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Benefits of Creatine: How This Supplement Works For More Than Athletic Performance

Creatine is a natural supplement used to boost athletic performance.[1] Studies show that it can increase muscle mass, strength and exercise performance. [2][3]

It’s not only safe to use but also one of the world’s most popular and effective supplements for building muscle and strength, but the benefits don’t stop there.[2][4][5][6][7][8]

Additionally, it provides a number of other health benefits, such as protecting against neurological disease. [9][10][11][12]

Here we discuss what Creatine is, and it’s 10 science-based benefits.

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is found naturally in muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise.

Taking creatine as a supplement is very popular among athletes and bodybuilders in order to gain muscle, enhance strength and improve exercise performance. [13]

Chemically speaking, it shares many similarities with amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Your body can produce it from the amino acids glycine and arginine.

Several factors affect your body’s natural creatine stores, including meat intake, exercise, amount of muscle mass and levels of hormones like testosterone and IGF-1. [14]

About 95% of your body’s creatine is stored in muscles in the form of phosphocreatine. The other 5% is found in your brain, kidneys and liver. [15]

When you supplement, you increase your stores of phosphocreatine. This is a form of stored energy in the cells, as it helps your body produce  a molecule called Adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

ATP is often called the body’s energy currency. When you have more ATP, your body can perform better, improving health and athletic performance. [16]

Benefits of Creatine

1. Helps Muscle Cells Produce More Energy

Creatine supplements increase your muscles’ phosphocreatine stores. [17][18]

Phosphocreatine aids in the formation of new ATP, the key molecule your cells use for energy and all basic functions of life. [19]

During exercise, ATP is broken down to produce energy.

The rate of ATP resynthesis limits your ability to continually perform at maximum intensity — that is you use your existing ATP stores faster than your body, and specifically your mitchondria are able to reproduce it. [20][21]

Creatine supplements increase your phosphocreatine stores, allowing your mitochondria to produce more ATP energy to fuel your muscles during high-intensity exercise. [22][23]

This is the primary mechanism behind creatine’s performance-enhancing effects.

2. Supports Many Other Functions in Muscles

Creatine is a popular and effective supplement for adding muscle mass. [24][25]

It can alter numerous cellular pathways that lead to new muscle growth. For example, it boosts the formation of proteins that create new muscle fibers. [26][27][28][29][30]

It can also raise levels of IGF-1, a growth factor, which promotes an increase in muscle mass. [31][32]

What’s more, creatine supplements can increase the water content of your muscles. This is known as cell volumization and can quickly increase muscle size. [33][34]

Additionally, some research indicates that creatine decreases levels of myostatin, a molecule responsible for stunting muscle growth. Reducing myostatin can help you build muscle faster and retard sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass. [35]

3. Improves High-Intensity Exercise Performance

Creatine’s direct role in ATP production means it can drastically improve high-intensity exercise performance. [36][37][38]

Creatine improves numerous factors, including: [39][40][41][42][43][44]

  • Strength
  • Muscle endurance
  • Resistance to fatigue
  • Ballistic power
  • Sprint ability
  • Muscle mass
  • Recovery
  • Brain performance

Unlike supplements that only impact advanced athletes, creatine benefits you regardless of your fitness level. [45][46]

One review found that it improves high-intensity exercise performance by up to 15%. [47]

4. Accelerates Muscle Growth

Creatine is the most effective supplement for adding muscle mass. [48][49]

Taking it for as few as 5–7 days has been shown to significantly increase lean body weight and muscle size.

This initial rise is caused by increased water content in your muscles. [50][51]

Over the longer term, it also aids in muscle fiber growth by signaling key biological pathways and boosting gym and athletic performance. [52][53][54][55][56]

In one study of a six-week training regimen, participants who used creatine added 4.4 pounds (2 kg) more muscle mass, on average, than the control group. [57]

Similarly, a comprehensive study demonstrated a clear increase in muscle mass for those taking creatine, compared to those performing the same training regimen without creatine. [58]

This study also compared the world’s most popular sports supplements and concluded that creatine is the best one available. Its advantages include being less expensive and far safer than most other sports supplements. [59]

5. May Lower Blood Sugar Levels And Fight Diabetes

Research suggests that creatine supplements may lower blood sugar levels by increasing the function of GLUT4, a transporter molecule that brings blood sugar into your muscles. [60][61][62][63]

A 12-week study examined how creatine affects blood sugar levels after a high-carb meal. People who combined creatine and exercise were better at controlling blood sugar levels than those who only exercised. [64]

Short-term blood sugar response to a meal is an important marker of diabetes risk. The faster your body clears sugar from the blood, the better. [65]

While these benefits are promising, more research is needed on creatine’s long-term effects on blood sugar control and diabetes.

6. Can Improve Brain Function

Creatine plays an important role in brain health and function. [66]

Research demonstrates that your brain requires a significant amount of ATP when performing difficult tasks. [67]

Supplements can increase phosphocreatine stores in your brain to help it produce more ATP. Creatine may also aid brain function by increasing dopamine levels and mitochondria function. [68][69][70]

As meat is the best dietary source of creatine, vegetarians often have low levels. One study on creatine supplements in vegetarians found a 20–50% improvement in some memory and intelligence test scores. [71]

For older individuals, two weeks of supplementing with creatine significantly improved memory and recall ability. [72]

In older adults, creatine may boost brain function, protect against neurological diseases and reduce age-related loss of muscle and strength. [73]

Despite such positive findings, more research is needed in young, healthy individuals who eat meat or fish on a regular basis.

7. May Reduce Fatigue and Tiredness

Creatine supplements may also reduce fatigue and tiredness. [74]

In a study creatine led to reduced fatigue and increased energy levels during sleep deprivation. [75]

Creatine can also reduce fatigue in athletes taking a cycling test and has been used to decrease fatigue when exercising in high heat. [76][77]

8. May Help With Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by a reduction of the key neurotransmitter dopamine in your brain. [78][79]

The large reduction in dopamine levels causes brain cell death and several serious symptoms, including tremors, loss of muscle function and speech impairments. [80]

Creatine has been linked to beneficial effects on Parkinson’s in mice, preventing 90% of the drop in dopamine levels. [81]

In an attempt to treat the loss of muscle function and strength, people with Parkinson’s often perform weight training. [82][83]

In individuals with Parkinson’s disease, combining creatine with weight training improved strength and daily function to a greater extent than training alone. [84]

However, a recent analysis of five controlled studies in people with Parkinson’s noted that taking 4–10 grams of creatine per day doesn’t significantly improve daily activities. [85]

9. May Fight Other Neurological Diseases

A key factor in several neurological diseases is a reduction of phosphocreatine in your brain. [86]

Since creatine can increase these levels, it may help reduce or slow disease progression.

In mice with Huntington’s disease, creatine restored the brain’s phosphocreatine stores to 72% of pre-disease levels, compared to only 26% for control mice. [87]

This restoration of phosphocreatine helped maintain daily function and reduced cell death by around 25%. [88]

Research in animals suggests that taking creatine supplements may treat other diseases too, including: [89][90][91][92]

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Ischemic stroke
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain or spinal cord injuries

Creatine has also shown benefits against ALS, a disease that affects the motor neurons essential for movement. It improved motor function, reduced muscle loss and extended survival rate by 17%. [93]

Although more studies are needed in humans, many researchers believe that creatine supplements are a bulwark against neurological diseases when used alongside conventional medicines.

10. Safe and Easy to Use

Along with creatine’s diverse benefits, it is also one of the cheapest and safest supplements available. That said, as with all nutritional supplements, it’s important that you only purchase products from the best supplement brands which provide the purest and most high-quality supplements available.

These supplement brands not only strictly adhere to the rigid manufacturing guidelines required by the FDA, but they far exceed their competitors and industry standards on all measures. These supplement brands are not only hypoallergenic and free-from common allergens such as: gluten, soy, nuts, fish, shellfish, dairy, and wheat, but also artificial colors and dyes, trans fats and hydrogenated oils, as well as toxic residues from pesticides. Some of the brands go a step further by excluding GMOs, binders, fillers and other un-necessary excipients. Our recommended creatine supplement is Pure Encapsulations Creatine Powder.

It’s been researched for more than 200 years, and numerous studies support its safety for long-term use. Clinical trials lasting up to five years report no adverse effects in healthy individuals. [94]

What’s more, supplementing is very easy — simply take 3–5 grams of creatine monohydrate powder per day. [95][96]

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, creatine is an effective supplement with powerful benefits for both athletic performance and health.

It may boost brain function, fight certain neurological diseases, improve exercise performance and accelerate muscle growth.

Try adding this natural substance to your supplement regimen to see if it works for you.

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