This is an edition of the newsletter Pulling Weeds With Chris Black, in which the columnist weighs in on hot topics in culture. Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Thursday.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to a chic dinner at The Carlyle to celebrate the release of my friend Raven Smith’s book Men in the United States. My end of the long table at Downling’s was filled with successful, fit, and mostly gay men. The conversation turned to fitness, as it usually does when it does when I’m present, but this time, I kept hearing one word over and over: Creatine. That’s right—the affordable pump-up powder they peddle at your local GNC.
More recently, I went to a shoot I was involved with and ran into an old friend who was photo assisting. It had been awhile since I’d seen him, and since then, he had gotten massive. He was busting out of his vintage Glassjaw t-shirt. Minutes into the conversation, I had to ask him whether he uses creatine, and he confirmed that he does, mixing it into water and choking it down. (The real freaks mix it with milk, but that is too much to unpack here.)
Creatine has been a cheap and reliable muscle-building supplement for decades. I won’t get into the weeds because I am not a nerd or a scientist, but it is an amino acid naturally produced in the human body and stored chiefly in muscle tissue to provide energy. Ideally, taking it allows you to work out harder, longer. It’s a simple equation.
Still, I thoughtlessly assumed creatine died in the musty locker rooms of high school football teams in 2001. After doing a little digging, I found out that in 2022, there was a post-Covid, return-to-the-gym-boom creatine shortage. People were paying double on the secondary market!
This discovery hit close to home because I recently began seeing a Los Angeles-based doctor specializing in age management. I have spent a fortune over the years on trainers, classes, and massages, all in the name of feeling and looking my best. I am 40 years old and feel pretty good, but I thought that I was leaving something on the table in the gym.
The doctor started the program by sending a nurse to my house to draw blood. Once he studied my charts, we discussed his findings over Zoom. They were straightforward: I had some deficiencies, and he said he could fix them with a laundry list of pills, vitamins, and a peptide that, unfortunately, had to be self-administered—shot into my ass with a small syringe—every night before bed. Peptides are basically smaller versions of proteins. They are thought to help reduce fat mass and increase muscle mass, but also help with exercise performance, joint pain, recovery time, and even memory. (The one I was prescribed is a synthetic growth hormone.) Creatine is simply for getting jacked. Peptides are supposed to make you fire on all cylinders.