Creatine for Muscle Growth and performance

Creatine for Muscle Growth and performance

Creatine for muscle growth has been a popular topic for performance trainers and exercise enthusiasts. Learn what creatine is and if supplementation may benefit your workout.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is an amino acid made by the body and stored in muscle tissues. You can also get it from foods like meat and fish [R].  

How Do Creatine Supplements Work?

Like other amino acids, creatine produces the energy needed for exercise [R, R].

A substance called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) fuels the body with energy. When energy is burned during a workout ATP turns into adenosine diphosphate (ADP). The amount of ATP available to use also decreased affecting performance. Creatine turns ADP back into ATP ensuring muscles get the energy they need to continue working [R].

Creatine also hydrates human skeletal muscle cells. Hydrated cells activate glycogen synthesis and proteins needed for growth. As a result, muscle mass will increase [R, R, R, R, R R, R, R, R, R, R, R].   

Creatine Benefits Performance & Recovery

The benefits of creatine have been a part of sports nutrition for some time. Creatine improves body composition. It also enhances strength training performance and recovery. 

Resistance training is improved by the short bursts of energy creatine provides during intensity exercises [R]. 


An 8-week creatine supplementation increased power output in strength training among men and women better than the placebo [R, R].

Improvements in strength, power, and performance have been seen with both short and long-term use of creatine [R, R]. 

Creatine may also be used as a recovery agent. Taking both creatine and a carb before an athletic event improved glycogen stores better than eating a carb alone [R]. The combination of creatine, protein, and carbs also had better recovery outcomes than with the placebo [R, R]. 

What to Look for in a Creatine Supplement

Creatine monohydrate supplementation is the most widely used source of creatine. Creatine ethyl ester is another popular supplement but may not be as effective as creatine monohydrate [R].

Creatine Dosage

Oral creatine supplementation doses vary depending on their use.

Dosage for Athletic Performance

A creatine loading phase is used for athletic performance and muscle strength.  It consists of taking 20 grams per day for 4 to 7 days. Doses should be spread out into 4 servings over the day [R, R, R].  

After the seven days, a maintenance dose is taken to maintain creatine stores. Maintenance for athletic performance ranges from 2 to 10 grams a day. Maintenance doses for muscle strength range from 1 to 27 grams per day [R, R, R].  

Creatine Cycling 

Creatine cycling is also done to maintain stores of creatine. It will be taken for three months straight and then on the fourth month it will be skipped [R].

Creatinine Levels Determine How Much Creatine is Absorbed

Changes in creatinine levels depend on creatine stores before supplementation. A higher increase was seen in those with lower levels of creatine. Higher levels of creatine had lower changes in their creatine after supplementation [R]. Anyone with a low protein diet can also have better results when supplementing creatine [R]. 

Creatine Risks and Contraindications

Short-term supplementation may cause side effects including bloating, diarrhea, and muscle cramping. Adequate water intake can prevent this from happening. Too much creatine also caused weight gain, anxiety, breathing difficulty, fatigue, fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting [R].

Athletes have not been affected by long-term supplementation but It is unknown how creatine affects non-athletes long-term [R].

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, those with diabetes, kidney problems, and bipolar disorder should avoid this supplement [R, R]

Diabetes medications, diuretics, and anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen should not be mixed with creatine. Stimulants like caffeine and ephedra increase side effects [R]. 

Final Thoughts on Creatine for Muscle Growth and Performance

Monohydrate creatine is a popular supplement that has shown positive effects on muscle mass, performance, and recovery. Taking creatine in the short-term may be okay for most healthy people but there still may be some adverse side effects that occur. Information on long-term creatine use has been limited to athletes. This leaves uncertainty on how it affects regular people. If you have a health condition or are on any medications it is best to talk to your healthcare provider before starting a supplement regimen. 


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