Creatine 101: Benefits, Uses & Side Effects

What is creatine and what are its benefits: One of the most researched and used supplements in the market

Many studies show that creatine can increase muscle mass, strength and specially exercise performance. (1) Furthermore, creatine provides a number of other benefits for your health, such as protecting against neurological disease. (2) In the past some people believed that creatine was unsafe and had some side effects, but these are not supported by evidence, as per today, no clinical evidence has proven any negative effect from using creatine for sport performance or health benefits. (3) In fact, it is one of the world’s most tested supplements and has an outstanding safety profile. (4) This article we are explaining everything you need to know about creatine.

What is creatine

Creatine is a substance that is found naturally in our muscle cells. Creatine helps your muscles produce energy specially under circumstances such as heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise. Several factors can affect your body’s creatine stores, including meat intake, exercise, amount of muscle mass and levels of hormones(both men and women) like testosterone and IGF-1. (1) Around 95% of our body’s creatine is stored in muscles in the form of phosphocreatine. The other 5% is found in your kidneys, brain and liver. (1) When supplementing, you increase your stores of phosphocreatine. This is a form of stored energy in the cells, that helps your body produce more of a high-energy molecule called ATP. ATP can be called the body’s energy currency. When you have more ATP, your body is able to perform better during exercise .(5) Creatine also affects several cellular processes that lead to direct increased muscle mass, strength and recovery .(5)

How creatine works

Creatine is the perfect complement for your diet and your performance, as not only because helps your body to produce and store ATP (energy that your body uses along the day) but also impacts directly in your body key biometrics that directly increase muscle performance and endurance capacity. Specially if your diet doesn't include much or zero meat, creatine, and probably B12, is your togo supplements for a healthy living.

Thuri Helgadottir 8 times crossfit games athleteWhat benefits and uses of creatine science have proven

  • Increase work capacity: Enables more total work or volume in a single training session, which is a key factor in endurance capacity and long-term muscle growth routines (6).
  • Better cell signaling: Which aids recovery by muscle repair and new muscle growth (7).
  • Raised anabolic hormones: Such as IGF-1, after taking creatine (8).
  • Increased cell hydration:In the past some people talked, wrongly, about water retention, as cell are more hydrated they help in muscle performance. (9).
  • Reduced protein breakdown: By helping your body to breakdown, thus absorb better protein, in can help in muscle recovery and growth (10).
  • Lower myostatin levels: Elevated levels of the protein myostatin has proven to inhibit new muscle recovery and growth. Supplementing with creatine reduces myostatin levels, improving muscle recovery and growth (11).
Important note about muscle recovery and growth: Based on your exercise the muscle will adapt and recover, creatine will help this recovery either you work on gaining muscle mass, on improve muscle power output or just having more lean muscle. Your exercise routine is the base to achieve your goals, a supplement can just support your performance and recovery.

Who can benefit from taking Creatine

Creatine isn’t just for men looking to build muscle. Research is increasingly underlining the benefits of creatine for women, particularly when it comes to building lean muscle without the appearance of bulk. Another study(12) revealed that creatine supplementation may help support mental focus and clarity during a workout. How? by improving oxygen uptake in the brain, which can make be very helpful during mentally challenging workouts or everyday hustle.

Is creatine vegetarian friendly?

While creatine is found in meat — the amino acid itself is vegetarian/vegan friendly. In fact, vegetarians who forgo dietary sources of creatine may want to consider adding the supplement to their routine

Understanding creatine metabolism pre- and postmenopause yields important implications for creatine supplementation for performance and health among females. Due to the hormone-related changes to creatine kinetics and phosphocreatine resynthesis supplementation may be particularly important during menses, pregnancy, post-partum, during and post-menopause. Creatine supplementation among pre-menopausal females appears to be effective for improving strength and exercise performance. Post-menopausal females may also experience benefits in skeletal muscle size and function when consuming high doses of creatine (0.3 g·kg−1 ·d −1 ); and favorable effects on bone when combined with resistance training.

Effects on muscle gain Creatine is effective for both short and long term muscle growth (13).

Creatine assists many different type of people, including sedentary individuals, older adults and elite athletes (14). One 14-week study in older adults concluded that adding creatine to a weight-training program significantly increased muscle strength specially at their lower body, ending in a much better mobility in their every day (15). In a 12-week study in weightlifters, creatine increased muscle growth 2–3 times more than training alone without creatine. The increase in total body muscle mass also doubled together with their one-rep max for bench press, a common strength benchmark (16). A large review of the most popular supplements selected creatine as the single most beneficial supplement for adding muscle mass (17).

thuri helgadottirNot only muscle gain, but also strength gain have been proven

Effects on strength and exercise performance. Creatine has shown that improves strength, power and high-intensity exercise performance. The 12 week study we mentioned before shown that adding creatine to a training program increased strength by 8%, weightlifting performance by 14% and bench press one-rep max by up to 43%, compared to training without any creatine supplementation (17). Experienced strength athletes, 28 days of supplementing increased endurance performance by 15% and bench-press lift by 6% (18). Creatine also maintains strength and training performance while increasing muscle mass during high intensity training (19). These noticeable improvements as we talked at the beginning of this text are primarily caused by your body’s increased capacity to produce ATP. Normally, ATP becomes depleted after 8–10 seconds of high-intensity activity. But because creatine supplements help you produce and store more ATP, you can maintain optimal performance for longer. (20)

Safety and side effects Creatine is one of the most well-researched supplements available, and studies lasting up to four years reveal no negative effects (21).


One of the most comprehensive studies ever done to test any side effect on Creatine usage measured more than 50 blood markers and observed no adverse effects after 21 months of supplementing (22). There is also no evidence ever recorded that creatine harms the liver and kidneys in healthy people who take normal doses. That said, those with preexisting liver or kidney problems should consult with a doctor before supplementing (23).


Creatine-electrolyte supplementation improves repeated sprint cycling performance: A double blind randomized control study

goprimal hydraforce

We have hypothesized that creatine will increase power output as it improves ATP production, also electrolytes by itself also improve performance by different ways, but specially by reducing fatigue. So what can happen when you put both of them together. Creatine transport into cells is mediated via transporter proteins, which operate in an electrogenic fashion, requiring sodium and chlorine ions. With creatine monohydrate supplementation, the greatest increase in intramuscular total creatine content occurs during the initial 6–28 days of supplementation, depending on the supplementation protocol <24>. After this time, intramuscular total creatine content typically levels off, showing a cellular creatine saturation effect <24>. The effect of electrolytes on muscle creatine saturation hasn't been fully studied. However cellular creatine saturation likely occurs in the beginning of the cycle, sustained supplementation with creatine results in further increases in lean body mass <24>.

The effects of creatine-electrolyte versus creatine monohydrate on anaerobic power in NCAA division II athletes.

For the creatine-electrolyte group, they found significantly greater improvement in anaerobic power (mainly strength and power tests) compared to the creatine monohydrate group. Taken together, these results suggest that sustained supplementation with a creatine-electrolyte material may yield greater effect than supplementing with creatine monohydrate alone. Studies like this one is what the GoPrimal team base their product development, and this is the reason we have developed HydraForce, a powerful functional drink with creatine, electrolytes and vitamins that not only conquers your thirst but also provide that extra push needed when doing any kind of workout, endurance, strength or high intensity. HydraForce is a trademarked product and brand.


References / Based on Science:
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