What does creatine do to your body?

Supplements containing creatine are most effective for improving gym performance. There is evidence that it can boost muscle mass, strength and exercise performance [1].

In addition, it may help lower blood sugar and improve brain function [234]. There are some people who believe creatine is unsafe and has numerous side effects. 

These claims, however, are not supported by scientific evidence [56]. Among the world’s most tested supplements, creatine has a high safety profile.

Creatine: what is it and why use a supplement?

Muscle cells naturally contain creatine. Heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise requires it to produce energy.

Bodybuilders and athletes often take creatine supplements. It helps them gain muscle, increase strength and improve their performance during exercise.

There are many similarities between creatine and amino acids, essential compounds that help build protein in the body. Glycine and arginine are amino acids that your body can use to produce creatine. Your body produces most of its creatine from amino acids and about half from food, especially red meat and seafood.

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Exactly how does creatine work?

The benefits of creatine for health and athletic performance are numerous:

  • Boosted workload: It enables total work or volume in a single training session, a critical factor in long-term muscle growth [7].
  • Improved cell signalling. It increases satellite cell signaling, which aids muscle repair and growth [8].
  • Raised anabolic hormones. Creatine has been shown to increase hormones such as IGF-1 [9].
  • Increased cell hydration. As creatine lifts water in your muscle cells, it may contribute to muscle growth [10].
  • Reduced protein breakdown. Total muscle mass may be increased by reducing muscle breakdown [11].
  • Lower myostatin levels. New muscle growth can be slowed or inhibited by elevated levels of the protein myostatin. Supplementing with creatine can reduce these levels, improving growth potential [12].

Taking creatine supplements may also improve symptoms of neurological disease by increasing phosphocreatine stores in your brain.

What is the effect of creatine on muscle growth?

The effects of creatine on muscle growth are both short- and long-term [13]. People of all ages, including sedentary individuals, older adults and elite athletes, can benefit from it.

A 14-week study in older adults found that adding creatine to a weight training program significantly increased leg strength and muscle mass [14]. Creatine increased muscle fiber growth 2–3 times more than training alone in a 12-week study of weightlifters. 

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Additionally, the one-rep max for bench press, a standard strength exercise, doubled [15]. Based on a comprehensive review of the most popular supplements, creatine was determined to be the most effective supplement for building muscle.

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Effects on strength and exercise performance

Besides improving strength, power and endurance, creatine can also enhance high-intensity exercise performance. As compared with training alone, creatine increased strength by 8 percent, weightlifting performance by 14 percent and bench press one-rep max by 43 percent [16].

The increased performance of well-trained strength athletes on the bike-sprint was 15 percent, and the bench press was 6 percent after 28 days of supplementation [17]. As well as maintaining strength and training performance, creatine helps increase muscle mass during intense overtraining [18]. 

Your body’s ability to produce ATP is primarily responsible for these noticeable improvements. A high-intensity activity can deplete ATP within ten seconds. You can sustain optimal performance for a few seconds longer when you take creatine supplements [19].

The brain’s response to creatine

Phosphocreatine is stored in the brain, as well as ATP, which is essential for optimal function [20]. Supplementing may improve the following conditions [212223]:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • brain or spinal cord injuries
  • epilepsy
  • Huntington’s disease
  • ischemic stroke
  • memory and brain function in older adults
  • motor neuron disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

The majority of current research on creatine has been conducted on animals, despite its potential benefit for treating neurological disorders.

Nevertheless, a 6-month study found that fatigue and dizziness were reduced by 70 percent in children with traumatic brain injury [24].

In humans, creatine has been shown to benefit older adults, vegetarians and people at risk for neurological problems [2526]. In vegetarians, creatine levels are low since meat is the primary dietary source of creatine.

A study on vegetarians found that supplementing improved memory scores by 50 percent and intelligence scores by 20 percent [27]. The effects of creatine supplementation on short-term memory and intelligence may be improved in healthy adults [28].

Other health benefits include the following, wherein research also indicates that creatine may:

  • Assist treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Enhance muscle function and quality of life in older adults
  • Reduce blood sugar levels

There is, however, a need for further research in these areas.

In terms of supplement forms, creatine monohydrate is the most common and well-researched. Many other forms are available, some of which are promoted as superior, but evidence is still lacking [29].

Aside from being cheap, effective and safe, creatine is also one of the most readily available supplements [30]. In addition to supporting older adults’ quality of life, it also benefits their brain health and their ability to exercise. Older adults and vegetarians may benefit from supplementing creatine.

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[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5469049/
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10222117
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11138953
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11147785
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5469049/
[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7871530/
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10731009
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10683092
[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15870625
[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8098459
[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11509496
[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20026378
[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12433852
[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12560406
[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10449017
[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14636102
[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7778463
[18] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14685870
[19] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5753968/
[20] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1691485/
[21] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11274790
[22] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1510941/
[23] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16773141
[24] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18053002
[25] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17828627
[26] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4304302/
[27] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1691485/
[28] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29704637/
[29] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2048496/
[30] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/what-is-creatine#bottom-line

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