Creatine is an effective and popular sports supplement. In sports and bodybuilding, research has shown that creatine can boost muscle mass, strength, and high intensity exercise performance (1, 2). What’s more, creatine may offer other benefits for your body and brain. For example, it may help fight neurological diseases and improve brain function in some people (3, 4, 5). It also appears safe for most people to use, with no serious side effects (6). Here are 10 graphs that show the power of creatine.

1. Increases phosphocreatine stores

Source: Hultman E, et al. Muscle Creatine Loading in Men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 1996. To provide benefits, creatine supplements must raise your body’s phosphocreatine stores (2). Your body stores phosphocreatine in your muscles, brain, and other organs. When necessary, the body uses creatine to produce extra adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy (2, 7). Greater phosphocreatine stores in the brain may also help manage the symptoms of some neurological diseases and conditions that affect the ability to think. As you age, your phosphocreatine stores can decline. This can also happen when you have difficulty sleeping. Those who follow a plant-based diet may also have low levels of phosphocreatine, as meat is a key source of creatine (2, 8, 9). As the graph above shows, the average person will increase their phosphocreatine stores by around 20% after taking 20 grams of creatine a day for 6 days (10). However, those who already have higher levels of creatine may not experience a significant increase in their stores. For these people, supplements may provide little or no benefit.
Summary Creatine supplements increase the body’s phosphocreatine stores by around 20%, providing numerous health and performance benefits.

2. Can double muscle mass

Source: Steven L, et al. Effect of dietary supplements on lean mass and strength gains with resistance exercise: a meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Physiology, 1985. Combined with weight training, creatine can add muscle mass and improve exercise performance (1, 7). These benefits occur via several processes, including changes in muscle cells, hormones, and other biological functions (11, 12, 13). One review analyzed over 250 studies on sports supplements. As shown in the graph, adding creatine more than doubled the amount of muscle that participants gained per week, compared with training alone (1).
Summary Creatine is the best legal supplement for adding muscle. Several studies show it can double muscle growth, compared with training alone.

3. Increases muscle fiber size

Source: Volek JS, et al. Performance and muscle fiber adaptations to creatine supplementation and heavy resistance training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1999. In addition to increasing the water content of muscles, at least one study has found that creatine can boost muscle fiber size when combined with training (14). As the graph above shows, the addition of creatine increased muscle fiber growth by up to 300%, compared with training alone. After 12 weeks, the study also found that total body mass gain doubled, and bench press and squats improved by 8% more than they did with training alone.
Summary Creatine supplements can help boost muscle fiber size and water content within muscles.

4. Improves weight training performance

Source: Earnest CP, et al. The effect of creatine monohydrate ingestion on anaerobic power indices, muscular strength and body composition. The Journal of Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 1995. Creatine plays a key role in the production of ATP, which is important for short and high intensity exercise like weight lifting (2, 15, 16). It can also improve biological processes that help the body develop strength (11, 12, 13). As the graph above shows, one study found that combining creatine supplements with weight training led to a large increase in bench press strength (17). Numerous other studies and literature reviews have confirmed these findings, with average improvements ranging from 5–10% (1, 18, 19). In addition to increased strength, members of the supplement group in this study increased their number of repetitions from 11 to 15 when benching at 70% of 1 repetition max. This higher repetition count plays a major role in new muscle growth (20).
Summary When combined with weight training, creatine can further boost strength and weight training performance.

5. May increase sprint performance

Source: Mujika I, et al. Creatine supplementation and sprint performance in soccer players. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 2000. As is the case with strength training, high intensity sprints utilize the ATP energy system for fuel (16). Studies have found that creatine can boost sprint performance (21, 22). In the study above, highly trained soccer players took 20 grams of a creatine supplement for 6 days. The dosage was four 5-gram servings per day (23). As the graph shows, 15-meter sprint times fell after only 6 days of taking creatine. Creatine also improved recovery and helped the athletes maintain jumping performance (23). Although numerous studies show that creatine benefits sprint performance, it’s worth noting that several studies have found no benefit at all (24, 25, 26).
Summary Creatine can boost all aspects of high intensity exercise, including sprint performance.

6. Reduces cognitive decline older people

Source: McMorris T, et al. Creatine supplementation and cognitive performance in elderly individuals. Journal of Neuropsychology, Development and Cognition, 2007. Creatine supplements may help you maintain muscle mass, strength, and brain function as you age (27, 28, 29). According to the study that produced this graph, older people scored significantly higher on long-term memory tests after 2 weeks of supplementing with creatine. They also scored higher on immediate memory recall and intelligence tests (28).
Summary Creatine stores decline with age, but supplements can restore these levels and might boost memory and intelligence in older people.

7. Improves cognitive function

Source: Rae C, et al. Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Journal of Biological Sciences, 2003. Creatine supplements can improve brain function among those with low creatine levels. People who follow a plant-based diet often have lower levels of creatine because they do not eat meat, the main dietary source of creatine. In this study, people followed a vegetarian diet and took 5 grams of creatine per day for 6 weeks (30). As the graph shows, those who took the supplement scored significantly higher on both memory and intelligence tests than those who did not. Blood tests also showed that the participants’ creatine levels rose as a result of supplementation. Other studies have focused on adults with normal creatine levels. Results showed fewer or no additional benefits (8, 31).
Summary Supplements may boost memory and reasoning skills in those at risk of low creatine levels due to their diet.

8. Reduces side effects of traumatic brain injuries

Source: Sakellaris G, et al. Prevention of traumatic headache, dizziness and fatigue with creatine administration. A pilot study. Journal of Acta Paediatrica, 2007. Creatine may boost recovery after a concussion or brain injury (32, 33, 34). In one study, 39 children who had experienced a traumatic brain injury took either creatine supplements or no supplements for 6 months. As the graph shows, the incidence of fatigue, dizziness, and headaches fell drastically in the group that took the supplements (35). This may be due to an increase in the brain’s phosphocreatine stores and maintenance of normal ATP levels, both of which can decline after a traumatic brain injury. More research is needed to confirm the use of creatine in treating traumatic brain injuries.
Summary Initial research suggests that creatine can significantly reduce the adverse effects of traumatic brain injury.

9. May slow the progression of Parkinson’s

Source: Matthews RT, et al. Creatine and cyclocreatine attenuate MPTP neurotoxicity. Journal of Experimental Neurology, 1999. Parkinson’s disease can happen when levels of a neurotransmitter called dopamine declines. Dopamine has many key functions within the brain (36). One study in mice suggests that creatine supplements may slow the progression of the disease by slowing the decline of dopamine levels (37). As the graph shows, the non-supplement group experienced a drastic decline in dopamine levels, while the creatine group had only minor reductions (37). Although these results are promising, research has not confirmed the same effects in humans. In fact, one study in people with Parkinson’s disease showed that taking 10 grams of creatine daily for at least 5 years did not improve symptoms or clinical outcomes (38).
Summary In mice, creatine supplements can help maintain normal dopamine levels and reduce the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Studies have not confirmed these findings in humans.

10. May help lower blood sugar levels

Source: Gualanob B, et al. Effects of creatine supplementation on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity in sedentary healthy males undergoing aerobic training. Journal of Amino Acids, 2008. Blood sugar levels following a meal are a good indicator of health. They can help determine risk factors for many diseases, such as heart disease (40, 41). Some early research has suggested that creatine may lower blood sugar levels. This study looked at how a combination of creatine and aerobic exercise affected blood sugar levels (39). The study involved 22 healthy individuals, who took either 10 grams of creatine or a placebo for 3 months. All the participants did moderate aerobic training. As the graph shows, the improvements in blood sugar response to a high carb meal were greater in those who took creatine than in those who took the placebo (39).
Summary Creatine supplements may help reduce blood sugar levels after a meal, especially when combined with exercise.

The bottom line

Research suggests that creatine offers powerful benefits, including improved exercise performance and accelerated muscle growth, among several other benefits.