Doctors… Gotta love ‘em in the same breath I spit in their general direction.
At times they remind me of the over-protective mother who doesn’t let her son get grass stains on his knees for fear they’ll never come off.
It happened again today.
Got another… yes, another comment/question from another well intended guy who just wanted to enjoy a little more muscle and strength in this lifetime.
Seems his doctor eliminated the option of creatine for him years ago because he was concerned about his elevated creatinine levels.
Yes, again…for the millionth time the ignorance of a Dr. scares an innocent, well intended person away—planting the seed that creatine is some scary, dangerous compound that may permanently injure them. And the seeds grow and the myths abound.
A doctor reacting to elevated creatinine levels, treating it as a potential sign of disease in a person who strength trains and/or taking creatine, is like a doctor freaking out about an elevated heart rate after just running a 100 meter sprint.
Sure, if you were sitting on your butt for 10 minutes and your heart rate were 140 bpm, that’d be weird. But when it’s clear, and you both know you just sprinted a race, that heart rate would be expected.
Similarly, if a doctor knows your taking creatine (which converts to creatinine) and strength training (which in itself elevates creatinine levels) then elevated creatinine levels are to be expected.
The confusion really comes down to a breakdown of “cause and effect.” In an “average” sedentary person, elevated creatinine can be an indicator of (important point here) a body’s inability to clear creatinine. Namely, the kidneys. But “normally elevated” creatinine levels, as described, are not a sign of kidney malfunction–nor is the creatinine levels themselves the cause of the kidney disease in the first place. It’s in indicator of—not the cause of.
What is This Frightening Creatinine?
Creatinine is a chemical waste molecule that is generated from muscle metabolism. It’s produced from creatine, a molecule of major importance for energy production in muscles. (amen to that) Approximately 2% of the body’s creatine is converted to creatinine every day. Creatinine is transported through the bloodstream to the kidneys where the kidneys filter out most of the creatinine.
Because the muscle mass in the body is relatively constant (big mistake in assumption here, right?) from day to day, the creatinine level in the blood normally remains essentially unchanged on a daily basis. (Oops! can you see the major flaw on this thinking?)
Why is it important to check blood creatinine levels?
The kidneys maintain the blood creatinine in a normal range. Creatinine has been found to be a fairly reliable indicator of kidney function.**
(** In “normal” people who are active like a tree stump and who’s muscle are wasting at a fairly normal state, right?)
As the kidneys become impaired for any reason, the creatinine level in the blood will rise due to poor clearance by the kidneys. Abnormally high levels of creatinine thus warn of possible malfunction or failure of the kidneys. It is for this reason that standard blood tests routinely check the amount of creatinine in the blood. A more precise measure of the kidney function can be estimated by calculating how much creatinine is cleared from the body by the kidneys and it is referred to creatinine clearance.
Did you note the “calculating how much creatinine is cleared from the body..”? Assuming it’s a pretty steady amount, when you add more creatinine through added creatine intake and/or added strength training (which breaks down muscle) you can–and a doctor should know to–expect the levels of creatinine in a blood test to rise.
Big freakin’ deal! Let’s alert the media and tell your mom! Right.
Now, of course I’m sane enough to know there are not absolutes and even taking aspirin kills tens of thousands of people each year. Thus, we know that everything we do, from brushing your teeth to making toast comes with a risk and these days a disclaimer, “Make this toast at your own risk. Accidental death and worse has been known to occur.”
Thus, you know I’m not suggesting that creatine is safe like water… well, wait, that’s not safe. I mean safe like air… wait, that’s not safe. Well, safe like whatever it is you still have fantasy is safe. But when it comes to supplements that work— and even those that don’t— creatine is more heavily researched, commonly used than most all the others combined.
I think I can safely suggest that creatine (monohydrate, that is–the only sort a reasonable, wise person should/would use) has been used nearly as often and more safely than Twinkies.
So, if your Doctor has scared you away, or someone convinced you Creatine was responsible for the crash of the Hindenburg, time to open your eyes and take a fresh, clear look at the most successful, most effective strength and muscle building supplement in the history of humanity.
Yes, that would be Creatine Monohydrate or as it was Originally known, Phosphagen.
Watch this short show, Creatine-101!