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Does Creatine Increase Muscle Mass?

Introduction to Creatine

In the world of fitness and bodybuilding, creatine is often hailed as a powerful supplement for promoting muscle growth and enhancing athletic performance. 

But does creatine actually increase muscle mass? 

This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of creatine, its role in muscle growth, and the scientific evidence behind its effectiveness.

We’ll also discuss potential side effects, safety concerns, and answer some frequently asked questions about creatine supplementation. 

By the end of this article, you’ll have a clearer understanding of how creatine may help you achieve your fitness goals and whether it’s the right supplement for you.

Medical Disclaimer: The content on this fitness website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional before starting or changing any exercise, diet, or wellness program, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, have any pre-existing medical conditions, or are taking medications.

Understanding Creatine

Male with supplements and a protein shaker

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found primarily in the muscles and to a lesser extent in the brain. 

It’s synthesised in the body from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine.

Creatine plays a crucial role in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the primary source of energy for muscle contractions and various cellular processes.

In addition to its endogenous production, creatine can also be obtained from dietary sources, primarily from animal-based foods such as meat, fish, and poultry. 

Creatine supplements are widely available in various forms, with creatine monohydrate being the most common and well-researched type.

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts often use creatine supplementation to improve their exercise performance, increase muscle mass, and enhance recovery. 

The benefits of creatine are primarily attributed to its ability to rapidly replenish ATP stores in the muscles, allowing for greater energy production and more efficient workouts.

How Does Creatine Work?

Oh, creatine! That magical little compound that helps your muscles go the extra mile. But how exactly does it work? 

Well, it’s all about giving your muscles a much-needed energy boost. Creatine swoops in to save the day by increasing the availability of ATP, your muscles’ go-to energy source. 

With more ATP, your muscles can contract with gusto, making your workouts more powerful and effective. And that’s not all – creatine also plays the role of a supportive friend, promoting muscle protein synthesis, increasing muscle cell volume, and reducing exercise-induced damage. 

So, with creatine by your side, you can confidently embark on your fitness journey, knowing it’s got your back (and your biceps, and your quads)!

Sources of Creatine

Creatine is naturally found in various dietary sources, particularly in animal-based foods.

While your body can synthesise creatine from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine, consuming creatine-rich foods can also help maintain optimal levels. 

Here are some of the best food sources of creatine, along with their creatine content:

Food SourceCreatine Content (per 1kg)
Beef (lean)4.5 g
Pork (lean)5 g
Salmon4.5 g
Tuna4.0 g
Chicken (lean)3.4 g
Herring4 g
Turkey2 g
Cod3 g
Milk0.1 mg (per 100 ml)

It’s important to note that cooking methods can impact creatine levels in food. High-temperature cooking, such as grilling or frying, can reduce creatine content.

To preserve the creatine content, consider using gentler cooking methods like steaming or poaching.

For those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, it can be more challenging to obtain creatine from food sources, as plant-based foods generally contain little to no creatine. 

In such cases, creatine supplementation can be especially beneficial to maintain optimal creatine levels and support exercise performance and muscle growth.

Creatine and Muscle Mass

Creatine with the chemical make up

The Role of Creatine in Muscle Growth

Creatine plays a significant role in muscle growth by enhancing various physiological processes and exercise performance. Here’s a closer look at how creatine contributes to muscle growth:

Increased ATP availability: 

Creatine increases the availability of ATP, the primary energy source for muscle contractions. With more ATP, you can perform high-intensity workouts for longer durations, leading to greater training adaptations and muscle growth.

Enhanced muscle protein synthesis: 

Creatine has been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, the process through which the body repairs and builds new muscle fibres. This increase in protein synthesis promotes muscle growth and development.

Increased muscle cell volume: 

Creatine promotes the uptake of water into muscle cells, increasing their volume. This process, known as cell swelling, can stimulate anabolic signalling pathways that contribute to muscle growth.

Reduced muscle damage and inflammation: 

Creatine supplementation may reduce exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation. By mitigating muscle damage, creatine allows for faster recovery and muscle growth.

Improved exercise performance: 

Creatine enhances strength, power output, and overall exercise performance. Improved performance allows for more effective training sessions, leading to increased muscle stimulus and growth.

Creatine’s role in muscle growth is multifaceted, impacting energy production, protein synthesis, cell volume, and exercise performance. 

When used in conjunction with a well-structured resistance training program and a balanced diet, creatine supplementation can be a valuable tool for promoting muscle growth and achieving fitness goals.

The Best Brand Of Creatine

Creatine dietary supplement in a scoop

Over the years I’ve tried many brands of Creatine, and found one of the best creatine brands on the market is Bulk Creatine Monohydrate, which uses Creapure® as its primary ingredient. 

Creapure® is a high-quality, pure creatine monohydrate that is produced in Germany under strict quality control standards. It is widely recognized for its purity, efficacy, and safety.

Bulk Creatine Monohydrate – Creapure® provides the proven benefits of creatine monohydrate while ensuring that you are using a top-quality product. 

By choosing this brand, you can be confident that you are getting a premium creatine supplement that will help support your muscle growth, performance, and recovery goals.

You can get Bulk’s Creatine in powder and tablet form, so you can pick what suits you best. 

Scientific Evidence Supporting Creatine Use

Numerous scientific studies have investigated the effects of creatine supplementation on muscle growth, strength, and performance. 

The overwhelming consensus among researchers is that creatine is an effective and safe supplement for enhancing exercise performance and promoting muscle growth. Here are some key findings from the scientific literature:

  1. Improved strength and power output: Multiple studies have shown that creatine supplementation can significantly increase strength and power output during resistance training (Rawson & Volek, 2003; Kreider, 2003) [1]. This improvement in performance can lead to greater training adaptations and muscle growth over time.
  1. Increased lean body mass: Research has consistently demonstrated that creatine supplementation, when combined with resistance training, can lead to significant increases in lean body mass (LBM) and muscle size (Branch, 2003; Volek et al., 1997) [2]. This increase in LBM is primarily attributed to muscle hypertrophy, or the growth of muscle fibres.
  1. Enhanced muscle protein synthesis: Studies have shown that creatine supplementation can stimulate muscle protein synthesis, the process through which the body repairs and builds new muscle fibres (Parise, Mihic, MacLennan, Yarasheski, & Tarnopolsky, 2001) [3]. This increase in protein synthesis can contribute to greater muscle growth and development.
  1. Improved exercise performance: Creatine supplementation has been shown to enhance performance in various types of exercise, including high-intensity, short-duration activities, such as sprinting and weightlifting, as well as endurance-based activities like long-distance running and cycling (Buford, Kreider, Stout, Greenwood, Campbell, Spano, Ziegenfuss, Lopez, Landis, & Antonio, 2007) [4].
  1. Faster recovery: Creatine has been found to reduce muscle damage and inflammation following intense exercise, promoting faster recovery and enabling more frequent training sessions (Santos, Artioli, Otaduy, Roschel, Solis, Tobias, & Gualano, 2014) [5].

Overall, the scientific evidence strongly supports the use of creatine supplementation for enhancing muscle growth, strength, and performance. 

It’s essential to remember that creatine works best when combined with a well-structured resistance training program and a balanced diet to achieve optimal results.

How to Use Creatine for Maximum Effect

To maximise the benefits of creatine supplementation for muscle growth and performance, it’s essential to use it correctly. Here are some guidelines on how to use creatine effectively.

  1. Choose the right form: Creatine monohydrate is the most researched and widely recommended form of creatine. In my opinion, Creatine Monohydrate is the best form of creatine to take. Make sure to choose a high-quality product from a reputable brand like Bulk.
  1. Dosage: The recommended daily dosage of creatine is 3-5 grams per day. This amount is sufficient to maintain optimal creatine stores in the muscles over time. It’s essential not to exceed the recommended dosage, as higher doses do not provide additional benefits and may increase the risk of side effects.
  1. Loading phase (optional): Some individuals choose to perform a creatine loading phase to saturate their muscles with creatine more quickly. The loading phase typically involves taking 20 grams of creatine per day, split into four 5-gram doses, for 5-7 days. After the loading phase, you can transition to the maintenance dosage of 3-5 grams per day.
  1. Timing: While the ideal timing of creatine supplementation is still debated, many experts suggest taking creatine either pre- or post-workout. Some studies have shown that consuming creatine post-workout may be slightly more beneficial for promoting muscle growth and recovery.
  1. Mix with a carbohydrate source: Combining creatine with a carbohydrate source, such as fruit juice, can enhance creatine uptake by the muscles. The insulin spike caused by consuming carbohydrates helps shuttle creatine into muscle cells more effectively.
  1. Consistency: Creatine supplementation is most effective when used consistently over time. Regularly consuming creatine helps maintain elevated muscle creatine stores, leading to consistent improvements in performance and muscle growth.

By following these guidelines, you can maximise the effectiveness of creatine supplementation and support your muscle growth and performance goals. As always, it’s essential to combine creatine supplementation with a well-rounded training program and a balanced diet for optimal results.

Potential Side Effects and Safety Concerns

A microscopic view of creatine powder

Creatine is considered safe and well-tolerated when used according to recommended guidelines.

However, some individuals may experience side effects or have concerns about its safety. Here are some common side effects, interactions, and long-term safety considerations:

Common Side Effects

  1. Gastrointestinal issues: Some users may experience gastrointestinal discomfort, such as bloating, gas, or diarrhoea, particularly during the loading phase. 

To minimise these effects, consider using a lower dosage or splitting the daily dose into smaller portions throughout the day. I’ve found taking creatine with a meal helps alleviate stomach issues.

  1. Weight gain: Creatine can cause an increase in body weight due to increased water retention in muscle cells. This weight gain is usually temporary and should not be mistaken for an increase in body fat.

Interactions with Other Supplements

  1. Caffeine: Some studies suggest that caffeine may interfere with creatine’s effectiveness in enhancing muscle performance. 

However, the evidence is inconclusive, and many individuals still use both without issue. If you’re concerned about this interaction, consider spacing out your creatine and caffeine consumption.

  1. Diuretics: Combining creatine with diuretics may increase the risk of dehydration. If you’re taking diuretics, consult your healthcare provider before starting creatine supplementation.

Is Creatine Safe for Long-term Use?

Numerous studies have shown that creatine is safe for long-term use when taken according to the recommended guidelines.

Research has found no significant negative effects on kidney or liver function in healthy individuals who supplement with creatine over extended periods (Kreider et al., 2003; Lugaresi et al., 2013). [6] [7]

However, if you have a pre-existing kidney or liver condition, it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider before starting creatine supplementation.

It is critical to follow correct dosing as high dosages have been reported to have serious side effects.

Creatine FAQ

What is the Best Type of Creatine?

The best type of creatine is creatine monohydrate. It is the most researched and widely recommended form due to its proven efficacy, safety, and affordability. 

Other forms like creatine HCL, creatine ethyl ester, and creatine citrate are also available, but creatine monohydrate remains the gold standard.

How Much Creatine Should I Take?

The recommended daily dosage of creatine is 3-5 grams per day. This amount is sufficient to maintain optimal creatine stores in the muscles over time. 

It’s essential not to exceed the recommended dosage, as higher doses do not provide additional benefits and may increase the risk of side effects.

How Long Should I Use Creatine For?

Creatine can be used indefinitely as long as you follow the recommended dosage guidelines. Some individuals may choose to cycle creatine, taking it for several weeks or months followed by a break. 

However, research has not shown any significant benefits to cycling creatine compared to continuous use.

Can Vegetarians and Vegans Benefit from Creatine Supplementation?

Yes, vegetarians and vegans can benefit from creatine supplementation.

Plant-based diets generally contain little to no creatine, so supplementation can help maintain optimal creatine levels, support exercise performance, and promote muscle growth in individuals following vegetarian or vegan diets.

Is Creatine Suitable for Women?

Yes, creatine is suitable for women and can provide the same benefits as it does for men, including increased strength, improved performance, and muscle growth.

Women can follow the same dosage guidelines and usage recommendations as men.

Should I Perform a Creatine Loading Phase?

A creatine loading phase is optional but can help saturate your muscles with creatine more quickly. The loading phase typically involves taking 20 grams of creatine per day, split into four 5-gram doses, for 5-7 days. 

After the loading phase, you can transition to the maintenance dosage of 3-5 grams per day. While the loading phase can speed up initial results, it is not necessary for long-term creatine supplementation.

Summary

In conclusion, creatine has been proven to effectively increase muscle mass when used in conjunction with a well-structured resistance training program and a balanced diet. 

Creatine monohydrate is the most researched and widely recommended form, providing numerous benefits, such as increased strength, enhanced performance, and improved recovery. 

Bulk Creatine Monohydrate, which uses the high-quality Creapure® as its primary ingredient, is one of the best brands to consider when purchasing creatine. 

By understanding the proper usage, dosage, and safety considerations, you can maximise the benefits of creatine supplementation and support your muscle growth goals.

References:

[1] Branch, J. D. (2003). Effect of creatine supplementation on body composition and performance: a meta-analysis. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 13(2), 198-226.

[2] Buford, T. W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., & Antonio, J. (2007). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4(1), 6.

[3] Kreider, R. B. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Molecular and cellular biochemistry, 244(1-2), 89-94.

[4] Parise, G., Mihic, S., MacLennan, D., Yarasheski, K. E., & Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2001). Effects of acute creatine monohydrate supplementation on leucine kinetics and mixed-muscle protein synthesis. Journal of applied physiology, 91(3), 1041-1047.

[5] Rawson, E. S., & Volek, J. S. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. Journal of strength and conditioning

[6] Kreider, R. B., Melton, C., Rasmussen, C. J., Greenwood, M., Lancaster, S., Cantler, E. C., Milnor, P., & Almada, A. L. (2003). Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes. Molecular and cellular biochemistry, 244(1-2), 95-104.

[7] Lugaresi, R., Leme, M., de Salles Painelli, V., Murai, I. H., Roschel, H., Sapienza, M. T., Lancha Jr, A. H., & Gualano, B. (2013). Does long-term creatine supplementation impair kidney function in resistance-trained individuals consuming a high-protein diet? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 26.

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