Creatine is a natural supplement often used to improve athletic performance. It may also boost brain function, fight certain neurological diseases, and accelerate muscle growth.

Creatine is a natural supplement used to boost athletic performance (1).

It’s not only safe but also one of the world’s most popular and effective supplements for building muscle and strength (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Here are 10 science-based benefits of creatine.

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Creatine supplements increase your muscles’ phosphocreatine stores (7, 8).

Phosphocreatine aids the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the key molecule your cells use for energy and all basic life functions (8).

During exercise, ATP is broken down to produce energy.

The rate of ATP resynthesis limits your ability to continually perform at maximum intensity, as you use ATP faster than you reproduce it (9, 10).

Creatine supplements increase your phosphocreatine stores, allowing you to produce more ATP energy to fuel your muscles during high-intensity exercise (10, 11).

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

Creatine is a popular and effective supplement for adding muscle mass (1, 4).

It can alter numerous cellular pathways that lead to new muscle growth. For example, it boosts the formation of proteins that can increase the size of muscle fibers (12, 13, 14, 15, 16).

It can also raise levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone that promotes increases in muscle mass (12, 13).

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 (15, 17).

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 (18).

Creatine’s direct role in ATP production means it can drastically improve high-intensity exercise performance (1, 2, 19).

Creatine improves numerous factors, including (6, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24):

  • strength
  • ballistic power
  • sprint ability
  • muscle endurance
  • resistance to fatigue
  • muscle mass
  • recovery
  • brain performance

Unlike supplements that have been shown to primarily impact advanced athletes, creatine has been shown to provide benefits regardless of a person’s fitness level (25, 26).

One review found that it improves high-intensity exercise performance by up to 15% (2).

According to a position statement from The International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine is the world’s most effective supplement for adding muscle mass (1, 27).

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 increases in the water content of your muscles (15, 17).

Over the long term, it also aids in muscle fiber growth by signaling key biological pathways and boosting gym performance (12, 13, 14, 15, 23).

In one study of a 6-week training regimen followed by a 3-week detraining period, participants who used creatine added 4.4 pounds (2 kg) more muscle mass, on average, than the control group, who showed no gains at all (23).

Similarly, a comprehensive review demonstrated a clear increase in muscle mass among those taking creatine, compared with those performing the same training regimen without creatine (27).

Of the many popular sports supplements on the market, creatine consistently ranks among the best athletic performance supplements available. Its advantages include being relatively inexpensive and having been verified safe when compared with many other sports supplements (27).

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by reduced levels of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in your brain (8, 28).

The large reduction in dopamine levels causes brain cell death and several serious symptoms, including tremors, loss of muscle function, and speech impairments (28).

Creatine has been linked to beneficial effects in mice with Parkinson’s, preventing 90% of the typical drop in dopamine levels. However, there is no evidence that it has the same effect in humans (29).

In an attempt to treat the loss of muscle function and strength, those with Parkinson’s often weight train (30, 31).

In one study in individuals with this disease, combining creatine with weight training improved strength and daily function to a greater extent than training alone (32).

However, a recent analysis of five controlled studies in people with Parkinson’s noted that taking 4–10 grams of creatine per day didn’t significantly improve their ability to perform daily activities (33).

A key factor in several neurological diseases is a reduction of phosphocreatine in your brain (29).

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 with only 26% for control mice (34).

This restoration of phosphocreatine helped maintain daily function and reduced cell death by around 25% (34).

Research in animals suggests that taking creatine supplements may treat other diseases too, including (35, 36, 37, 38):

Creatine has also shown benefits against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a disease that affects the motor neurons that are essential for movement. It improved motor function, reduced muscle loss, and extended survival rate by 17% (39).

Although more studies are needed in humans, some researchers believe that creatine supplements can serve as a defense against neurological diseases when used alongside conventional medicines.

Research suggests that creatine supplements may lower blood sugar levels by increasing the function of glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT-4), a molecule that brings blood sugar into your muscles (40, 41, 42, 43).

A 12-week study examined how creatine affects blood sugar levels after a high carb meal. People who combined creatine and exercise exhibited better blood sugar control than those who only exercised (42).

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 (44).

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

Creatine plays an important role in brain health and function (25).

Research demonstrates that your brain requires a significant amount of ATP when performing difficult tasks (25).

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 mitochondrial function (25, 45, 46).

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 (25).

For older individuals, supplementing with creatine for 2 weeks significantly improved memory and recall ability (47).

In older adults, creatine may boost brain function, protect against neurological diseases, and reduce age-related loss of muscle and strength (48).

Despite such positive findings, more research is needed in young, healthy individuals who eat meat or fish regularly.

Creatine supplements may also reduce fatigue and tiredness (49).

In a 6-month study in people with traumatic brain injury, those who supplemented with creatine experienced a 50% reduction in dizziness, compared with those who did not supplement (49).

Furthermore, only 10% of patients in the supplement group experienced fatigue, compared with 80% in the control group (49).

Another study determined that creatine led to reduced fatigue and increased energy levels during sleep deprivation (50).

Creatine also reduced fatigue in athletes taking a cycling test and has been used to decrease fatigue when exercising in high heat (51, 52).

Along with creatine’s diverse benefits, it’s one of the cheapest and safest supplements available. You can find a wide selection online.

It has been researched for more than 200 years, and numerous studies support its safety for long-term use. Clinical trials lasting up to 5 years report no adverse effects in healthy individuals (1).

What’s more, supplementing is very easy — simply take 3–5 grams of creatine monohydrate powder per day (1, 53).

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 whether it works for you.