A pure white powder promising significant increases in strength and muscle mass is hard to keep hidden. No supplement has had quite as much hype as creatine, nor has any supplement had such extensive research performed on it. In fact, there are over 700+ human studies on creatine.
Before we discuss creatine and diabetes let’s discuss what creatine actually is and abolish some of the common myths and fallacies around this ever popular sports nutrition supplement.
Quick Fire Myths Dispelled
Q. Is creatine a steroid?
Q. Does creatine make you go bald?
Q. Does creatine cause cancer?
Q. What happens when you stop taking creatine?
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a molecule we naturally produce in the body. It is a natural tri-peptide which means it has three amino acids. If you eat a diet rich in animal proteins like beef, fish and dairy you will naturally be consuming creatine
Creatine has profound effects on exercise performance by increasing your body’s availability of Adenosine-Triphosphate (ATP) the body’s primary source of energy, especially when performing resistance based exercise. Increased ATP availability allows you to lift heavier for longer which amplifies your ability to stimulate muscle growth.
Creatine Supplementation = More ATP = More Energy = Greater Training Stimulus
There is also research supporting the cognitive benefits of creatine supplementation in those with depression.
Noted benefit and possible side effects include:
- Increased strength
- Water retention
- Stomach cramping (if insufficient water is consumed)
- Diarrhoea of nausea (if too much consumed)
There is some concern that it could harm the kidney, liver, or heart function. However, a connection between high doses and these negative effects has not been proven.
Q. What is the best type of creatine?
There is a host of different creatines available on the market including Creatine monohydrate, Kre-Alkalyn and Creatine Ethyl Ester.
Which form of creatine is best?
Creatine monohydrate is the best form. It is the cheapest and most researched creatine of the lot.
How Do you take creatine?
There are two approaches to dosing creatine.
Approach 1 – Loading Phase
- 0.3g per kg bodyweight per day
- 80 KG male = 24g (broken up into 5g doses)
Approach 2 – Maintenance
- Supplementing with 5g per day.
Q. Do you need to cycle creatine?
Given the current body of evidence, you do not need to cycle creatine.
CREATINE AND DIABETES
How does the holy grail of supplements fare against diabetes?
The research to support creatine consumption in people living with T2 is relatively large. Unfortunately, there is zero research investigating the effects of creatine consumption in people living with T1 which definitely warrants future research.
Benefits of Creatine in Diabetes
Increased muscle mass and frequent muscle contraction in people without diabetes is known to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake into cells.
Creatine has the ability to improve glycemic control, based on its ability to increase training performance.
Muscle tissue acts like a vacuum and storage house for glucose.
When muscle tissue is contracted such as during resistance training, specific glucose transporters known as GLUT-4 translocate (rise) to the surface of the muscle cell and assist with the disposal of glucose out of the bloodstream and into the muscle cells.
The harder an individual trains the greater uptake of glucose.
It is well established that people living with Type 2 diabetes have a marked increase in GLUT-4 activity following strength training 2 which assists in the lowering of blood glucose.
These favourable changes could also be seen in people with Type 1. However, due to a complete lack of insulin production, the liver’s production of glucose can often outweigh uptake and thus lead to hyperglycemia.
Is it fair to say these benefits would be useful in well-controlled type 1 diabetes, especially if the liver’s production of glucose is accounted for with appropriate amounts of injectable insulin?
Either way, more research is needed.
If you want to learn more about building muscle tissue with creatine, I’ve covered an absolute tonne of useful strategies in my book The Diabetic Muscle and Fitness Guide.
Is creatine safe for diabetics?
One of the main concerns with creatine is kidney trouble.
The underlying theory does make sense. The more creatine consumed, the harder the kidneys have to work to process it. And, since people with diabetes already have an increased susceptibility to kidney disease, especially when poorly controlled, creatine consumption might exacerbate the issue.
In fact, there isn’t one single peer-reviewed study or case report suggesting creatine as the causative factor behind kidney damage, which is a marked complication of poorly controlled diabetes.
Research by Gualano in 2010 studied a man with one functioning kidney who consumed more than 20g creatine monohydrate per day. His remaining kidney failed to show any signs of damage 3.
A significant double-blind trial by Gualano and colleagues in 2011 looked at the kidney function of people with Type 2 diabetes who consumed 5g of creatine/day versus those who consumed a placebo. Both groups performed a mixture of aerobic and resistance based exercise, but neither presented any evidence of kidney damage 4.
In a separate study, Gualano and colleagues also noted that creatine consumption could improve overall diabetic control by lowering HbA1C levels 5.
Two groups, one consuming a placebo and one consuming 5g of creatine/day, both took part in a mixed exercise plan of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Those who were consuming creatine found a significant reduction in HbA1C compared to the placebo group within a period of 12 weeks.
It was proposed these beneficial effects were a result of increased GLUT-4 activity and ensuring glucose disposal into cells 5.
If you want to learn more about the effects of creatine on the diabetic body before taking it you definitely need to check out the hour-long webinar I recorded with Dr Darryn Willoughby (one of the world’s leading exercise researchers) inside the exclusive webinars section of The Diabetic Muscle and Fitness Training Lab.
If you’re obsessed with building a better body, The Training Lab contains a gold mine of information you will benefit from.
People living with T2 can safely consume creatine. Research among people with Type 1 diabetes is lacking and should advocate further studies taking place.
Creatine has demonstrated significant benefits on glucose metabolism when used alongside exercise, raising its potential as a possible nutritional therapy in this population.
For the benefit of your overall care, you must mention it to your medical doctor.
Creatine is a proven supplement. But make sure you’re confident in your blood glucose control before using it. Even the best supplements in the world can’t protect against hyperglycemia.
Interested In Using Creatine As Part of Your Muscle Building Efforts?
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- Ritcher, EA and Hargeaves M, (2013). Exercise, GLUT4, and skeletal muscle glucose uptake. Physiology Reviews
- Holten MK, Zacho M, Gaster M, Juel C, Wojtaszewski JF, Dela F., (2004). Strength training increases insulin-mediated glucose uptake, GLUT4 content, and insulin signalling in skeletal muscle in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes.
- Gualano B, Ferreira DC, Sapienza MT, Seguro AC, Lancha AH Jr. (2010). Effect of short-term high-dose creatine supplementation on measured GFR in a young man with a single kidney. American Journal of Kidney Disease.
- Gualano B, de Salles Painelli V, Roschel H, Lugaresi R, Dorea E, Artioli GG, Lima FR, da Silva ME, Cunha MR, Seguro AC, Shimizu MH, Otaduy MC, Sapienza MT, da Costa Leite C, Bonfá E, Lancha Junior AH., (2011). Creatine supplementation does not impair kidney function in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial. European Journal of Applied Physiology.
- Gualano B, DE Salles Painneli V, Roschel H, Artioli GG, Neves M Jr, De Sá Pinto AL, Da Silva ME, Cunha MR, Otaduy MC, Leite Cda C, Ferreira JC, Pereira RM, Brum PC, Bonfá E, Lancha AH Jr., (2011). Creatine in type 2 diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
Other References – Benefits of Creatine