Creatine helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high intensity exercise. Athletes often take creatine supplements to enhance strength and improve performance, but older adults and vegetarians may also benefit.

Creatine is the top supplement for improving performance in the gym.

Studies show that it can increase muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance.

Additionally, it may help lower blood sugar and improve brain function, although more research is needed in these areas.

Some people believe that creatine is unsafe and has many side effects. However, scientific evidence does not support these claims.

This article explains everything you need to know about creatine.

Creatine is a substance found naturally in muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high intensity exercise.

Why use creatine?

Taking creatine as a supplement is very popular among athletes and bodybuilders. They use it to gain muscle, enhance strength, and improve exercise performance.

Chemically speaking, creatine shares many similarities with amino acids, important compounds in the body that help build protein. Your body can produce creatine from the amino acids glycine and arginine.

About half of your body’s creatine stores come from the food you eat, especially red meat and seafood. The rest is made in your liver and kidneys from amino acids.

Where is creatine phosphate found in the body?

About 95% of the body’s creatine is stored in the muscles, mainly in the form of phosphocreatine. The other 5% is found in the brain and testes.

When you supplement, you increase your stores of phosphocreatine. This is a form of stored energy in the cells. It helps your body produce more of a high energy molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

ATP is often called the body’s energy currency. When you have more ATP, your body can perform better during exercise.

Creatine also alters several cellular processes that lead to increased muscle mass, strength, and recovery.


Creatine is a substance found naturally in your body — particularly in muscle cells. Athletes commonly take it as a supplement.

Creatine can improve health and athletic performance in several ways.

In high intensity exercise, its primary role is to increase the phosphocreatine stores in your muscles.

Your body can then use the additional stores to produce more ATP, the key energy source for heavy lifting and high intensity exercise.

Creatine also helps you gain muscle in the following ways:

  • Boosted workload: It enables more total work or volume in a single training session, a key factor in long-term muscle growth.
  • Improved cell signaling: It can increase satellite cell signaling, which aids muscle repair and new muscle growth.
  • Raised anabolic hormones: Studies note a rise in hormones, such as IGF-1, after taking creatine.
  • Increased cell hydration: Creatine lifts water content within your muscle cells, which causes a cell volumization effect that may play a role in muscle growth.
  • Reduced protein breakdown: It may increase total muscle mass by reducing muscle breakdown.
  • Lower myostatin levels: Elevated levels of the protein myostatin can slow or inhibit new muscle growth. Supplementing with creatine can reduce myostatin levels, increasing growth potential.

Creatine supplements also increase phosphocreatine stores in your brain, which may promote brain health and improve symptoms of neurological disease.


Creatine gives your muscles more energy and leads to changes in cell function that increase muscle growth.

Creatine is effective for both short- and long-term muscle growth. It assists many people, including people with sedentary lifestyles, older adults, and elite athletes.

A 2022 review found creatine supplements were effective in building muscle in healthy young adults. A 2019 review also concluded that creatine, with or without resistance training, can improve muscle mass and strength in older adults. It can also help reduce the potential for falls.

Some older studies found that creatine increased muscle fiber growth 2–3 times more than training alone. Recent studies have produced more modest results.

Still, a large review of the most popular supplements selected creatine as the single most effective supplement for adding muscle mass.


Supplementing with creatine can result in significant increases in muscle mass. This applies to both untrained individuals and elite athletes.

Creatine can also improve strength, power, and high intensity exercise performance.

Various studies have found that creatine can:

These noticeable improvements are primarily caused by your body’s increased capacity to produce ATP.

Normally, ATP becomes depleted after up to 10 seconds of high intensity activity. But because creatine supplements help you produce more ATP, you can maintain optimal performance for a few seconds longer.


Creatine is one of the best supplements for improving strength and high intensity exercise performance. It works by increasing your capacity to produce ATP energy.

Like your muscles, your brain stores phosphocreatine and requires plenty of ATP for optimal function.

Preclinical studies (mostly on animals) suggest that creatine supplementation may help treat:

Human studies suggest that creatine can also aid other groups as well.

In a 2020 review, creatine supplements improved brain function in vegetarians. Vegetarians tend to have low creatine stores because they don’t eat meat, which is the main natural dietary source.

Even in healthy adults, creatine supplementation may improve short-term memory and intelligence. This effect may be strongest in older adults.


Creatine may reduce symptoms and slow the progression of some neurological diseases, although more research in humans is needed.

Research also indicates that creatine may:

However, more research in these areas is needed.


Early research suggests that creatine might help treat high blood sugar, fatty liver disease, and heart disease.

The most common and well-researched supplement form is called creatine monohydrate.

Many other forms are available, some of which are promoted as superior, though evidence to this effect is lacking.

Creatine monohydrate is very cheap and is supported by hundreds of studies. Until new research claims otherwise, it seems to be the best option.


The best form of creatine you can take is called creatine monohydrate, which has been used and studied for decades.

Many people who supplement start with a loading phase, which leads to a rapid increase in muscle stores of creatine.

To load with creatine, take 20 grams (g) per day for 5–7 days. Split this into four 5-gram servings throughout the day.

Eating a carb- or protein-based meal may help your body absorb the creatine.

Following the loading period, take 3–5 g per day to maintain high levels within your muscles. As there is no benefit to cycling creatine, you can stick with this dosage for a long time.

If you choose not to do the loading phase, you can simply consume 3–5 g per day. However, it may take 4 weeks to maximize your stores.

Since creatine pulls water into your muscle cells, it is advisable to take it with a glass of water and stay well hydrated throughout the day.


To load with creatine, take 5 g four times per day for 5–7 days. Then take 3–5 g per day to maintain levels.

Creatine is one of the most well-researched supplements available, and studies lasting up to 4 years reveal no negative effects.

There is also no evidence that creatine harms the liver and kidneys in healthy people who take standard doses. That said, people with preexisting liver or kidney concerns should consult a doctor before supplementing.

Although people associate creatine with dehydration and cramps, research doesn’t support this link. Studies suggest it can reduce cramps and dehydration during endurance exercise in high heat.

One 2009 study linked creatine supplements with an increase in a hormone called DHT, which can contribute to hair loss. But most available research does not support this link.


Creatine exhibits no harmful side effects. Though it’s commonly believed to cause dehydration and cramps, studies don’t support this.

What does creatine do for you?

Creatine is a leading supplement used for improving athletic performance. It may help boost muscle mass, strength, and exercise efficiency. It may also reduce blood sugar and improve brain function, but more research is needed in these areas to verify these benefits.

Is creatine good or bad for you?

Creatine is one of the world’s most tested supplements and has an outstanding safety profile.

Does creatine work for women?

Research from 2021 has found that creatine supplementation may be beneficial for women across many life stages by helping support both the muscles and the brain. When combined with resistance training, creatine may help improve body composition and bone density in post-menopausal women.

Earlier 2016 research suggested that creatine may not be as effective in women compared to men due to physiological and hormonal differences. But newer research seems to suggest there are still plenty of benefits for women. According to a 2020 study, creatine also doesn’t appear to cause significant side effects in women as long as it’s taken in the recommended dose. More research is needed on larger doses.

Browse Healthline’s picks of the best creatine for women.

How long does it take for creatine to work?

The effects of creatine are noticeable in as little as 2 weeks. Without a loading phase, it may take you up to 4 weeks to observe the effects.

Are there any side effects of creatine?

A 2018 study noted that taking up to 30 g per day (well above the standard dosage) of creatine did not have adverse effects on the kidneys of healthy people.

Still, the researchers cautioned that it might be safest for people with pre-existing kidney disease to not use creatine because taking it could metabolize into methylamine and formaldehyde, which could be toxic to the kidneys with pre-existing conditions. That said, this is a precaution, and there’s no evidence of an actual harmful effect.

Creatine is one of the cheapest, most effective, and safest supplements you can take.

It supports quality of life in older adults, brain health, and exercise performance. Vegetarians — who may not obtain enough creatine from their diet — and older adults may find supplementing particularly useful.

Creatine monohydrate is likely the best form if you’re interested in trying creatine to see if it works for you.