If there’s one guarantee in life, it’s that 20 or 30 years from now some commonplace product or activity will be viewed as a horrible plague upon mankind. When I was growing up, kids could roam around the car unbelted while Dad swigged a Schlitz on his way to the auto parts store to get some asbestos brake pads. When you got home, you’d chew the lead paint off a windowsill and then go outside to get a sunburn to make you forget about your concussion. At Logan, there’s a retirement-planning billboard that says something like “When this airport was built, the average life expectancy was 56.” I’m surprised it was that long. When they broke ground on Logan, there were still people around who’d pounded Coca-Cola with actual cocaine in it.
Which brings me, naturally, to creatine. Back in college I heard about this new nutritional supplement that was posited as kinda-sorta like steroids, but legal and without the side effects of bacne, ’roid rage and testicular shrinkage. I tried it for a couple of weeks, and it worked even better than advertised. In fact, it worked so well that I stopped taking it, because I figured there had to be a catch. It was too easy. This stuff was definitely going to cause people to grow steel-wool unibrows or suddenly poop out their spleens.
Now, 15 years later, I still haven’t seen any deformed creatine mutants dragging themselves around Gold’s by their prehensile tails. So I decide to give it another shot. I go to Rite Aid, pick out a big jar of GNC creatine powder and start swigging a couple of teaspoons four times a day. This is called the “loading” phase, bro. Scientifically speaking, it’s when you get your muscles wicked full of creatine so you can lift wicked hard and really fill out that Lululemon shirt your wife got you.
I’ll admit that I questioned my own motivations for this experiment. I am, after all, a writer, and muscle mass is not often relevant to my profession. It’s not like I need to bulk up in case some rival keyboard jockeys challenge me to a high-stakes Over the Top-style arm-wrestling competition in the back of J.J. Foley’s. That hardly ever happens anymore. But look, my wife has been watching the new Magic Mike trailer, OK? Like, more than once. I need to get to the gym.
There are many consumer items that I’m sure will turn out to be the next asbestos or fen-phen: nonstick pans, cellphones, the gallon of flame retardant in your living-room sofa. But creatine? Come on. It’s been scrutinized harder than Pete Carroll’s play-calling strategy. You know what the maximum FDA-allowable percentage is for salmonella-tainted chicken in any given package of thighs? One hundred percent. I’m not sure where I was going with that, but that’s pretty gross.
So anyway, a decade and a half after I was last a cretin—I’m sorry—a creatine user, I can say it works as well as it ever did. I come home from the gym and tell Heather to feel my muscles, just like our 4-year-old does after he eats his dinner. The difference? His muscles are scrawny while mine are… are… sorry, I almost passed out there.
You see, it turns out there’s something called “creatine fog,” which I’m definitely experiencing. It’s a kind of lightheadedness, like a head rush that sneaks up on you now and then. I read about it on bodybuilding forums, because once you become a person who buys GNC supplements, it’s only a short step to the Juiced Muscle board and arguing the virtues of MusclePharm Combat Powder with a guy named RoidDog69. The kind of guys who educate you about creatine fog are the kind of guys who don’t use elliptical machines—they throw them at each other while ’roid-raging.
Anyway, now I face another decision. Do I keep taking this stuff and see what happens? Or do I assume the worst, dump the rest down the toilet and expect to receive a check for $2.53 from a massive class-action lawsuit in 2024?
On one hand, I feel like I might be ingesting a neurological disruptor. On the other, I’ve had some pretty good workouts. And vanity is a harsh mistress. Once she’s got you, she doesn’t want to let go. That’s why I still shell out for Propecia even though nobody knows the long-term effects of that. It’s not even like I have good hair. I’m just trying to hang in there until I can go to the stem cell barbershop and say, “I think today I’ll have the Jared Leto.”
So I think I’m gonna keep at it. I mean, after just a couple of weeks, I can already do 12 pull-ups—15 if I use my tail.