- What is Creatine?
- 5 Benefits of Creatine Supplementation
- Side Effects Of Creatine
- What Form Of Creatine (And How Much) Should You Take?
- Creatine: The Bottom Line
There’s a reason creatine supplements have been a staple in the weightlifting community for decades: it really works for increasing muscle mass, muscle strength, and overall athletic performance.
Creatine supplementation is well-studied, too. A lot of clinical trials support creatine monohydrate, the most popular form of creatine, as a powerful workout supplement with few to no side effects. It’s even good for your brain.
Here’s what you need to know about creatine: how creatine works, the benefits of creatine, the side effects of creatine, and how to take creatine. Let’s get started with the basics.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a peptide (a mini-protein) that your body makes naturally. You store creatine in your muscles, where it helps recycle used up energy so your muscles can generate more force[*].
Your muscles run on adenosine triphosphate (ATP). If your body is a car, ATP is the fuel; it powers everything you do. And supplementing with creatine is like increasing the size of your gas tank.
Creatine supplementation allows your muscles to store more ATP and helps replenish spent ATP so you can use it again.
Your kidneys and liver work together to make creatine daily[*]. You also get creatine from your diet, especially if you eat rare meat or raw fish. Sushi and rare steak are great sources of dietary creatine.
However, the most convenient way to increase creatine is by taking a creatine supplement. There are some unique benefits when you increase the creatine stored in your muscles.
5 Benefits of Creatine Supplementation
Creatine For Strength and Muscle Mass
Creatine helps you become stronger and build muscle faster, in combination with resistance training.
Weightlifters who took creatine showed an 8% increase in maximum strength and 14% increase in the maximum number of reps on a heavy lifting set[*]. Pretty significant.
Browse our curated collection of fan-favorites and discover your new favorite snack or supplement.Shop Best Sellers
Creatine makes your muscles bigger, too. Creatine supplements stimulate insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a growth hormone that increases protein synthesis. In other words, boosting your IGF-1 with creatine means your muscles build back stronger and faster[*].
The difference isn’t trivial, either: people who took creatine put on an extra ~4 pounds of muscle over the course of seven weeks of strength training [*].
Creatine For Power and Explosion
Creatine can also enhance your ability to do short, explosive training like sprinting, powerlifting, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
In one meta-analysis, researchers found that creatine-supplemented athletes performed better in exercise bouts under 30 seconds[*], although the benefits didn’t extend to more endurance-based exercise.
Another study found that people who took creatine showed significantly more improvement in sprinting and generated more muscular power[*].
Creatine also suppressed inflammation and increased protein synthesis after the workouts. That means extra muscle growth, plus faster recovery.
Creatine For Endurance
It’s less clear whether creatine is good for endurance. Some studies have found an effect[*]. Others have not[*].
In one study, researchers found that though creatine supplementation increased muscle creatine stores and plasma volume in 12 male cyclists — it had no effect on performance at the end of a long cycling bout[*].
Another group of researchers, however, found that softball players who took creatine had significantly more muscle endurance[*].
Creatine may help with endurance, or it may not. If you’re interested in creatine for endurance training, you can always measure your performance on and off creatine and see if it gives you a boost.
Creatine For Performance on a Keto Diet
Creatine could help you with intense workouts while on keto, too.
When you exercise intensely, your body eventually depletes your blood glucose. Then you turn to glycogen stores for energy.
Glycogen — the storage form of glucose — is mostly stored in muscle tissue. During exercise or a fast, this muscle glycogen is converted to glucose (glycogenolysis) — then released into the bloodstream to meet your blood sugar needs.
Creatine helps synthesize and maintain muscle glycogen stores. In other words, creatine enhances your energy reserve system[*].
This benefit could come in handy on a carb-restricted, ketogenic diet. Because carbs are largely off-limits on keto, you have less glucose available to top off your glycogen stores.
And though your body can make its own glucose (and replenish glycogen) through gluconeogenesis — when your cells make their own glucose –, this process might be insufficient for intensive athletic demands.
Anything that enhances the storage and maintenance of muscle glycogen is desirable for active people on a ketogenic diet.
Creatine can help you with that. If you’re looking for a good supplement, Perfect Keto Perform contains creatine, along with a number of other compounds that enhance your workout.
Creatine For Cognitive Health
Creatine is also good for your brain. Supplementing creatine can enhance your cognitive performance in a few different ways:
- Mental endurance. Creatine increases mental endurance — you can do mentally demanding tasks for longer without becoming fatigued [*].
- Sleep deprivation. Creatine preserves your ability to do complex tasks when you’re sleep deprived[*]. It also improves physical coordination in sleep-deprived athletes[*].
- Brain aging. Aging people who took creatine showed improvements in memory and spatial ability[*].
Creatine has something for everyone. It’s as good for your brain as it is for your body.
Side Effects Of Creatine
Creatine is well-studied and doesn’t have any major adverse effects. Researchers have done studies on people taking creatine daily for up to four years, with no ill effects[*].
For a while, researchers were concerned that creatine could cause kidney damage. They reasoned that creatine turns into creatinine in your body, and high creatinine is a marker of kidney disease.
However, multiple studies found that creatine does not damage your kidneys[*][*].
It’s worth mentioning that creatine may cause a little water weight gain[*]. Creatine causes your muscles to retain more water, which helps store more energy and promotes muscle growth[*].
The water weight comes right off after you stop taking creatine.
So taking creatine for up to four years seems to be safe, aside from a little water weight.
What Form Of Creatine (And How Much) Should You Take?
There are many forms of creatine on the market, including:
- Creatine monohydrate (micronized creatine) — the standard, inexpensive form found in most supplements (also the form studied in most human trials)
- Creatine hydrochloride (creatine HCL) — creatine attached to hydrochloric acid
- Liquid creatine — short shelf life, ineffective for athletic performance benefit[*]
- Buffered creatine — no more effective than monohydrate for muscle benefit[*]
- Creatine ethyl ester — creatine attached to alcohol molecule, no advantage over monohydrate[*]
- Creatine citrate (or nitrate, malate, gluconate) — these forms either have similar effects to monohydrate, or lack the research to draw any conclusions
Creatine Monohydrate is The Best Type of Creatine
There are a bunch of expensive alternatives that tout increased absorption, faster effects, and so on, but research does not back any of them up.
Creatine monohydrate is widely available and happens to be the cheapest creatine powder on the market.
When it comes to creatine dosage, you have two options. You have to build up a certain amount of creatine in your muscle before you start to see benefits. You can do that in one of two ways:
- Creatine loading phase. Take 5 grams of creatine, four times a day (20 grams/day total) for one week. After that, drop to a single 5-gram dose every morning to maintain high levels of creatine. This is the fastest way to start getting the benefits of creatine, but during the loading phase some people get headaches and feel dehydrated.
- No loading phase. You can skip the loading phase and just take 5 grams of creatine daily, right from the start. It’ll take about a month for the performance benefits to show up, but you can avoid headaches and dehydration during the loading phase[*]. You won’t see meaningful results in the short-term.
Creatine: The Bottom Line
Creatine is a safe way to build muscle, increase your endurance, and even boost brain function.
In short, creatine:
- Comes from your body (~1 g / day) and also from your diet (~1 g / day)
- Is stored in muscle as phosphorylcreatine, which buffers ATP for enhanced energy flow
- Builds strength and muscle mass, even in older adults
- Increases explosive power during short, high-intensity exercise
- May improve endurance via enhanced glycogen (useful for keto athletes)
- Boosts cognitive performance to offset sleep deprivation and cognitive aging
- No real adverse effects of creatine supplementation: it doesn’t damage the kidneys, but may increase water retention
- Is best taken as creatine monohydrate at around 5 grams per day
Creatine is one of the most reliable supplements for increasing your athletic performance. If you want to give it a try, we recommend Perfect Keto Perform.
It’s a keto sports supplement drink with creatine, branch chain amino acids, electrolytes, exogenous ketones, and other well-researched workout supplements.