May 4, 2023

Creatine: What You Need to Know

Major Team

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a molecule produced in the body from amino acids, mainly made in the liver and, to a lesser extent, in the kidneys and pancreas. It can help with exercise performance by quickly producing energy during intense activity. 

Creatine is present in some animal-based foods, with the highest concentration in meat and fish. Athletes often supplement their diets with creatine in the form of a powder or capsules.

Oral creatine is also beneficial in treating brain disorders, neuromuscular conditions, congestive heart failure, and other diseases, and in its topical form, to treat aged skin.

What Creatine Offers You

Creatine has been shown to improve strength and power output during resistance exercise and may modestly boost lean mass when combined with resistance training. Multiple studies on its effects on anaerobic running capacity have yielded mixed results, although they all point to a slight performance enhancement.

Creatine may also relieve mental fatigue in scenarios of demanding sleep deprivation and mental activity. It has even been suggested to enhance working memory, particularly for individuals with below-average creatine levels, like older adults and vegetarians. Vegetarians, in fact, may benefit more from taking creatine supplements since they have less intramuscular creatine storage, but it may take longer to raise levels.

Studies show that users of creatine supplements experience less cramping, heat illness/dehydration, muscle strains/pulls, non-contact injuries, and total injuries/missed practices, and the effects are sustained over time. Moreover, taking creatine supplements has been suggested to aid in neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, aging, and heart ischemia.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Creatine is a safe supplement with few side effects reported. However, you should know that:

  • Taking too much creatine at once can cause diarrhea and nausea. Distribute the doses throughout the day, and consume them with meals to avoid said side effects. 
  • It can cause weight gain due to water retention in the muscles and may be harmful when taken during dehydration. 
  • Energy effects from creatine can take 7 to 28 days to become noticeable, depending on the creatine levels in the body.

Always consult with a healthcare provider before taking creatine or any supplement. 

How Much Creatine Should You Take?

Supplementing with creatine monohydrate can be achieved using a loading technique. Start with 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight every day for five to seven days, then continue with at least 0.03 grams per kilogram daily for three weeks (if cycling) or indefinitely (without extra loading phases).

Choosing the Right Creatine Supplement

There are many types of creatine on the market, but creatine monohydrate is the most affordable and effective version. Micronized creatine monohydrate is another option that is more practical as it dissolves more easily in water.