Ever wondered what powers those explosive sprints or heavy weightlifting sets at the gym? The secret lies in a compound called creatine. This mighty molecule not only fuels our muscles during high-intensity activities but also plays a fascinating role in energy production. Here, we'll delve into the importance of creatine, explore how it works at a cellular level, and highlight its potential benefits. Get ready to uncover the science behind one of the fitness world's most talked-about supplements.

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The Definition: Creatine is an amino acid produced by the body (the kidneys) and found in several natural sources that helps your muscles produce the energy needed to engage in strenuous exercises, such as high-intensity workouts and weight lifting.

The Process: Creatine supplements are often chemically synthesized in the lab, and there are several ways to go about it. Generally, odium sarcosinate and cyanamide are combined, heated and pressurized, spun to remove purities, and then turned into a powder for consumption. 

How To Take: While the amount of creatine you will take will depend on multiple factors, the average daily dose of creatine that most people will take hovers around three to five grams. 

History: Creatine was first identified in 1832 when it was isolated from meat extracts. In the early 1900s, scientists began studying the role of creatine in energy metabolism. By the mid-20th century, they established that creatine was involved in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy currency of cells. 

The Breakdown: What Is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in small amounts in certain foods and produced endogenously within our bodies, primarily in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. It's composed of three amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine. In the human body, creatine is primarily stored in muscles and utilized as a quick energy source during short-duration, high-intensity activities like sprinting or weightlifting. 

Why Is Creatine Important?

Creatine plays a critical role in energy production, particularly during high-intensity, short-duration activities. Its presence in the muscles helps replenish adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy currency of the cell, ensuring that the body can maintain optimal performance during strenuous exercises. Due to its role in cellular energy production, creatine has become one of the most popular and well-researched dietary supplements for athletes and fitness enthusiasts aiming to boost their performance and muscle growth.

How Does Creatine Work?

Creatine is converted into phosphocreatine in the body, which serves as a reservoir for high-energy phosphate groups. During intense physical activity, phosphocreatine donates its phosphate group to the depleted ATP, helping regenerate ATP quickly. This rapid ATP production aids in maintaining energy levels and reducing fatigue during bouts of explosive action.

What Are The Benefits Of Creatine?

The benefits of creatine supplementation extend beyond improved exercise performance. Here are some key advantages:

Enhanced Muscle Growth

Creatine supplementation has been consistently shown to increase muscle cell volume and promote lean muscle mass gain, mainly due to an increase in water content within muscle cells.1

Increased Strength And Power

Studies have demonstrated that creatine supplementation can enhance both strength and power output during high-intensity, short-duration activities like weightlifting and sprinting.2

Brain Health

Emerging research indicates that creatine might offer neuroprotective benefits, potentially assisting in the prevention of neurological diseases and supporting cognitive function.3

Improved Hydration

Contrary to some misconceptions, creatine can help in cell hydration. It increases the water content within cells, which can, in turn, promote muscle function and reduce the risk of cramping and dehydration.4

Are There Any Downsides To Creatine?

While creatine is considered safe for most people, some individuals may experience mild side effects such as:

  • Digestive Issues: Some users may experience stomach discomfort or bloating.
  • Water Retention: In rare cases, creatine can cause water retention, leading to a slight increase in body weight.
  • Kidney Strain: Individuals with pre-existing kidney conditions should consult a healthcare professional before using creatine.

What Are The Alternatives To Creatine?

For those seeking alternatives to creatine, several options are available, each with its unique benefits. Some popular alternatives include:


Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid that has been shown to enhance muscular endurance and improve performance in high-intensity activities by buffering hydrogen ions, thereby delaying muscle fatigue.5

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) 

BCAAs, comprising leucine, isoleucine, and valine, are known to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and may aid in muscle recovery and growth, making them a popular alternative to creatine.6

Citrulline Malate 

Citrulline malate is a combination of the amino acid citrulline and malic acid. Research suggests it may enhance blood flow to the muscles and improve exercise performance, especially in endurance-based activities.7

When Should You Take Creatine?

When it comes to taking creatine, timing can play a role in maximizing its benefits. While there is no strict rule, consider the following options:


Taking creatine before a workout can help increase phosphocreatine stores in your muscles, providing an extra energy boost during exercise.


Consuming creatine after a workout can aid in muscle recovery and replenish depleted ATP levels.


Creatine can be taken at any time of the day, as long as it's consistently consumed in the recommended dosage.

How Should Creatine Be Taken For Optimal Results?

To achieve optimal results with creatine, follow these guidelines:

Loading Phase (Optional)

Some individuals opt for a loading phase during the first week, taking around 20 grams of creatine per day (divided into 4 doses). This can help saturate muscle stores more quickly.

Maintenance Phase

After the loading phase, consume 3 to 5 grams of creatine daily, either pre-workout, post-workout, or at any convenient time.

Mixing Creatine

Mix creatine powder with water, juice, or a protein shake. Avoid using caffeine-containing beverages, as caffeine may interfere with creatine absorption.

How Quickly Does Creatine Start To Work?

The speed at which creatine takes effect can vary among individuals. However, some commonly observed timelines include:

  • Immediate Effects: Some users may experience an immediate increase in water content within muscle cells, leading to a slight initial weight gain.
  • Short-Term Benefits: Within the first week, individuals might notice improved exercise performance and enhanced strength during high-intensity workouts.
  • Long-Term Benefits: Over several weeks of consistent use, creatine can lead to increased muscle mass, improved muscle recovery, and overall athletic performance.

Is Creatine FDA Approved?

Yes, creatine is considered a dietary supplement and is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used as directed. However, it's essential to purchase creatine from reputable sources to ensure product quality and purity.

How Does Creatine Compare To Other Sports Supplements?

Creatine stands out as one of the most extensively researched and effective sports supplements available. Let's compare it to other popular supplements:

Protein Powder 

  • Protein powder supports muscle repair and growth, while creatine enhances performance during workouts.
  • Both can be beneficial when used together to maximize muscle development and exercise capacity.


  • Caffeine boosts alertness and energy levels, while creatine enhances physical performance during workouts.
  • Combining caffeine with creatine may reduce creatine's effectiveness, so it's best to take them separately.

What Is The History Of Creatine?

The discovery and exploration of creatine's effects have a fascinating history:

  • 1800s: Creatine was first identified in 1832 when it was isolated from meat extracts. Early researchers recognized its presence in skeletal muscles and termed it "creatine" after the Greek word "kreas," meaning flesh. However, its significance in human physiology remained largely unknown.
  • 1900s: In the early 1900s, scientists began studying the role of creatine in energy metabolism. By the mid-20th century, they established that creatine was involved in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy currency of cells. However, it wasn't until the late 1960s that researchers started to delve into the potential performance-enhancing effects of creatine.
  • 1970s: Early experiments showed that supplementing with creatine resulted in increased creatine phosphate stores in muscles, suggesting potential benefits for high-intensity activities. However, it wasn't until the 1970s and 1980s that the link between creatine and improved athletic performance started to gain significant attention.
  • 1990s: The commercialization of creatine supplements marked a turning point for its popularity. In 1993, the first creatine monohydrate supplement hit the market, and athletes quickly embraced it. The surge in interest and the endorsement of prominent athletes propelled creatine into the mainstream, revolutionizing the sports and fitness industry.

What Is The Current Environment Of Creatine?

Creatine has become a staple in the world of fitness and sports nutrition due to several factors:

  • Extensive Research: Over the past few decades, numerous studies have validated the efficacy and safety of creatine as a performance-enhancing supplement. Researchers have investigated its impact on strength, power, endurance, and recovery, consistently supporting its positive effects.
  • Widespread Use: Athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts worldwide incorporate creatine into their supplementation routines. Its proven benefits have garnered a loyal following among those seeking to optimize their athletic performance and muscle-building efforts.
  • Diverse Product Offerings: Creatine is available in various forms, including powders, capsules, and flavored drinks, catering to different preferences. Consumers can choose from an array of options to suit their tastes, lifestyles, and specific goals.
  • Athletic Endorsements: Many professional athletes and trainers publicly endorse the benefits of creatine, further solidifying its reputation as a reliable and effective supplement. Their testimonials and success stories have contributed to its widespread acceptance.
  • Scientific Recognition: Creatine's performance-enhancing effects have gained recognition from reputable sports organizations and associations worldwide. It is considered a legal and ethical ergogenic aid for athletes in various sports.

What Is The Future Of Creatine?

As creatine continues to evolve, its future holds exciting prospects:

  • Innovative Formulations: Researchers and manufacturers may explore new ways to enhance creatine's bioavailability and effectiveness. Novel delivery systems or synergistic combinations with other compounds could improve its absorption and utilization.
  • Combination Supplements: As scientists gain a deeper understanding of synergistic supplement combinations, creatine might be paired with other beneficial compounds to create tailored formulations for specific athletic goals and health objectives.
  • Wider Acceptance: As scientific evidence continues to accumulate, creatine's use may extend beyond sports performance. It could find applications in aging populations, cognitive health, and rehabilitation settings, supporting individuals in various aspects of wellness.
  • Personalized Nutrition: Advancements in genetic testing and personalized nutrition could lead to tailored creatine recommendations based on an individual's unique physiology. Customized dosages and timing could optimize its benefits for each person's specific needs.

BATCH FAQs: Creatine

Is creatine suitable for vegetarians and vegans?

Yes, creatine supplements are available in vegetarian and vegan-friendly forms, typically sourced from non-animal ingredients.

Can I take creatine while on medication?

It's essential to consult a healthcare professional before combining creatine with any medications to avoid potential interactions.

Is loading creatine necessary?

While some people follow a loading phase (higher creatine intake) during the initial week, it's not essential. Taking a consistent daily dose is sufficient.

Can I take creatine during my cutting phase?

Yes, creatine can be beneficial during a cutting phase to preserve muscle mass and strength while losing body fat.

Is creatine safe for teenagers?

For teenagers involved in intense sports or resistance training, creatine can be safe and beneficial. However, parental supervision and medical support are advised.

What happens if I stop taking creatine?

When you stop taking creatine, the increased water content within your muscles will gradually decrease, resulting in a slight reduction in muscle volume. However, this does not mean your muscles will disappear or that you will lose all the strength and progress you gained while using creatine.

Can I mix creatine with protein?

Yes, you can mix creatine with protein shakes or other beverages. Combining creatine with protein does not diminish its effectiveness. In fact, protein intake can complement the muscle-building effects of creatine, providing a comprehensive approach to muscle recovery and growth.

What foods have creatine?

While creatine can be obtained from dietary sources, the amount found in foods is relatively small compared to supplement doses. Foods rich in creatine include:

  • Red Meat: Beef and pork are particularly high in creatine.
  • Fish: Certain types of fish like salmon and tuna contain moderate levels of creatine.
  • Poultry: Chicken and turkey also contain small amounts of creatine.

How much water should I drink with creatine?

Staying hydrated is crucial when taking creatine. Aim to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day, as creatine may increase the need for hydration. A general guideline is to consume at least 8 to 10 glasses of water daily (number may vary).

How much muscle can you gain from creatine?

The amount of muscle gained from creatine use varies depending on individual factors such as genetics, diet, exercise regimen, and overall lifestyle. While creatine can significantly enhance muscle strength and performance, the extent of muscle gain may differ from person to person.


  1. ‌Volek, J. S., & Rawson, E. S. (2004). Scientific basis and practical aspects of creatine supplementation for athletes. Nutrition, 20(7-8), 609–614. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2004.04.014
  2. Stockbrugger, B. A., & Haennel, R. G. (2003). Contributing factors to performance of a medicine ball explosive power test: a comparison between jump and nonjump athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17(4), 768–774. https://doi.org/10.1519/1533-4287(2003)0172.0.co;2
  3. Rae, C., Digney, A. L., McEwan, S. R., & Bates, T. C. (2003). Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double–blind, placebo–controlled, cross–over trial. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B: Biological Sciences, 270(1529), 2147–2150. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2003.2492
  4. Wax, B., Kerksick, C. M., Jagim, A. R., Mayo, J. J., Lyons, B. C., & Kreider, R. B. (2021). Creatine for Exercise and Sports Performance, with Recovery Considerations for Healthy Populations. Nutrients, 13(6), 1915. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13061915
  5. Hobson, R. M., Saunders, B., Ball, G., Harris, R. C., & Sale, C. (2012). Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids, 43(1), 25–37. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-011-1200-z
  6. Negro, M., Giardina, S., Marzani, B., & Marzatico, F. (2008). Branched-chain amino acid supplementation does not enhance athletic performance but affects muscle recovery and the immune system. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 48(3), 347–351. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18974721/
  7. Pérez-Guisado, J., & Jakeman, P. M. (2010). Citrulline malate enhances athletic anaerobic performance and relieves muscle soreness. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24(5), 1215–1222. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181cb28e0
September 21, 2023 — Griffin Lynch