Unlocking the Advantages of Creatine Supplementation

Creatine is one of the most researched and effective supplements. It can help with sports performance by producing energy quickly during intense activity.¹

What is creatine?

Creatine is a substance found in muscle cells that helps the muscles produce energy during strenuous physical activity.² Creatine is produced naturally by your body in your kidneys, liver and pancreas. It is made from three amino acids - glycine, arginine and methionine.³

On average you produce 1-2 grams of creatine per day, which is mainly stored in the muscles.3 Creatine can be found in some foods such as meat and fish, but can also be taken as a supplement. This is especially popular with athletes and strength athletes.

A typical omnivorous diet provides 1-2 grams of creatine per day. Because creatine is mainly present in meat, vegetarians tend to have lower creatine concentrations.

What does creatine do?

By supplementing with creatine, you increase your creatine phosphate reserves. A substance that ensures that you can convert ADP to ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

ATP is a molecule necessary for the storage and transfer of energy in all living cells. It is the fuel the cell needs to do what it does. Without ATP, life as we know it would cease to exist almost immediately.

The average creatine supply in the muscle is 120 mmol/kg of dry muscle mass, while the maximum capacity is 140-160 mmol/kg. The use of a creatine supplement has proven to replenish creatine reserves and thus use their maximum capacity.

The average creatine supply of a vegetarian is about 10-15% lower than the previously mentioned average of 120 mmol/kg. Therefore, they usually benefit the most from a creatine supplement. This is confirmed by scientific research: after taking a creatine supplement, creatine levels in vegetarians increased by 76% compared to 35% in omnivores.

The benefits of creatine

At the time of writing, there are over 500 peer-reviewed studies describing the effects of a creatine supplement. The use of creatine is best known for its positive effects on athletic performance, but it has other benefits.

Improved sports performance

There is considerable evidence that creatine supplementation improves acute exercise capacity and training adaptations in adolescents, young adults and older persons. These adaptations allow an athlete to perform longer, leading to a greater increase in muscle mass and strength due to an improvement in training quality.

A meta-analysis (2003) showed that strength athletes who used creatine gained on average +8% to +14% in strength compared to placebo (=sugar pill).¹⁰ Non-strength athletes also benefit from improved sports performance after using creatine. Some of the sports in which the use of creatine improved athletic performance are listed below:

  • basketball
  • ice hockey
  • martial arts (mma, boxing etc)
  • powerlifting and bodybuilding
  • american football
  • rugby

On average, athletes in these sports benefit from an improvement in sports performance of around 10-20%.¹¹

Shorter recovery times

Supplementing with creatine can help athletes recover faster. Research shows that creatine supplements reduce muscle damage and can enhance recovery after strenuous exercise. This was shown in a 2015 study, for example, in which participants who were given creatine had +10% to +20% more knee strength during the recovery period.¹²

The researchers also found lower CK values (-84%) in the creatine group compared to the placebo group (= sugar pill). An increased CK value in the blood is a biomarker for muscle damage. In other words, the lower CK values in the creatine group mean that they suffered less muscle damage after intense physical exercise.

Injury prevention

According to research, a creatine supplement reduces the risk of injury. This was found in studies comparing the injury rates of creatine users and non-users.¹³ ¹⁴ According to the study, creatine users experienced fewer muscle cramps, dehydration and other injury-related problems compared to the group that did not use creatine.

Enhanced tolerance to exercise in the heat

Creatine helps cells retain moisture, making the body more resistant to physical strain in hot conditions. One study found that creatine users sweated less and had a lower heart rate than non-users during strenuous exercise in the heat.¹⁵

A sign of a more efficient thermoregulatory response. That is, they had less trouble maintaining their body temperature during physical exertion in a warm environment.

Brain and spinal cord neuroprotection

Creatine is known to have neuroprotective benefits. In other words, it helps protect nerve cells from damage, degradation and reduced functionality. In one study, creatine was found to reduce the extent of brain damage by 36-50%.¹⁶ In another study, a creatine supplement reduced the extent of cerebral infarction by 40%.¹⁷

Finally, a study (2002) found that creatine also had a positive effect on the development of scar tissue after a spinal cord injury.¹⁸ They saw that rats given creatine had less scar tissue after having a spinal cord injury and also less movement limitations. According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, taking creatine lowers the risk of cerebral infarction and protects against cell death.¹⁹

All four studies were conducted on mice, so it is not yet clear whether it has the same benefits in humans. Nevertheless, the results from these studies are promising and augur well for future studies that will hopefully shed more light on creatine's effects on the brain.

memory and intelligence

A select number of studies indicate that the use of creatine improves short-term memory.²⁰ ²¹ At the same time, no evidence has been found that creatine improves long-term or spatial memory.²² ²³ ²⁴

The positive effect of creatine on short-term memory also seems to be limited to the older population. In young adults creatine does not seem to have any effect on cognition.²⁵ This seems to be because older people, compared to young adults, need extra energy to perform cognitive tasks. That extra energy can be supplied by creatine. Younger people, on the other hand, do not seem to need this extra energy.

Frequently asked questions about creatine

Can creatine also be used by women?

Yes. Although most studies have been conducted on male athletes, the studies conducted on women show similar effects. In other words, there is no reason to believe that the effects of creatine observed in women would not apply to women. So women can use creatine just like men.

What is the best form of creatine?

Above all, it seems that Creatine Monohydrate -> Creapure. There is no research to show that other forms such as creatine ethyl esther, buffered creatine, creatine nitrate or creatine dipeptides would be better.

Does creatine increase testosterone?

No. A total of 12 studies have measured the effect of creatine on testosterone. Two studies found a small insignificant increase, while the other ten studies found no increase in testosterone. Based on these studies, it is unlikely that creatine increases testosterone.

Does creatine cause hair loss?

The rumour that creatine causes hair loss comes from a study in which an increase in the amount of dihydrotestosterone (=DHT, the cause of hair loss) was observed after taking creatine. However, the results of this study were never reproduced. Bearing in mind that creatine has no effect on testosterone and that testosterone is required for the production of DHT, it seems unlikely to us that creatine increases the amount of DHT.

We are keeping a close eye on follow-up studies and will update the answer to this question as soon as more is known.

Is creatine an anabolic steroid?

No. Although both drugs improve athletic performance, the way they do so is not comparable. Anabolic steroids are synthetic forms of testosterone, creatine is not. The chemical structure of both substances is completely different.

Is creatine safe for your kidneys?

Questions and concerns about creatine supplementation and kidney damage are common. And although we don't know how the rumours about creatine and kidney damage started, they seem to be based mainly on a lack of knowledge about creatine and creatinine metabolism.

After 20 years of research, there is no evidence that creatine at the recommended dose leads to kidney damage or reduced kidney function.