Creatine is one of the most well-researched, safe, and reliable supplements out there.
Despite its popularity, some folks still skip this supplement.
Some people still think it’s the equivalent of a steroid, or that it’s bad for your kidneys or a number of other falsehoods that have been totally proven wrong.
Creatine should be considered an integral part of your daily regimen. It will help you to build muscle, boost your performance, and to maximize your strength gains. Not only that, it’s easy to find, inexpensive, safe to use, and it’s backed up with cast-iron grade science.
Of course, these days countless companies are trying to sell you supplements, so don’t just take our word for it.
Here are some of the key facts you need to know about creatine.
A 9-year study performed between 2012 and 2021 involving a collection of 16 randomized trials found that Creatine monohydrate, coupled with regular training, definitely aided in the increase of strength and lean muscle mass development. Yes, 16 trials.
In part this was due to additional water retention, but it was also found to increase the phosphocreatine ratio found in the subjects skeletomuscular tissue. Increased osmotic pressure, as a result, increased swelling in muscle tissue which further aids in the growth of new muscle tissue.
It makes sense when you understand creatine on a chemical level. It’s made in your kidneys and liver when amino acids arginine, methionine, and glycine are processed naturally from the protein you consume.
It stores in your muscle cells, where it will aid in growth and help you recover from your workouts, allowing you to work out longer and to recover faster, thus facilitating faster growth overall where your muscle tissue is concerned.
Creatine ingested at a target volume of about 5 grams a day, 5 or 6 days a week, has been shown to be an ideal amount for increasing your workout time and for improving performance.
While there was no evidence of a boost with larger amounts than 5 grams a day, at that specific amount, within a few grams depending on your bodyweight, noted performance benefits.
Think of creatine as batteries for your muscles. It resides naturally in your muscles, but it is produced at a slow rate when you are simply relying on the food that you eat every day.
When you workout your muscle tissues tap int these Creatine stores for the boosts in energy you need to lift that ‘heavier than usual’ weight or try to sneak in an extra set of reps, and once it’s gone then fatigue and soreness kick in to let you know that it’s time to stop – or at least take a nice, long break.
Even with supplements, your body can’t produce it fast enough to result in an ‘all-day’ workout, but Creatine supplements DO buy you more time and more energy for extra ‘high difficulty’ lifts. Per the study, you’ve got a whopping 30% boost in processed phosphocreatine. This means more energy, longer workouts, more muscle gains.
The energy boost needed to exceed the weight that you’ve been lifting is another vital part of gaining lean muscle mass and becoming stronger. After all, you aren’t going to progress as quickly if you use the same weight over and over without challenging your boundaries.
While many studies have focused on combined effects of Creatine supplements, in 2003 a study was performed to evaluate the specific effect on muscle strength and training performance and found that resistance training performance increased by 8%, while weight lifting enjoyed an average increase of 14%.
Note that we said average, because they explored a lot of different exercises and some of the data is nothing short of amazing. The bench press, for instance, is a staple in the gym and performance increases in subjects taking Creatine, as opposed to placebos, showed improvement in a range of 16 to 45%
This data comes from an evaluation of 22 separate studies, so this is not a case of a ‘one off’ study funded by someone trying to sell you athletic powders. We’re talking about hard data from 22 experiments that all pointed to the same thing – Creatine makes you stronger for resistance and weight training!
With numerous studies backing up the efficacy of Creatine, if your gym sells supplements, creatine is going to be there, probably right next to the protein. Even the supplement store on the corner has it.
We’re not just talking about the United States, either. You can travel around the world and still have no problem finding it.
In a world of expensive supplements, creatine is an exception. Simple, pure creatine monohydrate (the original and most well-researched form of creatine), only costs a few bucks and supply lasts several months.
Just make sure you choose a creatine monohydrate product from a third-party tested company so you know you’re getting pure creatine. And if you’re paying a fortune for a fancy creatine product, you’re getting ripped of.
Like many supplements, Creatine is safe when you use it in the manner that it’s intended. The Institute of Medicine ran their own study and found in that the rare, isolated cases where Creatine was deemed unsafe, it was due to the fact that athletes were mixing it with stimulants.
More specifically, with Ephedra (or it’s herbal name Ma Huang), and in these cases a potential link to a skin condition called dermatosis and an increased risk of stroke were found and this affected one single athlete.
It’s plain as daylight that Creatine, which is produced naturally in your body anyways, is safe to use at the recommended doses, every day for years on end without cycling.
[Find a meme for this.]
We’ve cited a number of studies today and one of the perks of this is that you’ve already seen for yourself that science is definitely behind the fact that creatine really helps. For giggles, visit Pubmed or as it is more officially known, ‘The National Library of Medicine’ and type creatine in the search space provided.
This is a government-hosted site and at the time we’re writing this, there are currently over 60k results that you will get from independent studies and sources researching creatine specifically.
For those of you convinced that the science is shady, this will give you a way to see Creatine’s benefits conclusively by reading the studies on your own so that you’ll know we aren’t simply ‘cherry picking’ the ones that we like.
Creatine works, plain and simple. Just take it. Take it almost every day. Put it in your post-workout shake or add it to your pre-workout stack.
For more on creatine, check our creatine Q&A guide.