Health and Performance Benefits of Creatine

Creatine is thought to improve strength, increase lean muscle mass, and help the muscles recover more quickly during exercise. This muscular boost may help athletes achieve bursts of speed and energy, especially during short bouts of high-intensity activities such as weight lifting or sprinting. 

Creatine is a natural supplement used to boost athletic performance (1).

 

It’s not only safe to use but also one of the world's most popular and effective supplements for building muscle and strength (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Here are 10 science-based benefits of creatine.

 

1. Helps Muscle Cells Produce More Energy

Creatine supplements increase your muscles' phosphocreatine stores (7, 8).

Phosphocreatine helps with the formation of new ATP, the key molecule your cells use for energy and all basic functions of life (8).

During exercise, ATP is broken down to produce energy.

The rate of ATP resynthesis limits your ability to continually perform at maximum intensity — you use ATP faster than you reproduce it (9, 10).

Creatine supplements increase your phosphocreatine stores, allowing you to produce more ATP energy to fuel your muscles during high-intensity exercise (10, 11).

This is the primary mechanism behind creatine's performance-enhancing effects.

SUMMARYSupplementing with creatine provides additional ATP energy, which improves high-intensity exercise performance.

 

2. Supports Many Other Functions in Muscles

Creatine is a popular and effective supplement for adding muscle mass (1, 4).

It can alter numerous cellular pathways that lead to new muscle growth. For example, it boosts the formation of proteins that create new muscle fibers (12, 13, 14, 15, 16).

It can also raise levels of IGF-1, a growth factor, which promotes an increase in muscle mass (12, 13).

What’s more, creatine supplements can increase the water content of your muscles. This is known as cell volumization and can quickly increase muscle size (15, 17).

Additionally, some research indicates that creatine decreases levels of myostatin, a molecule responsible for stunting muscle growth. Reducing myostatin can help you build muscle faster (18).

SUMMARYCreatine can stimulate several key biological processes that lead to increased muscle growth and size.

 

3. Improves High-Intensity Exercise Performance

Creatine's direct role in ATP production means it can drastically improve high-intensity exercise performance (1, 2, 19).

Creatine improves numerous factors, including (6, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24):

1. Strength

2. Ballistic power

3. Sprint ability

4. Muscle endurance

5. Resistance to fatigue

6. Muscle mass

7. Recovery

8. Brain performance

Unlike supplements that only impact advanced athletes, creatine benefits you regardless of your fitness level (25, 26).

One review found that it improves high-intensity exercise performance by up to 15% (2).

SUMMARYCreatine is the world's most effective supplement for high-intensity sports. It offers benefits regardless of your current fitness level.

 

4. Speeds Up Muscle Growth

Creatine is the world's most effective supplement for adding muscle mass (1, 27).

Taking it for as few as 5–7 days has been shown to significantly increase lean body weight and muscle size.

This initial rise is caused by increased water content in your muscles (15, 17).

Over the long term, it also aids in muscle fiber growth by signaling key biological pathways and boosting gym performance (12, 13, 14, 15, 23).

In one study of a six-week training regimen, participants who used creatine added 4.4 pounds (2 kg) more muscle mass, on average, than the control group (23).

Similarly, a comprehensive review demonstrated a clear increase in muscle mass for those taking creatine, compared to those performing the same training regimen without creatine (27).

This review also compared the world's most popular sports supplements and concluded that creatine is the best one available. Its advantages include being less expensive and far safer than most other sports supplements (27).

 

SUMMARYCreatine can increase both short- and long-term muscle mass. It is the most effective muscle-building supplement available.

 

5. May Help With Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is characterized by a reduction of the key neurotransmitter dopamine in your brain (8, 28).

The large reduction in dopamine levels causes brain cell death and several serious symptoms, including tremors, loss of muscle function and speech impairments (28).

Creatine has been linked to beneficial effects on Parkinson's in mice, preventing 90% of the drop in dopamine levels (29).

In an attempt to treat the loss of muscle function and strength, people with Parkinson's often perform weight training (30, 31).

In individuals with Parkinson's disease, combining creatine with weight training improved strength and daily function to a greater extent than training alone (32).

However, a recent analysis of five controlled studies in people with Parkinson’s noted that taking 4–10 grams of creatine per day doesn’t significantly improve daily activities (33).

 

SUMMARYCreatine may reduce some symptoms of Parkinson's disease by improving muscle strength and function. However, certain studies observe no effects.

 

6. May Fight Other Neurological Diseases

A key factor in several neurological diseases is a reduction of phosphocreatine in your brain (29).

Since creatine can increase these levels, it may help reduce or slow disease progression.

In mice with Huntington's disease, creatine restored the brain's phosphocreatine stores to 72% of pre-disease levels, compared to only 26% for control mice (34).

This restoration of phosphocreatine helped maintain daily function and reduced cell death by around 25% (34).

Research in animals suggests that taking creatine supplements may treat other diseases too, including (35, 36, 37, 38):

Alzheimer's disease

Ischemic stroke

Epilepsy

Brain or spinal cord injuries

Creatine has also shown benefits against ALS, a disease that affects the motor neurons essential for movement. It improved motor function, reduced muscle loss and extended survival rate by 17% (39).

Although more studies are needed in humans, many researchers believe that creatine supplements are a bulwark against neurological diseases when used alongside conventional medicines.

SUMMARYAnimal studies suggest that creatine can help with symptoms, disease progression and life expectancy in neurological diseases.

 

7. May Lower Blood Sugar Levels And Fight Diabetes

Research suggests that creatine supplements may lower blood sugar levels by increasing the function of GLUT4, a transporter molecule that brings blood sugar into your muscles (40, 41, 42, 43).

A 12-week study examined how creatine affects blood sugar levels after a high-carb meal. People who combined creatine and exercise were better at controlling blood sugar levels than those who only exercised (42).

Short-term blood sugar response to a meal is an important marker of diabetes risk. The faster your body clears sugar from the blood, the better (44).

While these benefits are promising, more human research is needed on creatine’s long-term effects on blood sugar control and diabetes.

SUMMARYSome evidence suggests that creatine can help lower blood sugar levels after meals, but there is little data on its long-term effects.

 

8. Can Improve Brain Function

Creatine plays an important role in brain health and function (25).

Research demonstrates that your brain requires a significant amount of ATP when performing difficult tasks (25).

Supplements can increase phosphocreatine stores in your brain to help it produce more ATP. Creatine may also aid brain function by increasing dopamine levels and mitochondria function (25, 45, 46).

As meat is the best dietary source of creatine, vegetarians often have low levels. One study on creatine supplements in vegetarians found a 20–50% improvement in some memory and intelligence test scores (25).

For older individuals, two weeks of supplementing with creatine significantly improved memoryand recall ability (47).

In older adults, creatine may boost brain function, protect against neurological diseases and reduce age-related loss of muscle and strength (48).

Despite such positive findings, more research is needed in young, healthy individuals who eat meat or fish on a regular basis.

SUMMARYSupplementing with creatine can provide your brain with additional energy, thereby improving memory and intelligence in people with low levels of creatine.

 

9. May Reduce Fatigue and Tiredness

Creatine supplements may also reduce fatigue and tiredness (49).

In a six-month study in people with traumatic brain injury, those who supplemented with creatine had a 50% reduction in dizziness, compared to those who did not (49).

Furthermore, only 10% of patients in the supplement group experienced fatigue, compared to 80% in the control group (49).

Another study determined that creatine led to reduced fatigue and increased energy levels during sleep deprivation (50).

Creatine can also reduce fatigue in athletes taking a cycling test and has been used to decrease fatigue when exercising in high heat (51, 52).

SUMMARYCreatine can reduce symptoms of fatigue and tiredness by providing your brain with additional energy and increasing dopamine levels.

 

10. Safe and Easy to Use

Along with creatine’s diverse benefits, it is also one of the cheapest and safest supplements available. You can find a wide selection on Amazon.

It's been researched for more than 200 years, and numerous studies support its safety for long-term use. Clinical trials lasting up to five years report no adverse effects in healthy individuals (1).

What's more, supplementing is very easy — simply take 3–5 grams of creatine monohydrate powder per day (1, 53).

SUMMARYCreatine is one of the safest available supplements and has been studied scientifically for over two centuries.

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