Creatine Update: November 2007

As the author of the first book on creatine in 1997, athletes often ask me about creatine. I have discussed creatine in several articles on this website including interviews with Dr. Paul Greenhaff ( and Anthony Almada  ( and

You can tell that one of my favorite peeves is the uninformed mischaracterization of creatine as a steroid-like, performance-enhancing supplement. It is not a steroid, nor a steroid precursor, but a simple nutrient just like protein, vitamins, carbohydrates and minerals. It is no more of a performance enhancer than lifting weights or any exercise or eating a good meal or taking vitamin supplements are performance enhancers. Creatine is safe when used as directed -- just like any other dietary supplement. Why then do "journalists" keep propagating the propaganda that creatine is naughty and harmful? Congratulations to journalist Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN for the following report.

From Gregg Easterbrook's column on ESPN Sports for November 13, 2007

"Creatine -- Safe
As recently as the Mark McGwire controversy, creatine was assumed to be steroidlike; i.e., to have a really dramatic effect on muscle building but awful side effects. Research suggests neither is true. Studies do not find creatine use to cause serious side effects, and as a result, creatine is not on the NCAA's list of banned substances. (The NCAA attitude toward creatine is that athletes are allowed to take it but that coaches and trainers are forbidden to instruct them to.) Just as studies don't find creatine dangerous, most athletes who have used the compound don't report instant magic muscle building, either.

Once feared, now it appears reasonably safe. The evolving consensus is that creatine is safe when used as directed but is only a component of old-fashioned weightlifting, not as a magic substitute. The key to the as-directed part is to consume creatine only in conjunction with offseason weightlifting sessions: never on a day of practice or on game day because it can cause dehydration. The National Institutes of Health sumarizes: 'Creatine may help improve athletic performance or endurance by increasing time to fatigue (possibly by shortening muscle recovery periods). However, the results of research evaluating this claim are mixed. Findings from different studies disagree with each other, and most studies do not support the use of creatine to enhance sustained aerobic activities.' High school athletes: Buy only "creatine monohydrate," which has been studied; there is no safety research yet on the new variant, 'creatine ethyl ester.' "