatine does not support the idea of physical dependency.
Of course, I couldn’t find any research papers where the addictive potential of creatine was studied. If we understand substances that cause addiction though, creatine has shown to have minimal if not no impact on brain neurotransmitters.
Another study examined the effect of creatine supplementation on brain neurotransmitters after exhaustive aerobic exercise (the perfect scenario for using creatine). They concluded that creatine had no effect on brain dopamine (Mehrzad Moghadasi et al., 2012), suggesting more research is needed.
Given this research, and its poor ability to alter brain chemistry in a way that leads to dependency or withdrawal symptoms, creatine isn’t addictive.
Psychological Reliance on Creatine
From a psychological perspective, which is a little different to physical addiction, creatine could have the potential to be addictive.
Some individuals may develop a psychological reliance on supplements, including creatine, believing they cannot perform optimally with them.
This is not indicative of a true addiction but does underscore how creatine could potentially be addictive.
Comparing Creatine to Other Supplements
Unlike creatine, there are other performance-enhancing supplements that could have greater side effects or addictive properties.
Sports supplements containing caffeine, found in products such as pre-workouts, definitely qualify as an addictive substance more than creatine.
Caffeine blocks the activity of adenosine, making us feel more alert and energetic. This effect also increases the activity of dopamine, a chemical that makes us feel good and is similar to what happens with stronger, addictive drugs (Meredith et al., 2013).
When we suddenly stop consuming products containing caffeine, we experience withdrawal symptoms such as irritation. Generally, we often feel inclined to drink more to negate this effect, a classic indication of chemical dependency.
Creatine Supplementation & Potential Side Effects
Creatine can be supplemented through daily supplementation, or through a loading protocol.
When loading creatine, 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight for 5-7 days is typical, then following with at least 0.03 g/kg/day (this would be considered standard / maintenance dose).
Loading is generally done to maximise muscle stores, although is often not necessary for most people.
For general supplementation, you want to aim for 2-5g per day, depending on your body weight of course.
Creatine Potential Side Effects
Creatine is generally safe for most people, but some may experience side effects like bloating or digestive discomfort.
Frequently Asked Questions About Creatine
How long should I take creatine for?
Can creatine supplementation cause kidney damage?
Creatine supplementation is safe and does not cause renal disease. As creatine is synthesised into creatinine excreted by the kidneys, it is best to avoid it in people with pre-existing kidney disease (Longobardi et al., 2023).
Does creatine cause water intention?
Creatine does cause water retention, and bloating is often a common side effect.
Can I take creatine if I’m not an athlete?
Of course! Creatine is suitable for anyone looking to improve their performance in exercise.
How does creatine affect women differently than men?
While creatine is an effective supplement for enhancing physical performance and muscle growth, it does not possess addictive properties in the conventional sense. Used responsibly, creatine can be a valuable addition to a balanced fitness and health regimen.
If you have any feedback regarding this article, reach out. Help Clarity reach more people and quit addiction by following us on Instagram, it’s also the perfect place to message us and ask questions!
Former drinker, Nutritionist, Biohacking enthusiast, self-experimenter, research fanatic, and self-taught writer, Stephen immerses himself deep into the literature of human optimisation and better understand the nature of addiction. His goal is to help people take control of their addiction, reset their cravings, unscramble their broken brain circuitry and use actionable strategies that work ten times better than anything else.