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Creatine for bodybuilding, a danger?

  • Sports nutrition

Creatine causes hair loss, it is dangerous for the kidneys, it promotes the appearance of cancer, it prevents erections, it is a doping product ... All these statements are false! These are unfortunately myths that are still stubborn today despite the many scientific studies demonstrating the absence of risks of creatine.

Nutrimuscle takes stock of 5 myths surrounding creatine intake and explains why they are false in the light of scientific studies.

What is creatine?

Creatine is an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in our body. It is also found naturally in foods such as meats and fish.

Our body is able to synthesize creatine from 3 amino acids such as arginine, glycine and methionine. On the other hand, our body alone is also able to synthesize creatine.

Creatine is a very popular bodybuilding dietary supplement for bodybuilders because it helps increase strength and accelerate the development of lean muscle mass.

Creatine: myth VS reality

Creatine has a bad reputation, and for good reason, it has been more than 20 years since anything and everything has been said about it, between internet rumors and misinformation relayed by the media.

Let's take stock of these rumors together in the light of scientific studies.

Myth # 1: creatine is carcinogenic

There is no study to date that has proven that taking creatine promotes the appearance of cancer.

On the other hand, a study conducted in 2015 showed that a continuous intake of creatine, even in high doses, over 30 days had no impact on the appearance of carcinogenic cells (1).

For this study, men were given creatine supplementation for 1 month. The researchers wanted to measure the level of carcinogenic substances (heterocyclic amines) before and after the creatine treatment to determine whether taking high-dose creatine over 30 days would have consequences on the appearance of these substances. 2 strong daily doses were retained: 7 grams for one group and 20 grams for another group.

Conclusion: taking a large amount of creatine over this period did not cause an impact on the level of these carcinogens, even at very high doses, which also demonstrates the safety of the supplement in small doses over the long term. term.

For more than ten years, other studies have even underlined the anti-cancer virtues of creatine (2-3). Contrary to the harmful image given to creatine, it actually plays a key role in the transport and protection of cellular energy. Doctors, for several years, have even observed the value of taking creatine to treat certain cancers.

Myth # 2: Creatine is dangerous for the kidneys

This statement comes up quite frequently on the internet or on television. But what does science say about it?

Several studies conducted by Dr. Poortmans (specialist in renal function in athletes) (4) show that high doses of creatine in healthy people do not cause any harmful effects for the body. In addition, according to his other research (5-6), short-term (a few weeks) and long-term (5 years) use of creatine has no effect on the kidneys.

Another study focused on people with diabetes also goes in this direction and shows that creatine does not cause any problem on the renal function (however fragile) of these patients.

Myth # 3: creatine is a doping agent

It is important to remember that in France, creatine has never appeared on the official list of doping products and therefore prohibited. The amalgam has developed following numerous media cases related to doping where the word creatine was used. This is how the public confusion was made vis-à-vis this food supplement.

Myth #4 : creatine causes baldness

The fear that creatine could cause baldness developed from a 2009 study (7). The latter showed that supplementation with creatine monohydrate led to an increase in dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels. However, what is commonly called "baldness" is a phenomenon largely caused by this hormone (DHT). This was not enough to make the general public fear that creatine would cause baldness.

The reality is more nuanced. In summary, it is the genetic predisposition to baldness, which differs according to each individual, which determines the appearance of baldness. Taking creatine when you are already predisposed will only slightly speed up the process of hair loss. On the other hand, if you are not genetically predisposed, taking creatine will have no impact on hair loss.

Myth # 5: Creatine prevents erections

During erection, large amounts of ATP (the molecule that provides cells with energy) are used. Our body must then draw on its stocks of phospho-creatine. Without the latter, fatigue would appear quickly and the erection could not be maintained for lack of energy. Therefore, creatine's role is to maintain erection and therefore has no negative effect on it.

You will understand that creatine is not, as many would like to believe, a substance harmful to the body. For more than 20 years of use of this supplement by many athletes around the world, no serious scientific study has demonstrated the negative effects caused by creatine on the body.

Scientific references

(1) Tavaresdos Santos Pereira R. Can creatine supplementation form carcinogenic heterocyclic amines in humans? J Physiol. 2015 Jul 6. [Epub ahead of print]

(2) Patra S. A short review on creatine-creatine kinase system in relation to cancer and some experimental results on creatine as adjuvant in cancer therapy. Amino Acids. 2012 Jun;42(6):2319-30.

(3) Norman K. Effects of creatine supplementation on nutritional status, muscle function and quality of life in patients with colorectal cancer--a double blind randomised controlled trial. Clin Nutr. 2006 Aug;25(4):596-605.

(4) Poortmans JR. Renal dysfunction accompanying oral creatine supplements. The Lancet. 1998. 352. pp. 234.

(5) Poortmans JR. Effect of short-term creatine supplementation on renal response in men. Eur J Appl Physiol. 1997. 76: pp. 566.

(6) Poortmans JR. Long-term oral creatine supplementation does not impair renal function in healthy athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Aug;31(8):1108-10.

(7) Van der Merwe J. Three Weeks of Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation Affects Dihydrotestosterone to Testosterone Ratio in College-Aged Rugby Players. Clin J Sport Med. 2009 Sep;19(5):399-404

Written on 1/10/2022 by Nutrimuscle Conseil
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