Creatine is a natural supplement used to boost athletic performance (1Trusted Source).
It’s not only safe but also one of the world’s most popular and effective supplements for building muscle and strength (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
Here are 10 science-based benefits of creatine.
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1. Helps muscle cells produce more energy
Creatine supplements increase your muscles’ phosphocreatine stores (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
Phosphocreatine aids the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the key molecule your cells use for energy and all basic life functions (8Trusted Source).
During exercise, ATP is broken down to produce energy.
The rate of ATP resynthesis limits your ability to continually perform at maximum intensity, as you use ATP faster than you reproduce it (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
Creatine supplements increase your phosphocreatine stores, allowing you to produce more ATP energy to fuel your muscles during high-intensity exercise (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
This is the primary mechanism behind creatine’s performance-enhancing effects.
Supplementing 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 (1Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
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 (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
It can also raise levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone that promotes increases in muscle mass (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
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 (15Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
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 (18Trusted Source).
Creatine 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 (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
Creatine improves numerous factors, including (6Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source):
resistance to fatigue
Unlike supplements that only affect advanced athletes, creatine benefits you regardless of your fitness level (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).
One review found that it improves high-intensity exercise performance by up to 15% (2Trusted Source).
Creatine is the world’s most effective supplement for high-intensity sports. It offers benefits regardless of your current fitness level.
4. Speeds muscle growth
Creatine is the world’s most effective supplement for adding muscle mass (1Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).
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 increases in the water content of your muscles (15Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).
Over the long term, it also aids in muscle fiber growth by signaling key biological pathways and boosting gym performance (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).
In one study of a 6-week training regimen, participants who used creatine added 4.4 pounds (2 kg) more muscle mass, on average, than the control group (23Trusted Source).
Similarly, a comprehensive review demonstrated a clear increase in muscle mass among those taking creatine, compared with those performing the same training regimen without creatine (27Trusted Source).
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 (27Trusted Source).
Creatine can increase both short- and long-term muscle mass growth. It’s the most effective muscle building supplement available.
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5. May help with Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease is characterized by reduced levels of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in your brain (8Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).
The large reduction in dopamine levels causes brain cell death and several serious symptoms, including tremors, loss of muscle function, and speech impairments (28Trusted Source).
Creatine has been linked to beneficial effects in mice with Parkinson’s, preventing 90% of the typical drop in dopamine levels. However, there is no evidence that it has the same effect in humans (29Trusted Source).
In an attempt to treat the loss of muscle function and strength, those with Parkinson’s often weight train (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).
In one study in individuals with this disease, combining creatine with weight training improved strength and daily function to a greater extent than training alone (32Trusted Source).
However, a recent analysis of five controlled studies in people with Parkinson’s noted that taking 4–10 grams of creatine per day didn’t significantly improve their ability to perform daily activities (33Trusted Source).
Creatine 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 (29Trusted Source).
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 with only 26% for control mice (34Trusted Source).
This restoration of phosphocreatine helped maintain daily function and reduced cell death by around 25% (34Trusted Source).
Research in animals suggests that taking creatine supplements may treat other diseases too, including (35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source):
brain or spinal cord injuries
Creatine has also shown benefits against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that affects the motor neurons that are essential for movement. It improved motor function, reduced muscle loss, and extended survival rate by 17% (39Trusted Source).
Although more studies are needed in humans, some researchers believe that creatine supplements can serve as a defense against neurological diseases when used alongside conventional medicines.
Animal studies suggest that creatine can reduce the symptoms and progression of neurological diseases, as well as improve life expectancy in those living with them.
7. May lower blood sugar levels and fight diabetes
Research suggests that creatine supplements may lower blood sugar levels by increasing the function of glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT-4), a molecule that brings blood sugar into your muscles (40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source, 43Trusted Source).
A 12-week study examined how creatine affects blood sugar levels after a high carb meal. People who combined creatine and exercise exhibited better blood sugar control than those who only exercised (42Trusted Source).
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 (44Trusted Source).
While these benefits are promising, more human research is needed on creatine’s long-term effects on blood sugar control and diabetes.
Some 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 (25Trusted Source).
Research demonstrates that your brain requires a significant amount of ATP when performing difficult tasks (25Trusted Source).
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 mitochondrial function (25Trusted Source, 45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source).
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 (25Trusted Source).
For older individuals, supplementing with creatine for 2 weeks significantly improved memory and recall ability (47Trusted Source).
In older adults, creatine may boost brain function, protect against neurological diseases, and reduce age-related loss of muscle and strength (48Trusted Source).
Despite such positive findings, more research is needed in young, healthy individuals who eat meat or fish regularly.
Supplementing 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 (49Trusted Source).
In a 6-month study in people with traumatic brain injury, those who supplemented with creatine experienced a 50% reduction in dizziness, compared with those who did not supplement (49Trusted Source).
Furthermore, only 10% of patients in the supplement group experienced fatigue, compared with 80% in the control group (49Trusted Source).
Another study determined that creatine led to reduced fatigue and increased energy levels during sleep deprivation (50Trusted Source).
Creatine also reduced fatigue in athletes taking a cycling test and has been used to decrease fatigue when exercising in high heat (51Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source).
Creatine 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’s one of the cheapest and safest supplements available. You can find a wide selection online.
It has been researched for more than 200 years, and numerous studies support its safety for long-term use. Clinical trials lasting up to 5 years report no adverse effects in healthy individuals (1Trusted Source).
What’s more, supplementing is very easy — simply take 3–5 grams of creatine monohydrate powder per day (1Trusted Source, 53Trusted Source).
Creatine is one of the safest supplements available and has been studied scientifically for over two centuries.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, creatine is an effective supplement with powerful benefits for both athletic performance and health.
It may boost brain function, fight certain neurological diseases, improve exercise performance, and accelerate muscle growth.
Try adding this natural substance to your supplement regimen to see whether it works for you.