Creatine and its benefits
by Freya • 7 minutes read
Last updated: 20 Jun, 2022
Creatine is one of the most popular supplements for gym goers, I’m sure if you are a regular or know a regular gym goer, you would have heard of creatine.
How does it work?
Creatine is found in the muscles in the form of phosphocreatine, it can also be found in the brain.
When you take creatine as a supplement, it can encourage improvements to physical health and performance.
During high intensity exercise, the supplement will increase the amount of phosphocreatine stored in your muscles, increasing your energy due to the production of a high energy molecule called ATP that takes up any additional stores.
How is creatine helpful?
Creatine can be helpful depending on your goal, it is a well known supplement that is used by athletes and bodybuilders.
It is one of the most studied supplements out there, studies have shown that it is positively used to gain muscle, improve exercise performance and increase strength.
Creatine has a range of benefits, including:
1. Muscle growth
Creatine monohydrate can be beneficial for both beginners and advanced weight lifters in the journey of muscle growth.
One study showed that muscle mass increased when creatine was taken, along with an exercise plan. The study also showed that strength had increased, including when bench pressing.
Research has also shown it can be greatly beneficial for women that are trying to build muscle and gain strength. One study showed that those who took the supplement had a 60% increase in leaner mass compared to those that only completed resistance training
2. Exercise performance
Not only can creatine increase strength, it can also be helpful at improving your exercise performance.
Creatine increases capacity to produce ATP molecules, this allows our bodies to maintain strength and performance throughout a workout.
A few studies have shown the positives correlating to creatine during performance, for example one showed that taking creatine reduced the time needed to complete a 40-metre sprint.
Another study showed that for swimmers, taking the supplement short-term could drastically improve their swimmers’ sprint speeds compared to training alone.
An alternative study found that creatine helped increase the maximum squat and bench press strength for many of those that participated.
3. Fights muscle loss in older adults
Creatine has been shown to help slow down sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle strength which is natural as you get older.
Although not a large amount, a few studies have been taken and showed that taking the supplement while strength training can be a great advantage for older adults looking to increase their muscle mass.
3. Can improve brain function
Research has shown that your brain will need to use a large amount of ATP when performing a difficult task, as we know, creatine increases phosphocreatine stores which encourage the production of ATP.
You can also get creatine from red meats, so if you are a vegan or vegetarian, creatine can be helpful to increase phosphocreatine stores, making it easier to deal with difficult situations.
4. May lower blood sugar levels
According to some studies, creatine can reduce blood sugar levels, it does this by increasing the function of glucose transporter type 4. This is a molecule that is responsible for insulin-regulated glucose uptake into fat and muscle cells.
One study looked at how creatine affects blood sugar levels after a meal with lots of carbs. Those who took creatine and exercised had better blood sugar control compared to those that did not take the supplement.
If you have a slow short-term blood sugar response to a meal, it can indicate or increase diabetes risks.
5. Can help reduce neurological diseases
One of the main issues related to neurological diseases is the reduction of phosphocreatine in your brain.
As we know, creatine increases phosphocreatine production, thus can be helpful with reducing or slowing down brain related diseases.
Research in animals has shown that taking creatine can be helpful at treating the following diseases:
Brain or spinal injuries
6. Can help with Parkinson's disease
Parkisnon’s disease is a condition that affects the brain, it can lead to symptoms such as shaking, speech impairment, and stiffness, overtime this can get worse.
Parkisons can be brought on by a reduction of dopamine levels, which is a key neurotransmitter in the brain.
This reduction of dopamine will lead to the side effects you would find with Parkinson's.
Research has shown that creatine can be helpful with these effects, it can prevent 90% of the typical drops in dopamine.
Strength training can also be helpful for those with the disease, it helps treat the loss of muscle function and strength, which can be advantaged with creatine.
How much should you take?
Tip: It is important to drink plenty of water throughout the day if you take the supplement, as it pulls water into your muscle cells, which is also known as water retention.
The recommended daily dose of creatine is 5 grams, however, many people will start with a loading phase.
This process consists of taking 20 grams of the supplement a day for 5-7 days, usually the 20 grams will split into 4 throughout the day.
Creatine is a widely researched supplement, and so far no research has shown any harmful effects of creatine supplementation when taken correctly. There is no evidence that taking creatine is harmful to the liver or kidney in healthy people.
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