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Creatine is one of the most widely studied and researched supplements in the fitness industry. Often touted for its muscle-building properties, creatine’s benefits extend far beyond just adding size. Creatine’s popularity also stems from other benefits including increased strength and power, enhanced recovery, and improved cognitive function. In this guide we will provide a comprehensive overview of creatine supplementation, including the mechanisms of action potential benefits, and optimal strategies for use.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in small amounts in certain foods such as meat, fish, and poultry, and it is also synthesised by the body. It is stored primarily in the muscles, where it plays a crucial role in energy production. The body converts creatine into phosphocreatine, which then aids in the regeneration of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy carrier in cells. 

How Creatine Works

Creatine enhances the body’s ability to produce energy rapidly. During high-intensity, short-duration exercises like weightlifting or sprinting, the body relies on ATP for energy. However, ATP stores are limited and deplete quickly. ATP can be replenished through other methods, but using creatine phosphate provides a much faster method of replenishing ATP, thus allowing for sustained performance during high intensity exercise.

Benefits of Creatine Supplementation

Increased Strength and Power

Numerous studies have demonstrated that creatine supplementation significantly improves strength and power output, and these findings have been replicated across a range of populations including trained and untrained men and women, as well as athletes. These increases are attributable to both increases in phosphocreatine concentrations, as well as accelerations in recovery which allows for increased work output during training, thus leading to greater strength gains. The magnitude of the increase in strength and power may be dependent on numerous variables including the dosing regimen, training status, and intensity and duration of exercise, and performance increases of 10-15% are typically observed (Wax et al., 2021).

Increased Muscle Mass

Supplementing with creatine is also well known for improving muscle hypertrophy. Increasing phosphocreatine stores allows for individuals to train with higher volumes which in turn may lead to more muscle growth. Creatine may also lead to cell swelling as a result of increased water retention, and this may activate protein synthesis within muscle fibres (Chilibeck et al., 2017).

Improved Recovery

There is some evidence that suggests that creatine may help athletes with recovery from intense training. Co-ingesting creatine with carbohydrates and protein may enhance creatine and carbohydrate storage in muscle, aiding with recovery and maintenance of optimal glycogen levels. Additionally, reduced muscle damage has been reported following creatine supplementation, as well as improved muscle force recovery. Supplementing with creatine may also be beneficial for athletes undergoing a period of intense training, as creatine allows individuals to tolerate higher training volumes without sacrificing their performance output (Kreider et al., 2017).

Enhanced Cognitive Function

Creatine supplementation has been shown to offer cognitive performance benefits. Research suggests that creatine enhances cognitive function by increasing the availability of energy in the brain, particularly in tasks requiring short-term memory and quick thinking. Additionally, creatine has been observed to reduce mental fatigue during demanding cognitive tasks, making it a valuable supplement for those seeking to improve their cognitive abilities in both academic and professional settings (Dolan et al., 2019).

How To Use Creatine


The most effective way to increase muscle creatine stores is to undergo an initial loading phase of ingesting 5 g, four times per day (20 g total per day) for 5-7 days. Once muscle creatine stores have been fully saturated, stores can be maintained by ingesting 3-5 g per day, although larger individuals may require between 5-10 g per day. 

Creatine can be taken any time of day, and cycling off of creatine is not necessary to maintain its effectiveness.

Types of Creatine
  • Creatine Monohydrate – this is the most studied and widely used form of creatine. This is the gold standard and also the most cost effective option.
  • Creatine Hydrochloride (Creatine HCL) – this is a newer form of creatine that is claimed to be more soluble in water and easier to absorb than creatine monohydrate. This may be beneficial for people who experience stomach upset with creatine monohydrate. However, more research is needed to confirm these claims.
  • Micronised Creatine – this is simply creatine monohydrate that has been ground into a finer powder. This makes it easier to mix with water and may improve absorption. However, the difference between micronized creatine and regular creatine monohydrate is likely small.
  • Creatine Anhydrous – this form of creatine is about 99% creatine, whereas creatine monohydrate is about 90% creatine. This means you’d need to take a slightly smaller dose of creatine anhydrous to get the same amount of creatine as creatine monohydrate. However, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that creatine anhydrous is more effective than creatine monohydrate
Potential Side Effects

Creatine is generally considered safe for most healthy adults when taken at recommended doses. However, there can be some potential side effects to be aware of:

  • Dehydration – creatine pulls water into your muscles, so it’s important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to avoid dehydration. This is especially important during exercise.
  • Stomach upset – some people experience digestive issues like nausea, diarrhoea, and stomach cramps, particularly when taking high doses or starting creatine use. This can often be minimised by taking creatine with food or splitting your dose into smaller amounts throughout the day.
  • Muscle cramps – creatine may increase your risk of muscle cramps, especially if you’re not properly hydrated. Make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes like sodium and potassium, which can help prevent cramps.
  • Weight gain – creatine helps your muscles pull in water, which can lead to a slight increase in body weight. However, this is typically due to increased muscle mass and water retention, not fat gain.


Creatine supplementation offers a compelling range of benefits for athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike. From its well-established ability to increase strength, power, and muscle mass, to its emerging role in enhancing recovery and cognitive function, creatine can be a valuable tool to optimise your training and performance. With creatine being one of the few supplements that is backed by scientific evidence, it should be seriously considered over other supplements on the market.


Chilibeck, P.D., Kaviani, M., Candow, D.G. and Zello, G.A., 2017. Effect of creatine supplementation during resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscular strength in older adults: a meta-analysis. Open access journal of sports medicine, pp.213-226.


Kreider, R.B., Kalman, D.S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T.N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., Candow, D.G., Kleiner, S.M., Almada, A.L. and Lopez, H.L., 2017. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1), p.18.


Wax, B., Kerksick, C.M., Jagim, A.R., Mayo, J.J., Lyons, B.C. and Kreider, R.B., 2021. Creatine for exercise and sports performance, with recovery considerations for healthy populations. Nutrients, 13(6), p.1915.


Dolan, E., Gualano, B. and Rawson, E.S., 2019. Beyond muscle: the effects of creatine supplementation on brain creatine, cognitive processing, and traumatic brain injury. European journal of sport science, 19(1), pp.1-14.