Creatine supplies energy to your muscles. Many people take creatine supplements to build strength and promote brain health. Creatine supplements are safe for most people to take, but you should first talk to a healthcare provider to ensure they’re right for you.
Creatine is a natural source of energy that helps your skeletal muscles flex (contract). It helps create a steady supply of energy in your muscles so they can keep working, especially while you’re exercising.
About half of your body’s supply of creatine (1 to 2 grams/day, about the size of 1 to 2 jellybeans) comes from your diet, especially protein-rich foods such as:
Your body produces the other half naturally in your liver, kidneys and pancreas. They deliver about 95% of the creatine to your skeletal muscles to use during physical activity. The rest goes to your heart, brain and other tissues.
Manufacturers also make creatine supplements. Some people take creatine supplements because they work out a lot or don’t get enough creatine in their diet. Creatine supplements exist as:
Studies show that it’s safe for many people to take creatine supplements. However, there isn’t enough evidence to know if it’s safe if you:
Talk to a healthcare provider before taking creatine to ensure it’s safe for you.
It depends. Studies show that regularly taking creatine, weightlifting and exercising can help increase muscle growth in people 18 to 30 years old. However, there isn’t enough research to say that creatine helps develop muscle growth in people older than 65 or people with diseases that affect their muscles.
Many amateur and professional athletes take creatine supplements to aid their workout routines and improve their recovery. Creatine creates “quick burst” energy and increased strength, which improves your performance without affecting your ability to exercise for longer periods (aerobic endurance).
Most athletes who take creatine supplements participate in power sports, including:
In addition, studies suggest that creatine supplements may help brain function in people 60 and older. This includes:
Researchers are still studying whether creatine supplements may help people with cognitive (mental) conditions, including dementia.
Talk to a healthcare provider before taking creatine supplements, regardless of your level of physical fitness, age or health.
Many athletes use creatine supplements. Professional sports organizations, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) all allow athletes to use creatine supplements.
Men and women and people assigned male or female at birth (AMAB or AFAB) report benefits to using creatine. But some studies note that women and people AFAB who take creatine supplements may not gain as much strength or muscle mass as men and people AMAB.
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The most common creatine supplement is creatine monohydrate. It’s a dietary supplement that increases muscle performance in short-duration, high-intensity resistance exercises, such as weightlifting, sprinting and bicycling. Other forms of creatine don’t appear to have these benefits.
Most creatine goes to your skeletal muscles, which convert creatine into a compound of creatine and phosphoric acid (phosphocreatine or creatine phosphate). Phosphocreatine then helps create adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a source of energy that your cells use when you exercise. So, creatine helps maintain a continuous energy supply to your muscles during intense lifting or exercise.
In addition to providing more energy and helping to increase muscle growth, creatine helps:
Creatine can also increase the amount of phosphocreatine in your brain, which may help with your memory.
Your body is unique, and how much creatine you take and how often you take it depends on many factors. Before you take creatine, talk to a healthcare provider. They can help determine if it’s safe for you to take creatine, as well as the appropriate dosage.
When you stop taking creatine, your creatine levels will gradually drop over the next few weeks. Your body will still make creatine naturally, but you may have side effects as you adjust to lower creatine levels. These side effects may include:
You should be able to maintain any added strength through regular exercise, but you likely won’t see continued improvement.
For people who work out regularly, studies show that taking creatine supplements may:
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you may see more significant muscle gains by taking creatine supplements because you don’t get creatine through animal-based sources. However, building up creatine levels in your muscles may take longer.
In addition to its athletic benefits, creatine supplements may benefit people who have:
It depends on your exercise routine. But some studies show that people who take creatine supplements may gain an extra two to four pounds of muscle mass during four to 12 weeks of regular exercise than people who don’t take creatine.
If you continue to take creatine, exercise and eat the best foods to fuel your workout, you should be able to maintain the strength you gain from taking creatine.
Creatine is a relatively safe supplement. However, side effects may include:
If you develop any of these side effects after taking creatine, divide the amount you take each day into smaller doses. Take these smaller doses throughout the day instead of all at once.
Talk to a healthcare provider before you take creatine. They’ll likely conduct a physical examination and ask questions, including:
They’ll recommend the best creatine supplement and dosage for you.
It’s also a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider if you have side effects after taking creatine.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Creatine is a compound that your body naturally makes, and you also get it from protein-rich foods. It supplies energy to your muscles and may also promote brain health. Many people take creatine supplements to increase strength, improve performance and help keep their minds sharp. There’s a lot of research on creatine, and creatine supplements are safe for most people to take. However, creatine use may cause side effects. If you’re thinking of taking creatine, talk to a healthcare provider. They’ll help you understand if creatine is right for you.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/26/2023.
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