Creatine is the single most popular sports supplement on the market.
Creatine benefits range from increased muscle mass to fat loss to boosted performance at the gym or at home. In addition, the use of creatine is connected with heightened energy levels, improved sprint speed, and increased strength.
If you're an athlete looking to boost your creatine levels, keep reading. Below, we share the various benefits associated with creatine supplements.
Please note: This post is meant for informational purposes only, and should not be taken as medical advice. Before taking any new supplement, speak to your doctor about whether it's right for you.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid, the building blocks of protein. Roughly 95% of creatine is found inside your muscles, with the remaining 5% distributed in your brain, liver, and kidneys. Creatine is made by your liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
You can consume creatine in supplement form, or through food such as seafood and red meat.
Your body converts creatine to phosphocreatine, which is stored in your muscles. From there, phosphocreatine can be converted into energy (in the form of adenosine triphosphate ATP, the energy currency of your cells). For this reason, many athletes consume creatine to improve their athletic performance.
How Does Creatine Work?
Wondering if creatine supplements are worth the hype? (Spoiler alert: They are.)
Creatine can help improve your physical and mental performance in a number of ways. (In fact, we dive in 10 creatine benefits below, and have only just scratched the surface.)
During exercise, creatine increases the amount of phosphocreatine stores in your muscles. Phosphocreatine is responsible for the regeneration of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which your muscles need to contract, move, and ultimately power you through each of your workouts.
Your body produces creatine on its own, or you can get creatine through food or supplements. Creatine can help you build muscle, recover from workouts, and tackle high-intensity training. While research is still growing, creatine may offer a number of mental benefits as well.
12 Creatine Benefits You Should Know About
Creatine is one of the most popular and researched supplements on the market. Creatine is popular amongst bodybuilders and other strength or power athletes (like CrossFitters) for its ability to boost performance, build muscle, and increase muscle strength.
If you are an athlete, here are the various benefits of creatine you should know about:
1. Creatine May Stimulate Muscle Growth
According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine is the most effective supplement for increasing lean muscle mass through training.
In fact, in long-term studies, subjects taking creatine monohydrate gained twice as much muscle mass as those taking a placebo after 4-12 weeks of training. The ability to gain such a vast amount of muscle seems to be linked to an athlete's ability to train harder and have more effective muscle hypertrophy (i.e., rebuilding muscles after exercise).
Not only does creatine increase muscle mass, but it increases fat-free lean muscle mass. In other words, if you experience weight gain while on creatine, it could be made up almost entirely of muscle, helping to improve your body composition.
2. Creatine May Improve Exercise Performance
According to various studies, supplementing with creatine could increase exercise performance — particularly when it comes to HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts.
According to Nutrients, an open-access journal published by MDPI, creatine supplementation can decrease muscle fatigue and increase post-activation potentiation. Post-activation potentiation refers to the short-term improvement in performance of one exercise (such as a vertical jump) based on the prep work done with another exercise (such as a single leg lunge). Post-activation potentiation is programmed into almost every HIIT class you take (whether you realize it or not).
To demonstrate this, high school athletes were instructed to throw a medicine ball after performing a bench press. Those who took creatine supplements showed a significant increase in strength and shortened post-activation potentiation times (showing they were able to "bounce back" from one exercise to the next) compared to the control group.
3. Creatine Supplements Produces More ATP Energy
ATP stands for adenosine triphosphate, a molecule found in your cells. ATP is responsible for retrieving energy from food and transporting it to your cells to be used for other purposes (like exercise).
According to Pharmacological Reviews, creatine works by increasing your phosphocreatine levels, which can thereby increase your ATP levels. Phosphocreatine reacts with ADP (adenosine diphosphate, an organic compound in metabolism) to create ATP, so when your phosphocreatine levels rise, it prevents ATP depletion in your muscle cells. This can provide more energy during exercise, prevent the onset of muscle fatigue, and improve high-intensity exercise capacity.
4. Creatine May Stimulate Protein Synthesis
Every time you work out — particularly when performing resistance training exercises — tiny muscle fibers in your body pull apart. Muscle protein synthesis, or consuming protein to repair muscle damage, helps rebuild your muscles post-exercise.
According to the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, creatine dietary supplements could help stimulate protein synthesis. This could be caused by the osmosis effect of creatine, where creatine increases water retention in your muscles.
5. Creatine Could Make You More Explosive
While creatine supplements are most known for their muscle building benefits, it could also help make you more explosive in your workouts.
In a clinical trial conducted by the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 18 male sprinters were studied to see if creatine supplements could improve sprinting speed. After two years of study, athletes given creatine as part of their training program showed improvements in both 60-meter and 100-meter sprints. The placebo group showed no significant signs of improvement.
Researchers believe that sprint performance was improved due to an increase in skeletal muscle creatine phosphate, providing more energy to work out.
6. Creatine Could Increase HIIT Training Performance
Enjoy cranking out burpees in your living room? Taking creatine regularly could help improve your performance in HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts.
In a randomized controlled trial conducted by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 42 physically active men participated in a four-week training program. Study participants were divided into two groups — those supplementing with creatine, and another taking a placebo.
Here’s what researchers found: Supplementing with creatine significantly increased critical power used in HIIT workouts. In other words, supplementing with creatine can give you the power and endurance to tackle a tough exercise routine.
7. Creatine Could Help Improve Recovery
While many athletes credit creatine for boosting performance at the gym, science shows creatine may be as effective as helping you recover post-workout.
According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine can enhance recovery times, prevent exercise-related injuries, and assist in rehabilitation in the chance you do get injured.
Here’s how creatine can help you recover: Taking creatine prior to exercise can increase glycogen retention (which you use for energy when you exercise). Since healthy glycogen levels are imperative to exercise recovery, creatine can help you recover post-workout. In addition, higher glycogen levels help repair muscle tissues post exercise, preventing muscle tears and increasing muscle tissue adaptation (i.e., helps your muscles grow).
8. Creatine Might Treat a Number of Neurological Diseases
A well-rounded approach to health means taking care of your mind as much as you take care of your body.
While the majority of creatine is stored in your muscles, you have a significant amount of creatine in your brain. And according to a review by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), supplementing with creatine can offer a number of cognitive benefits.
While research is still growing, it appears that people suffering from a number of neurological diseases could benefit from taking creatine. These include traumatic brain injury, Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ischemia, and Parkinson’s disease.
9. Creatine Might Help Lower Blood Sugar
According to new research, creatine supplementation might help reduce blood sugar levels.
According to a study conducted by the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, supplementing with creatine helped reduce blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetes patients. In a 12-week study, study participants diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes were given either a placebo or creatine. Twelve weeks later, participants who took creatine showed improvements in insulin sensitivity, blood sugar levels, and overall glycemic control.
10. Creatine Might Reduce Feelings of Fatigue
If you find yourself always feeling sluggish and tired, taking creatine supplements may help.
According to a study conducted by Acta Paediatrica, taking creatine supplements decreased symptoms of tiredness, including headaches, fatigue, and dizziness.
Another study backed up these findings. In a clinical trial conducted by Psychopharmacology, creatine supplements were given to a group of sleep-deprived study participants.
The participants were tested on their verbal and spatial recall, reaction time, balance, and mood, while being deprived of sleep for a full day (24 hours).
After 24 hours, individuals who took creatine fared far better than the control group. They showed less signs of stress on their prefrontal cortex, were in better moods, and had better balance and reaction times.
11. Creatine May Help You Get Stronger
Building muscle is essential to living a long, healthy life. That’s why resistance training is one of the key pillars of 4 Legs Fitness.
According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, creatine can help you get stronger and increase the gains made at the gym. In a review of over 22 studies, researchers found that creatine supplements consistently increase strength and muscle mass.
Across all the studies, taking creatine supplements resulted in an 8% average increase in muscle strength. In addition, an athlete’s single rep max increased an average of 14% after supplementing with creatine. In specific exercises — such as a bench press — supplementing with creatine resulted in as much as a 43% increase in strength.
12. Creatine Might Improve Your Body Composition
If you’re looking to cut fat while maintaining lean muscle mass, creatine supplements could help.
According to the European Journal of Applied Physiology, supplementing with creatine monohydrate could show small improvements in body composition. Within the study, 17 men either supplemented with creatine or took a placebo over the course of six weeks of training. At the end of the study, those who took creatine supplements showed greater improvements in muscle performance and body composition compared to the control group.
FAQs on Creatine Use
If you're looking to enjoy the positive effects of creatine, you'll want to make it a cornerstone in your training and nutrition. Here are a few frequently asked questions regarding creatine use.
How Much Creatine Should You Take?
While many people believe you should introduce creatine with a “loading phase,” this has been disproven.
Instead, taking creatine is fairly straightforward. Simply consume 3-5 grams per day to maintain optimal levels of creatine.
When Should You Take Creatine?
It doesn't matter what time you take creatine. It just matters that you take it at a consistent time each day.
Note: Caffeine can interfere with the effects of creatine supplementation. If you start your mornings with a cup of coffee, choose a different time of day to consume creatine.
What Is the Best Form of Creatine?
Of all the various forms of creatine — creatine phosphate, creatine ethyl esters, glycosylated creatine — creatine monohydrate has been shown to be most effective.
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine monohydrate supplementation is safe, comes with little to no side effects, and can help prevent injury and certain medical conditions.
Creatine Benefits Your Mind and Body
In supplement form, creatine is associated with a wide range of health benefits, including increased strength and muscle size, improved body composition, and increased capacity for intense exercise.
Creatine supplements come with little adverse effects, making it a safe, popular supplement among athletes. Taking creatine is straightforward. Take between 3-5 grams of creatine per day to maintain optimal creatine levels.
Looking to add creatine to your nutrition plan?
Performance Re-hydration: Electrolytes, Creatine, and Vitamin C combines creatine monohydrate (the most effective form of creatine) with B vitamins, vitamin C, and potassium. Simply mix it with water to easily enjoy the benefits of creatine following exercise.
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