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Creatine - Worth it or hype?

Creatine is a powerhouse supplement that has gained immense popularity among fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and health-conscious individuals alike. Renowned for its ability to enhance strength, muscle mass, and exercise performance, creatine has become a staple in many fitness regimens. However, beyond its well-known effects on physical performance, emerging research has unveiled a plethora of additional benefits associated with this remarkable compound.


image showing creatine in powder and tablet form with weights in the background

In this article, we'll explore the science-backed benefits of taking creatine, backed by research.


  1. Improved Exercise Performance: One of the most well-established benefits of creatine supplementation is its ability to enhance exercise performance, particularly during high-intensity, short-duration activities. Creatine phosphate, a form of creatine stored in muscles, serves as a rapid energy source during intense bouts of exercise, such as weightlifting or sprinting. Numerous studies have demonstrated that creatine supplementation can increase power output, strength, and overall performance during resistance training and other anaerobic activities [1].

  2. Increased Muscle Mass: Creatine supplementation has been consistently linked to increases in muscle mass and hypertrophy, making it a valuable tool for those looking to optimise muscle growth. By enhancing the body's capacity to perform high-intensity exercise, creatine facilitates greater training volume and stimulates muscle protein synthesis, ultimately leading to gains in lean muscle mass [2]. Research suggests that creatine supplementation, when combined with resistance training, can result in greater gains in muscle size and strength compared to training alone [3].

  3. Enhanced Recovery: In addition to its performance-enhancing effects, creatine has been shown to aid in post-exercise recovery. By replenishing intramuscular creatine stores and promoting fluid retention within muscle cells, creatine supplementation may help reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation, leading to faster recovery between training sessions [4]. This accelerated recovery process allows individuals to train more frequently and with higher intensity, ultimately contributing to greater long-term progress and adaptation.

  4. Cognitive Benefits: While creatine is often associated with physical performance, emerging research suggests that it may also confer cognitive benefits. Creatine is involved in the synthesis of phosphocreatine, a molecule that plays a crucial role in cellular energy metabolism, particularly in the brain. Studies have found that creatine supplementation may enhance cognitive function, improve memory, and protect against neurological diseases [5]. Additionally, research indicates that creatine supplementation may benefit individuals with conditions characterised by cognitive impairment, such as traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative disorders [6].

  5. Potential Health Benefits: Beyond its effects on exercise performance and cognition, creatine supplementation has been linked to a variety of potential health benefits. Research suggests that creatine may have antioxidant properties, protect against cellular damage, and support cardiovascular health [7]. Furthermore, preliminary evidence indicates that creatine supplementation may benefit individuals with certain medical conditions, such as muscle-wasting diseases, mitochondrial disorders, and neuromuscular disorders [8].


In conclusion, creatine is a versatile supplement with a multitude of scientifically supported benefits. From enhancing exercise performance and promoting muscle growth to supporting cognitive function and overall health, creatine has earned its reputation as one of the most effective and well-researched supplements available.


However, it's essential to note that individual responses to creatine supplementation may vary, and consulting with a healthcare professional before beginning any supplementation regimen is recommended. With its impressive array of benefits and extensive scientific backing, creatine stands as a valuable tool for individuals looking to optimise their physical performance, cognitive function, and overall well-being.

References:


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  1. Kreider RB. Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Mol Cell Biochem. 2003;244(1-2):89-94.

  2. Rawson ES, Volek JS. Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2003;17(4):822-31.

  3. Antonio J, Ciccone V. The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10(1):36.

  4. Rahimi R. Creatine supplementation decreases oxidative DNA damage and lipid peroxidation induced by a single bout of resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(12):3448-55.

  5. Rae C, Digney AL, McEwan SR, Bates TC. Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proc Biol Sci. 2003;270(1529):2147-50.

  6. Avgerinos KI, Spyrou N, Bougioukas KI, Kapogiannis D. Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Exp Gerontol. 2018;108:166-73.

  7. Lawler JM, Barnes WS, Wu G, Song W, Demaree S. Direct antioxidant properties of creatine. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2002;290(1):47-52.

  8. Tarnopolsky MA. Clinical use of creatine in neuromuscular and neurometabolic disorders. Subcell Biochem. 2007;46:183-204.


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