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What Are the Benefits of Creatine?

People who want to increase muscle mass often use supplements that contain creatine.
Creatine powder is popular among athletes looking to boost endurance.
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  • Written By: Katie Walley-Wiegert
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2014
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Increased energy, faster muscle growth as well as many other positive-health effects are a few of the primary benefits of creatine. Though the body naturally produces creatine and certain foods provide creatine, some people turn to a creatine supplement — creatine monohydrate — to increase their creatine levels. Athletes, older adults, vegetarians, and those recovering from injuries may be interested in increasing their creatine levels for any number of the benefits it provides. Taking creatine supplements, however, is generally a decision that should be made with the advice of a health care professional.

One of the main benefits of creatine is increased energy. Creatine provides much needed energy to the muscles for sharp and explosive movements. The energy boost enables increased stamina, so a person can endure longer, more intense workouts. This is achieved when creatine enters the muscle and combines with phosphate to become creatine phosphate. That creatine phosphate is stored for cellular energy prouction. Even for those new to working out or strength training, the creatine-induced energy boost makes higher weight loads manageable and provides increased ease when implementing new workout routines.

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For those looking to either increase muscle size or gain weight, creatine may help. Creatine supplements can result in both an increase in muscle mass and density. Some studies suggest that this is because the organic acid can absorb intracellular water. The increase in size might also be a result of muscle swelling caused by an increase in protein synthesis and oxygen uptake by the muscle tissue. Muscle swelling and weight gain are not the outcome of taking creatine supplements alone, however; they are a combination of supplementation with regular workout routine, particularly routines that include weight lifting.

In addition to the more workout or body-building benefits of increased energy and increased mass, creatine also provides a variety of more general health benefits. One such benefit includes lowering cholesterol. In conjunction with regular exercise, creatine has been reported to help reduce the risk of heart disease by increasing the ratio of good cholesterol — high-density lipoproteins (HDL) — to bad cholesterol — low density lipoproteins (LDL).

Aside from athletes looking to improve athletic performance, the benefits of creatine can serve a diverse audience. Older adults may benefit from creatine because of the additional energy and improved brain performance it provides. Vegetarians, vegans and those that don't eat a lot of meat might be interested in taking creatine supplements since creatine is naturally found in animal-based foods.

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Discuss this Article

Sinbad
Post 10

Since I am a women with a pretty small frame, being extremely muscular is just not something I have ever wanted to be. I do love to work out and eat healthy though. I also love to be energetic, but it seems like I am not as energetic as I once was.

I am in my late twenties, and have already noticed my energy waning more than it used to. Is there a herbal supplement that focuses solely on raising energy levels? Caffeine does not seem to give me an extra boost, and it sometimes gives me stomach cramps, so I try to avoid caffeine as much as possible.

tolleranza
Post 9

What makes me feel like creatine is okay, is honestly because it is one of few *non* banned supplements in the National Football League (NFL) and in Major League Baseball (MLB).

I personally have taken whey protein to help create more muscle when I was doing weight bearing or weight lifting exercises to help make sure I was getting enough protein, but being female I never felt the need to bulk up enough, which is what I thought would happen if I took creatine!

golf07
Post 8

I think I should start taking some kind of creatine supplement. I don't consider myself a vegetarian, but don't eat much meat.

I just don't care for the taste of meat, and am looking for other ways to get protein in my diet. I know getting enough protein is essential for energy, and wonder if I added some creatine if I would see an increase in energy.

I went online to do some comparisons looking for the best creatine supplement, but felt overwhelmed with all the choices. I wonder if some work better than others, or if I should talk to someone at a health food store before I buy one.

andee
Post 7

My son stays very physically fit and often works out with a personal trainer. Even when he is on vacation, he takes the time to get in his workouts.

He is interested in building more muscle and bulk and added a creatine monohydrate powder to his regimen. He also drinks protein drinks and is very careful about what he eats.

His efforts pay off because he looks great and has a lot of energy. I don't think I would be that disciplined to do all the strength training, but the increased energy would be really nice.

lighth0se33
Post 6

I take creatine supplements so that I have enough energy to exercise at all. My energy level has declined with age, so I need the extra boost to be able to do my workout. I can now lift weights again, and I can add intensity to my walks by running in short bursts.

What’s weird about creatine is that it affects certain people differently. People like my brother, who eat mostly meat, are often unaffected by it, since they are already getting plenty of creatine in their diets. However, my vegetarian friend noticed a huge difference after taking it. I eat a balanced diet, and I also felt a change in my energy level right away.

seag47
Post 5

I have kidney disease, so I know a little about natural creatine. I can never take the supplements because of my condition, but my brother takes them, and he has seen incredible results. He is in perfect health, though.

Creatine gets converted into creatinine by the body each day. Creatinine is a waste product, and the kidneys have to filter it out of the blood. It then gets eliminated through urine.

My doctor has to check my creatinine levels every year, because if the levels are high, then that means my kidney function is declining. It’s already below normal, which is common for people with my condition.

If I were to take creatine supplements, I would put a strain on my already damaged kidneys to get rid of all the extra creatinine that would be produced. So, I have come to accept the fact that my brother will always be more muscular than I.

wavy58
Post 4

I have read that taking creatine can cause the body to quit manufacturing it naturally. This surely cannot be good, because what happens if you stop taking the supplements? Can you trust that your body will start making it again?

I would like to gain muscle mass, but I just don’t think that messing with my body’s internal factory is worth it. If I can’t get buff on my own, then I will just remain lean for the rest of my life.

I have also read that creatine can affect your kidneys. I don’t want to risk irreversible damage and have to have a transplant.

StarJo
Post 3

@chivebasil - I don’t take creatine supplements anymore, because I experienced painful muscle cramps and diarrhea while taking it. These are two of the side effects that can occur.

Also, some people have had heart issues and kidney damage from taking it. Some have become dehydrated. I think the most common problem is muscle tears, though.

People think that because they have that extra burst of power, they can intensify their workout without problems. They overexert themselves and wind up pulling or tearing a muscle.

I’m pretty sure that kidney damage and heart damage are rare symptoms, but they are possible. It’s just a risk you take if you use these supplements. To some people, the risk is worth the muscle gain.

chivebasil
Post 2

I would like to start taking creatine, but when I went to the supplement store I was kind of overwhelmed by my choices. All of them make so many scientific claims and the prices vary widely. So, I am wondering if someone can recommend the best creatine supplement for a young soccer player? I am not trying to get huge, just gain an edge.

Also, I have heard rumblings about possible negative health effects. Is it dangerous to take this stuff? How dangerous? Will it do any lasting damage to my body or my performance?

Ivan83
Post 1

I played football in high school and we were one of the perennial powerhouses. We made it to the state championship two of the years I played.

In a school like that there was a lot of pressure to be athletic. When I first got to school I was not scrawny but I was not a big guy by any means. But my first semester I started hitting the gym. After a few weeks one of my friends recommended that I start taking creatine. I did and kept working out and by the end of the year I had added about 15 pounds of muscle. Bye the end of high school I was about 30 pounds bigger than when I started and all muscle. I think the creatine really worked.

I know that people have warned about health risks but I never had any problems. Mostly I felt like I could work out longer and recover from injuries faster. I would recommend it to any young athlete.

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