We often look for ways to make our bodies work smarter when we exercise. Whether it’s to improve our physical stamina, avoid injury, or build muscle, we want some extra help.

Creatine helps energize muscles and provides a supportive boost. The body creates creatine naturally but creatine supplements have been around for many years and are very popular with athletes. Sales of creatine are around $400 million per year.

Creatine in your body

Creatine is a type of amino acid found mostly in skeletal muscles. It’s made in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Two-thirds of it is stored in muscles as phosphocreatine.

Alcohol, on the other hand, has the opposite effect on muscles. Exercise soon after drinking can cause muscle injury and slow muscle recovery. So, drinking alcohol might undo some of the muscle-building benefits of creatine.

Let’s take a closer look at creatine and alcohol and what role they play in muscle building.

Think of creatine as a power cycle. When your muscles need energy, creatine provides that fuel for quick, powerful movements. When muscles use up the stored energy, you need more creatine to keep powering your muscles.

Exercises, such as resistance training, causes small tears or injury to the muscle fibers. Satellite cells are then activated to repair and build new muscle during rest periods — up to a day or two after you exercise.

Muscles can grow in different ways. Amino acids, hormones, and a healthy diet all help build muscle.

Creatine builds muscle by:

  • drawing water into muscles
  • growing muscle fibers
  • slowing muscle breakdown

Typically, your body needs one to three grams of creatine every day to replace what you lose.

Most people eat seafood and meat to reload or build their stored energy. You can also take creatine supplements to build up your levels.

Adding creatine may also prevent muscle degeneration as you age and can be helpful for people who don’t produce creatine on their own.

Creatine is known as an ergogenic support tool, or performance booster, that’s popular with athletes.

These tools can be devices, nutritional supplements, drug therapy, or psychological practices to help boost abilities or improve training endurance.

Training or doing high-intensity exercise causes faster burning of creatine. Supplements may help with stamina, strength, and recovery.

Athletes and body builders often use creatine supplements to boost endurance. Creatine helps provide short bursts of energy to power up performance.

Creatine may have other benefits which are being studied, including improving brain functions like memory and recall. Creatine might also support your immune system.

Creatine supplements can be useful:

  • during high-intensity training or exercise
  • to prevent loss of muscle mass from aging
  • for muscle-related conditions and brain function
  • for vegetarians and vegans who don’t get enough protein from their diet

Alcohol has a negative effect on coordination and muscle movement

Animal studies indicate alcohol can slow the movement of calcium into muscles. This effects muscle contraction. More studies are needed to confirm these effects on humans.

Alcohol decreases your ability to get nutrients

To build muscle, your body needs fuel in the form of added nutrition during exercise.

Alcohol can slow your body’s absorption of nutrients, including protein and amino acids. This has a negative effect on how your muscles react to exercise. Muscles can become prone to injury and are slower to recover after exercise.

Alcohol makes creatine supplementation less effective

Drinking alcohol reduces creatine’s benefits of building muscle and helping with endurance and recovery.

This happens because:

  • Alcohol takes water away. Alcohol pulls water from tissues and acts as a diuretic, causing dehydration, muscle cramping, and pain.
  • Creatine can’t pull in water that’s not there. Creatine pulls water into your cells to build up muscles after exercise, so if you’re dehydrated, creatine can’t provide your muscles with power.
  • Alcohol directly impacts the organs that make creatine. Regular heavy drinking can damage your muscles, liver, and kidneys. Since creatine is made and used by these organs, alcohol misuse can slowly weaken your body.

If you’re thinking about trying or currently using creatine supplements, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • You need around three to five grams of creatine every day to boost performance — most people can get this from their diet.
  • Athletes typically take loading doses of 20 grams of creatine over five days to build up phosphocreatine in the muscles before training. This might cause side effects like cramping, diarrhea, or nausea. To avoid these side effects, you can take smaller amounts (3 grams) over a longer time frame.
  • Creatine might be beneficial if you’re vegetarian and not getting enough protein in your diet.
  • You don’t need to be an elite athlete to improve your exercise benefits with the help of creatine.
  • It’s essential to drink plenty of water when taking creatine to get the most out of the supplements.
  • Creatine might make you gain some weight from the water pulled into your muscles.
  • Avoid taking creatine with alcohol or caffeine since they’re both diuretics that can cause dehydration.
  • If you have kidney or liver disease, talk with your doctor before taking creatine.
  • Creatine supplements come in different varieties, but creatine monohydrate has the most research backing its safety and effectiveness.
  • Creatine works best when taken with easy-to-digest carbohydrates and proteins to quickly provide muscle boost during activity.
  • Creatine doesn’t work for everyone. You can try it out to see if you get the results you’re looking for.

Creatine can provide an energy boost for high-intensity exercise or training and help build muscle. It’s been used safely for many years by athletes to improve performance.

Alcohol can curb the beneficial effects of creatine because it has some opposite effects on muscles and cells. Alcohol is fine in moderation but avoid drinking on days you exercise so your muscles can benefit from creatine supplements.

Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist to help you choose a reputable creatine monohydrate brand with potency and purity guarantees. Dietary supplements like creatine are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and quality can vary among brands.