Creatine is one of the most well-researched, safest, and most effective supplements on the market—full stop!
When combined with resistance training and adequate protein intake, creatine can be an awesome tool for building lean muscle mass and boosting endurance.
And it’s not just physical exercise that creatine benefits; it can also help improve
- Balanced blood sugar,
- Cognitive function,
- Mental health, and even
Creatine is one of the few supplements that gives you a big bang for your buck, supporting multiple different areas of your physical and mental health.
Today, we’re digging into six of the top research-backed benefits of creatine, who would benefit the most from supplementing with it, and the minimal effective dose for maximum benefits.
(Shout-out to my strength coach Sean Chism, who was the first to tell me about the far-reaching benefits of creatine beyond its “bro science” reputation.)
Let’s see if it truly lives up to the hype!
Click this link and use the code DHRU20 at checkout.
What Is Creatine? And What Does It Do Inside the Body?
Our bodies produce creatine naturally, or we can get it from food sources, namely animal proteins such as meat and fish. Muscle is the main site where creatine is stored in the body, but it’s also found in small amounts in the brain and heart.
Creatine serves as an energy source for quick bursts of movement or tasks that require significant mental energy.
When the muscle takes up creatine, it binds to a phosphate group and becomes phosphocreatine.
In a situation that requires quick energy (e.g., weight lifting, HIIT, or cognitive activities), our cells use phosphocreatine, which works by recycling ATP – the body’s primary energy source – so our bodies can continue to perform at a high level.
The Top Six Benefits of Supplementing with Creatine
We used to think that creatine was best used for exercise and muscle growth. New research is beginning to show that it can support brain health, too.
Let’s dive into the top benefits of creatine!
- Helps build lean muscle and protect against sarcopenia. Most of the evidence on creatine shows that it can help build lean muscle when combined with resistance exercise. This is good news for fitness bros or anyone looking to build muscle in the gym—that’s me! (Just to be clear, I would not consider myself a “fitness bro,” lol!)Creatine plus resistance training also has special applications in the elderly and can help protect against sarcopenia, which will, in turn, reduce the risk of falls and fractures.
- Improves strength and endurance. Whether it’s lifting weights or shaving off a few extra seconds on your mile time, supplementing with creatine may help you reach a new PR. Research shows that creatine can help boost energy expenditure by a whopping 10–20 percent. Not bad!
- May support healthy blood glucose levels. Creatine prevents a reduction in GLUT4, the receptors on our muscle and fat tissue that bring glucose into our cells for energy.Studies have shown that supplemental creatine could be beneficial for sedentary individuals or those with metabolic dysfunction by enhancing insulin sensitivity. When combined with exercise, this effect is even stronger!
- May improve mood, depression, and anxiety symptoms. High intake of dietary creatine is linked to a lower risk of depression. The mood-balancing benefits of supplemental creatine are most evident in women, which could be due to eating less meat and supplementation helping to correct deficiencies.
- May help protect against cognitive decline. Creatine preserves energy inside our neurons, so they have the fuel to fire properly. It has also been shown to activate brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in mouse models.This effect is strongest in populations who are creatine deficient (vegans, vegetarians, women, and the elderly) or those dealing with a lot of mental stress.
- May offset mental fatigue from a poor night’s sleep. A few studies show that taking creatine can help lessen the impact of a bad night of sleep, which could be especially helpful when you need to be “on” the next day.Sleep-deprived new parents, students, jet-lagged travelers, employees, or business execs who need to be sharp on minimal sleep may benefit from supplementing with creatine.
What Form of Creatine Is Best?
Creatine monohydrate is the best form to take! It is the least expensive, most studied, and most common form of creatine to supplement with.
Are There Any Potential Side Effects?
Two of the most common side effects of creatine are that it can cause bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort. To get around the GI discomfort, start at a super-small dose and gradually work your way up to the minimal effective dose listed below.
What Is the Minimal Effective Dose?
The minimal effective dose for supplemental creatine is 2–5 grams per day.
Creatine is well-tested and super safe, but I still have to give the disclaimer: always talk with your doctor before starting a new supplement! Especially if you’re on prescription meds to avoid potential interactions.
When Is the Best Time to Supplement?
Most of my guy friends take creatine, and they’re not super worried about the timing. You just want to make sure you’re getting it in daily, along with adequate dietary protein and resistance training, to truly see the gains. Rest days are less crucial, but you can still supplement for the cognitive benefits.
Final Thoughts and My Favorite Creatine Supplement
Last August, I set the intention to get into the best shape of my life after turning 40. A big part of that was working with a personal trainer to improve my body composition and dialing in my diet to ensure I was eating enough protein to build muscle.
When I started the program, I was skinny fat at 24 percent body fat, and about five months later, I cut that down by about half and added 7.5 pounds of lean muscle. My muscle gains weren’t from consuming creatine alone. Supplementing alongside my workouts and eating enough protein helped me get there.
My dear friend, Cynthia Thurlow, recently launched a creatine monohydrate supplement that’s clean, sugar free, and mixes really well with water. I’m not affiliated with the company, but I totally believe in her mission to make a super-quality product more widely available at an affordable price.
Here’s to your health,
P.S. Mark your calendars! On May 9th at 5:00 PST, I’m hosting a FREE virtual roundtable discussion on all things autoimmunity with the world’s top experts, Chris Kresser, Terry Wahls, and Dr. Akil Palanisamy.
Join me for a fascinating discussion on the latest breakthroughs, science, and protocols and to celebrate the launch of Dr. Akil’s new book, The Tiger Protocol.