The Ultimate Guide to Creatine: What It is and How to Use It

Takeaway: Creatine is an organic substance that is found in our muscle cells. Today, creatine is sold in powder form, as pills, or even as an active ingredient. Those who have a history of kidney problems or conditions like diabetes that put a risk on one’s kidneys should not take creatine. Fitness experts recommend creating a consumption cycle which entails 2 to 3 months of regular creatine intake, followed by a break before consuming creatine again.

What is creatine?

No matter what the sport, all athletes have a similar goal. They train hard to become leaner, stronger, and one step ahead of their competition. But, there’s one hurdle that is too high to overcome even for the most able-bodied athletes, and that is time.

No amount of rigorous training or diet can yield desirable results faster without the help of a power-enhancing drug or dietary supplement. There are literally hundreds of choices out there in the market today, but there’s one supplement that rises above the rest.

Today, creatine is the most talked-about dietary supplement in the sports and fitness world. It is highly recommended by training coaches, dieticians, and athletes for its effectivity and accessibility. But, what is it exactly, and is it safe for consumption? Find out the answers below.

What is Creatine? 

Creatine is an organic substance that is found in our muscle cells. It helps our bodies in producing energy whenever we are engaged in high-intensity activities or even during heavy lifting. This is primarily the reason why creatine is so popular among bodybuilders and heavy lifters as well.

Just like most amino acids, our bodies can also produce creatine naturally. In fact, creatine is formed with the help of two amino acids, arginine and glycine.

A person’s diet and lifestyle also affect the amount of creatine found in the body. Eating certain foods, particularly red meat and seafood, and regular exercise are said to increase creatine production along with other factors such as muscle mass and testosterone levels.

As a supplement, creatine is available in many varieties. The most common and perhaps the most effective type is creatine monohydrate. Today, creatine is sold in powder form, as pills, or even as an active ingredient in sports bars making it highly accessible to anyone who wants to give it a try – no prescription needed.

Six Creatine Benefits 

white powder creatine

1. Provides More Energy and Better Performance

Some of the most notable benefits of creatine intake are the energy spikes and the overall improvement in athletic performance. Consumers find that they have more power and energy to take on even more rigorous training. As a result, they feel stronger and more productive during training than without creatine consumption.

2. Speedy Recovery

Faster recovery is also another benefit of creatine. Athletes who have undergone strenuous activities find that with creatine, their bodies are able to recuperate within a shorter period of time. This is a desirable benefit, especially for those who are looking to build more muscle within a short timeframe.

3. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels

Blood sugar levels are also more manageable with the help of creatine. According to some researches, creatine can effectively lower blood sugar by supporting GLUT4 functions in the body. GLUT4, a transporter molecule, is responsible for carrying blood sugar to our muscles.

4. Encourages An Increase In Weight 

Weight gain isn’t something a lot of people wish for, but for a lot of athletes, gaining weight will give them more leverage in the sport they are engaged in. However, it’s not enough that they simply add those numbers on the weighing scale – fat should not be a cause of their weight gain.

According to studies, creatine helps increase weight without increasing fat mass – but how? It’s simple. Because creatine increases the body’s hydration levels, that added weight isn’t at all fat, but a combination of water retention and muscle growth.

5. Increases Hydration Levels 

Another prominent benefit of taking creatine is the increase in hydration levels. If you’ve read articles on the effects of creatine before, you might realize that bloating and swelling is common. However, there’s nothing to worry about as it is a short-term effect.

Creatine increases hydration levels which is great for athletes who are constantly exposed to high temperatures or for those who are prone to dehydration.

6. Enhances Neurological Functions

Surprisingly, the long and impressive benefits of creatine don’t end there. Some researches also suggest that creatine works wonders for the body’s neurological functions. Like most parts of our bodies, our brain also contains muscle. That said, creatine has proven to work wonders for one’s muscles, so there’s more reason to believe that it can do the same for our brains.

Studies propose that creatine consumption enhances brain performance while also helping the body fight against common neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy. However, it is important to note that most recent test studies have been conducted on animals only.

How Does Creatine Work?

It’s impossible to understand how creatine works in our bodies without first understanding how energy is formed and translated within our bodies. Basically, creatine works to help regenerate a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) also known as the body’s main source of energy.

ATP and creatine work hand in hand to supply us with the energy we need to take on daily activities and exercise. When creatine levels go down, so does ATP and this would dramatically decrease our productivity as well. By producing more creatine in our bodies, we are able to supply ourselves with more fuel to form ATP which will then increase our muscle strength and overall performance.

When to Take Creatine

There’s a lot of debate going on about when is the best time to take creatine. Some would suggest taking it as a pre-workout supplement while others claim that it is best as a post-workout regimen. Both parties are not wrong, and to date, there are no studies that suggest one method is better than the other.

After all, creatine is a supplement, and it can be taken at any time. It all depends on personal preference or which times work best for your body.

However, the amount and frequency of dosage should also be taken into account. One should be careful about how much and how often they consume creatine. A dosage of 5-7 grams daily seems to reap great results for those just starting out. While a daily dose of 3-5 grams is best for those who have been taking creatine for some time.

Should I Take Creatine Before or After My Workout?

Although there is no right way of taking creatine, there are some sources that suggest taking creatine half an hour before a workout and another dosage immediately after. Taking creatine during these times is said to yield better results than taking creatine at random.

Taking creatine before a workout provides the consumer with more energy and power, prepping their bodies for hard training. On the other hand, taking creatine post-workout aids the body with faster recovery. If you can’t choose one from the other, why not split the daily dosage into two instead?

Creatine FAQ

guy scooping creatine powder with creatine capsules on the table

Is Creatine Safe?

Creatine is generally safe for consumption, but like most supplements out there, it does come with a list of side effects and precautions. Muscle cramping, diarrhea, and nausea are some of the most common side effects of creatine intake. Some consumers have also reported gastrointestinal pain, dehydration, water retention, and fevers after taking creatine, along with the other adverse effects above.

There is a myriad of reasons why these side effects may occur. Our bodies are unique, and it is expected to react differently from how another person’s body would.  Normally, these side effects occur due to overconsumption or an underlying disease.

Those who have a history of kidney problems or conditions like diabetes that put a risk on one’s kidneys should not take creatine. Persons with bipolar disorder are also not recommended to consume creatine as it can potentially increase manic behavior.

Apart from conditions and diseases, it is also crucial for consumers to follow proper creatine dosages. Those who are lucky may not experience any side effect at all, except for the fact that the creatine is no longer effective for them. However, it is still better to play it on the safe side rather than potentially damaging your body.

Another thing important to note is the continuance of creatine consumption. It is said that creatine can be consumed for up to five years. Any longer than that can pose a health risk to one’s body.

Fitness experts recommend creating a consumption cycle which entails 2 to 3 months of regular creatine intake, followed by a break before consuming creatine again. But again, there is no scientific study at the moment that can back up these claims.

Also, it is also important to note that there are currently not enough studies conducted that could claim the safety of creatine in children. If you are considering giving your children a dose of creatine as support for their sports goals, it is best to seek the advice of a fitness expert or nutritionist.

Should I Take Creatine? 

Capsules filled with creatine

If you currently do not have kidney problems or any underlying disease that may put you at risk from creatine consumption, then there is nothing else holding you back. No matter if you are an athlete looking to build some muscle or an active individual with a demanding work schedule, taking creatine should not pose a problem for you or your lifestyle. If anything, it should be able to improve your performance in the gym or at work.

Today, creatine is advertised as a supplement for sports and fitness purposes. This can cause a problem healthwise because the goal is purely competition-driven and hyperfocused on muscle gain and performance enhancement. There’s little to no consideration on how it affects the overall health conditions of the body.

While it’s great to live an active lifestyle and to have a competitive spirit, it’s also important to listen to the needs of the body. Creatine should be seen as a tool that could help us physically take on everyday challenges. But, it should not tamper with normal bodily functions.

Feel free to give creatine a try for a much-needed boost in work performance. But, also give your body time to gain strength and heal on its own. After all, creatine is a supplement – not a replacement for bodily functions.

A lot of people complain about the ineffectiveness of creatine after numerous consumptions thinking that it has to do with the quality of the creatine purchased. But more often than not, it could be a sign of dependency. Your body has gotten so used to creatine that it cannot function normally without it.

However, all this can be avoided provided that you follow the right dosages and the right mindset. Approaching creatine as a supplement rather than your sole source of energy will help you yield better, long-lasting results.

Does Creatine Expire?

All commercially sold should products have an expiration date or a best-by date. In the case of creatine, its expiry dates are actually preferred consumption dates. Although creatine may be safe to consume years after your purchase, it may not be as effective as the newer ones.

That said, the longevity of creatine highly depends on how well you’ve stored your stash. As long as it is sealed properly, free from humidity, and has no signs of being inedible, it should be safe to take. However, as mentioned above, its chemical properties may have weakened and therefore may not be as effective.

Does Creatine Cause Hair Loss?

Guy checking in mirror for hair loss

Those who have considered taking creatine before are familiar with its link to hair loss. According to a recent study, creatine was responsible for the significant hair loss of its research participants. Further research shows that creatine affects the body’s DHT levels – a similar indicator to another study on hair loss among men.

That said, there is only one existing study on this issue so far while the rest of the claims are simply anecdotal. While it may be true that creatine impacts a person’s DHT levels, one must also take note of the number of creatine doses consumed in the study. As mentioned above, consuming the incorrect number of dosages may result in some side effects, and hair loss could be one of them.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here