Creatine is one of the least expensive muscle-building and sports performance supplements available, and also one of the most effective for bodybuilding. It can give you more energy, bigger muscle pumps, and can help you work out harder and more often so you can get better results from your training.
What Does Creatine Do?
Creatine helps increase your ATP stores, or adrenaline triphosphate. ATP is the chemical form of energy that your body uses when you move. So basically, creatine helps you have more energy, especially for quick, intense movements.
Layne Norton explains more about the science in his article, "Creatine: Fact and Fiction."
Is Creatine Good for You?
Creatine works by raising the levels of the chemicals that are present naturally in your body that help you create energy. As such, it has a number of potential benefits and has been shown through extensive clinical research to be safe, without adverse health risks.1
Why Should You Consider Taking Creatine?
1. Work Out Harder and Build More Muscle Mass
Taking creatine will help to increase your overall workout intensity, which means you will achieve a higher level of muscle mass.2
The creatine will allow you to keep pushing hard in the gym at a time when you would usually have to decrease the load or stop entirely, so this helps in terms of building muscle faster.
Keep in mind that you will still need to push yourself with each and every session, and feed your body enough calories for the muscle mass to be built, but supplementing with creatine makes this very possible.
Individuals who struggle to maintain enough volume in their workout program will be the ones to really benefit from using creatine, so if that's you, don't overlook the impact this supplement can give you.
2. Improve Athletic Performance
While you might not think of going to the gym as a sport, the fast, intense movements—especially if you're into powerlifting, CrossFit, or boot camp—work your body in ways similar to other athletes.
These types of activities will rely primarily on the CP-ATP system, so by ensuring your supply of creatine phosphate is fully stocked, you ensure you don't sputter out after a few sprints.3
To put this into perspective, a player in a game of hockey taking creatine would not only be able to go harder with each shift they're on the ice, but they'll be able to last through more shifts total throughout the game.
3. Recover Better So You Can Train More Often
Creatine allows you to train at a higher frequency, which means quicker and more significant muscular gains.
The more frequently you are able to stimulate a muscle, the faster it will grow—provided that it has had the opportunity to fully grow back after the first stress load that was placed upon it.
Since creatine helps increase the recovery rate of the muscle cells, you may not require as much total rest time in between workouts.4
So if you're someone who commonly takes a few days off between each full-body workout, using creatine may allow you to cut this down to just a single day between workouts. Over time, this will translate to more workouts and will make a difference on your results from month to month.
4. Get Crazy Huge Muscle Pumps
While muscle pumps don't necessarily help you out physiologically in terms of building muscle mass, they will help with motivation levels.
What creatine does is increase the water volume in your body, since glycogen binds to water when it is stored, so you get a bigger pump.5 There's nothing like seeing a muscle grow at the end of a workout to motivate you to get back into the gym and do it again a day or two later. And this consistency in your training will further maximize your gains.
Usually you will see the highest muscle pumps when you initially begin taking creatine and are doing the loading phase (a small amount of bloating may be present as well), then it will level off as your body gets used to having creatine in the system.
5. Increase Metabolic Rates with Faster Sprint Performances
Creatine can help you increase your metabolic rate.6 This is good news if you're currently looking for fat-loss solutions, since how many calories you burn on a daily basis will have a significant impact on how quickly you see progress.
Since sprint cardio training is one of the best ways to boost your metabolic rate, and sprinting relies strictly on ATP as a fuel source, supplementing with creatine allows you to have a better sprint performance during your weight-loss phase.
Additionally, lowering your carbohydrates while aiming for weight loss often results in lower levels of energy, making it harder to get through your typical interval sessions.
By adding creatine to your day you can help offset this fatigue so, at the very least, you can maintain what you would normally do while not on a fat-loss diet.
- Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., ... & Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), 18.
- Hoffman, J., Ratamess, N., Kang, J., Mangine, G., Faigenbaum, A., & Stout, J. (2006). Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 16(4), 430-446.
- Grindstaff, P. D., Kreider, R., Bishop, R., Wilson, M., Wood, L., Alexander, C., & Almada, A. (1997). Effects of creatine supplementation on repetitive sprint performance and body composition in competitive swimmers. International Journal of Sport Nutrition, 7(4), 330-346.
- Cooke, M. B., Rybalka, E., Williams, A. D., Cribb, P. J., & Hayes, A. (2009). Creatine supplementation enhances muscle force recovery after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 6(1), 13.
- Ziegenfuss, T. N., Lowery, L. M., & Lemon, P. W. (1998). Acute fluid volume changes in men during three days of creatine supplementation. Journal of Exercise Physiology, 1(3), 1-9.
- Whyte, L. J., Gill, J. M., & Cathcart, A. J. (2010). Effect of 2 weeks of sprint interval training on health-related outcomes in sedentary overweight/obese men. Metabolism, 59(10), 1421-1428.