A scoop of creatine on a marble counter next to gel-cap creatine supplements

Creatine Supplements: Who Should Take Them, and What are the Benefits

nutrition Nov 05, 2021

Creatine is one of the most well-researched and efficient supplements out there for men and women, but there are still a lot of misconceptions about taking creatine supplements.

In this blog post, we will dive into what creatine is, which type of creatine dietary supplements you should take, and the benefits of creatine supplementation for your fitness journey.


What Does Creatine Do?

Let’s start with the basics.

Creatine is a compound that comes from specific amino acids, and it’s found naturally in muscle cells as well as your brain. It helps provide the energy your muscles need to move, especially with quick and explosive movements.

Creatine phosphate in muscle cells acts as a type of stored energy that helps produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is crucial for muscle contractions.

Creatine Helps with Energy Production

At its core, creatine helps produce energy. When you do high-intensity exercise, your muscles need a quick burst of energy. This energy comes from ATP. However, ATP stores in your muscles deplete quickly during intense activities, which is where creatine steps in.

Creatine combines with phosphate in your muscles to form creatine phosphate. When ATP levels drop, creatine phosphate donates a phosphate group to ADP (adenosine diphosphate), converting it back to ATP. This process replenishes your ATP levels, allowing your muscles to keep working hard during short bursts of intense activity like lifting weights or sprinting.

Creatine Helps With Muscle Growth

Creatine also plays a role in muscle growth. Creatine indirectly supports muscle gains by increasing your ability to perform high-intensity exercises.

More energy means you can train harder and longer, leading to more muscle stimulation and growth. Also, creatine increases the water content in muscle cells, which can help support muscle growth.

Creatine Helps with Recovery

Another benefit of creatine is its potential to improve recovery. After a hard workout, your muscles need to repair and grow stronger.

Creatine helps reduce muscle cell damage and inflammation, speeding up your recovery time. This means you can get back to your workouts faster and with less soreness.

If you frequently experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), you might benefit from taking creatine supplements. Check out our blog post for more ways to reduce DOMS!

Creatine Has Cognitive Benefits

While creatine is mainly associated with physical performance, it also has benefits for your brain.

Your brain, like your muscles, requires ATP for energy. Creatine can help improve your cognitive functions, such as memory and mental fatigue, especially during demanding tasks.

Creatine is not just a supplement, though.

It occurs naturally in some food sources, such as red meat and fish. Your liver, pancreas, and kidneys can also produce a small amount of creatine each day.

The Science Behind Muscle Mass and Creatine

Scientific studies have shown that creatine can increase muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance. Muscle creatine plays a significant role in improving muscle performance, strength, and mass, particularly in response to exercise and aging.

ATP initially fuels muscle contraction, and oral creatine supplementation plays a crucial role in increasing the muscle’s supply of ATP.

ATP is an organic compound that provides energy to drive several processes in living cells, such as muscle contraction, nerve impulse propagation (the movement of signals between neurons), and chemical synthesis.

When you increase the muscle’s supply of creatine, you help increase the rate at which your body can supply ATP. The more ATP you have, the more energy you’ll have for muscle contraction.

In other words, creatine helps with muscle strength and power output during resistance training.

The effect of creatine supplementation on muscle strength and performance has been widely studied, showing benefits in various populations, though some results are conflicting and require further research.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition, a world leader in providing science-based sports nutrition and supplement information, supports the safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation for improving muscle performance and strength.

How Creatine Supplements Impact Exercise Performance

Many of our clients ask us if taking a creatine supplement will make them gain weight or bulk up.

On average, you can initially gain about 1.5-3.5 pounds of muscle. If you take creatine long-term, you can gain up to 6 pounds of muscle mass.

The weight gain that people experience associated with creatine use is generally because of increased muscle mass, not body fat.

There might also be some water retention in the muscles from taking a creatine supplement. This weight gain should not worry you because none of it is fat!

Creatine monohydrate supplementation has been shown to increase skeletal muscle size, strength, and lean body mass, making it effective for many people, including athletes and older adults.

It’s important to remember that muscle growth does not equal bulk. Growing your muscles is what will give you that “toned” look many people are after. Getting "bulky" actually takes a considerable amount of time and effort. It's not something that will happen to you by accident (or just by taking creatine supplements).

But creatine does more than just increase muscle mass. There are several ways it impacts your exercise performance.

Increased Short-Term Energy

High-intensity exercises like sprinting, weightlifting, or jumping need a rapid supply of energy.

Creatine stored in your muscles helps regenerate ATP quickly. It does this by donating a phosphate group to ADP to form ATP again. This process allows you to maintain high-intensity efforts for longer, improving your overall performance in activities that require short bursts of energy.

More Strength and Power

Creatine supplementation has been shown to significantly enhance strength and power.

By boosting the availability of ATP, creatine helps you lift heavier weights and perform more reps. This increased workload increases strength gains over time and helps with progressive overload. Whether you're lifting weights, doing explosive movements, or doing HIIT, creatine helps you push harder and achieve better results.

Delayed Fatigue

One of the key benefits of creatine is its ability to delay fatigue.

Lactic acid build-up during exercise can cause muscle fatigue and limit your performance. Creatine helps buffer this, allowing you to exercise at high intensities for longer periods.

This means you can complete more sets, reps, or sprints before feeling exhausted, leading to better endurance and performance.

What are the Different Types of Creatine Supplements

While we have been using the term creatine on its own, we are primarily referring to creatine monohydrate. However, there are multiple types of creatine available out there.

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate is the most common and well-researched form of creatine.

It's made up of a creatine molecule that's bonded to a water molecule. Creatine monohydrate is known for its effectiveness in enhancing athletic performance and muscle growth.

It's also affordable, widely available, and has a long history of safe use. If you’re new to creatine supplements, creatine monohydrate is a great starting point.

Creatine monohydrate is the form of creatine we generally recommend to our clients who are interested in creatine supplements.

Creatine Hydrochloride (HCL)

Another form of creatine supplement is creatine HCL. This is creatine that's bonded to hydrochloric acid, making it more soluble in water. The increased solubility can lead to better absorption in the body and may reduce stomach discomfort some people experience with creatine monohydrate.

Because of its efficiency, you often need a smaller dose of creatine HCL compared to creatine monohydrate. This form is ideal for people who want to avoid bloating or are looking for a more concentrated supplement.

Creatine Ethyl Ester

Creatine Ethyl Ester (CEE) is creatine with an ester attached, which is meant to improve creatine absorption and reduce water retention. However, research on CEE is limited, and it may not be as effective as other forms like creatine monohydrate or creatine HCL.

Some people prefer CEE for its potential to minimize bloating and enhance creatine uptake, but we need more research to determine if this is really the case.

Buffered Creatine

Buffered Creatine, often marketed under the brand name Kre-Alkalyn, is creatine with a higher pH level.

The buffering process is intended to prevent creatine breakdown in the stomach, potentially leading to better absorption and fewer side effects. While some people report positive results, scientific support for its superiority over creatine monohydrate is limited.

Creatine Nitrate

Creatine Nitrate combines creatine with nitrate, which may increase blood flow and improve exercise performance.

The added nitrate can boost nitric oxide levels in the body, giving you a better "pump" during your workouts if that's something you're after. However, like other specialized forms, more research is needed to confirm its benefits over standard creatine monohydrate.

Choosing the right creatine supplement depends on your personal preferences and goals. For most people, creatine monohydrate is a reliable and effective choice. If you experience discomfort or want to try something different, creatine HCL or other forms might be worth exploring.

How Much Creatine Should You Take

Clients also ask if they should take their creatine supplements on rest days. We recommend taking creatine every day — yes, even on rest days — to keep levels consistent.

Some people are concerned about losing muscle if they stop taking creatine. Fortunately, there’s no reason to expect any muscle loss just because you stop creatine supplementation. You could lose a few pounds because of the water retention that often results from creatine, but your muscles will remain intact.

Studies show that taking 5g of creatine monohydrate per day is a good general recommendation. If you don’t do a loading phase and take 5g daily, your muscle reserves can be saturated in 28 days, but the amount of time it will take to notice actual muscle growth will vary from person to person.

What are the Downsides to Taking Creatine Supplements

Creatine is one of the most popular and widely researched supplements in the fitness world (which is probably why it's such an affordable supplement). While it has a ton of benefits, it's important to understand that, like any supplement, it can have downsides.

Creatine Monohydrate can Cause Water Retention

As mentioned above, creatine draws water into your muscle cells, which can cause your muscles to retain more water, which can cause the scale to go up.

It's important to remember that just because the number on the scale goes up a bit doesn't mean you've gained fat, and it's not automatically a bad thing. Before freaking out, consider the improvements you've seen in performance, and try adjusting your mindset around the number on the scale.

Creatine Monohydrate can Cause Gastrointestinal Issues

Some people experience stomach discomfort, cramps, diarrhea, or nausea when taking creatine, especially in large doses.

Stomach issues might happen if you take too much creatine at once or aren't drinking enough water. Splitting the dose throughout the day and drinking plenty of water can help get rid of these problems.

Creatine Monohydrate and Kidney Function

Some people are concerned about creatine's impact on liver and kidney function because creatine increases the levels of creatinine, a waste product, in the blood.

Extensive research shows that creatine supplementation doesn't impair kidney function, even in people with diabetes and heart health issues. However, people with pre-existing kidney or liver conditions should consult a healthcare professional before starting creatine supplementation.

How Creatine Supplements Impact Your Fitness Progress

A couple of things to remember:

First of all, creatine does not make you stronger. YOU make you stronger. Creatine helps you by allowing you to train at a higher intensity level and to recover faster.

Also, you can’t rely on creatine to do all the work. If you don’t fuel your workouts with adequate carbohydrates, you won’t have enough energy to reach the intensity that’s required to take advantage of creatine supplementation. The Society of Sports Nutrition has found that creatine supplementation can benefit muscle mass and performance, especially when combined with proper nutrition.

You also have to replenish your body with protein. Consuming protein is absolutely necessary for muscle recovery. Even with creatine supplementation, you need adequate protein to see muscle growth and recovery.

But be careful, though, because not all supplement companies are created equal, and the supplement industry is unregulated. Some creatine supplements can contain impurities and/or additives. Choosing a high-quality, reputable brand of creatine monohydrate can help ensure you’re getting a pure product without unnecessary additives.

We prefer Legion for all our supplements (code KASEYJO will save you money), but any high-quality brand will do.

Check out this FREE supplement guide to ensure you’re choosing reputable brands with quality products.

Check out the original post HERE.

Connect with us!

Email: [email protected] 

IG: @kjocoaching


Buford, T. W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., & Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4, 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-4-6

Jäger, R., Purpura, M., Shao, A., Inoue, T., & Kreider, R. B. (2011). Analysis of the efficacy, safety, and regulatory status of novel forms of creatine. Amino Acids, 40(5), 1369-1383. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00726-011-0874-6

Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J. et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 18 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z

Persky, A. M., & Brazeau, G. A. (2001). Clinical pharmacology of the dietary supplement creatine monohydrate. Pharmacological Reviews, 53(2), 161-176. https://doi.org/10.1124/pr.53.2.161

Hi, I'm Kasey!

I coach, mentor, write, and teach with one main focus: Build strong bodies and healthy lifestyles, starting with your mindset.


Connect with me on socials: