What Does Creatine Do- The Surprising Truth

Creatine supplements have been taken by bodybuilders for years. I remember teachers, family, and coaches telling me to “be careful” with creatine supplements or that it was “basically a steroid.” They warned about potential side effects and told me that not very much is known about it. Is any of this true? If you aren’t sure about the safety of creatine supplements, or you are just wanted to learn more about what it actually does or how to take it: this article is for you.

What is Creatine?

First you should know:

Creatine is found naturally in muscle cells

Creatine is found naturally in muscle cells and helps the muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or intense exercise.

The supplementation of it is very popular among athletes, bodybuilders, and gym goers. It is used to support muscle growth, increase strength, and improve overall exercise performance.

Your body can naturally produce creatine from the amino acids glycine and arginine.

However, your bodies stores are constantly affected by things like meat intake, exercise, current muscle mass, and hormone levels.

Around 95% of your body’s creatine is stored in muscle cells as phosphocreatine, while the rest of it is found in the brain, kidneys, and liver. Supplementing with creatine monohydrate or another readily absorbed variation increases the body’s stores of phosphocreatine. This stored phosphocreatine helps your body produce more ATP. Having more ATP just means your body can perform better during exercise!

Creatine also enhances several cellular processes that lead to increased muscle mass, strength gain, and faster recovery.

Is Creatine Natural?

It does occur naturally. However, it is artificially created for most supplements.

Many individuals acquire it from seafood and red meat – though at much lower concentrations than those found in supplements. The body’s liver, pancreas and kidneys are able to generate approximately 1 gram of creatine per day.

How is Creatine Made For Supplements?

Creatine supplements are typically made by synthesizing creatine in a laboratory. Two main methods are used to produce these supplements: chemical synthesis and extraction from natural sources.

Chemical synthesis involves combining various chemicals in a controlled environment to produce creatine monohydrate, the most commonly used form. This process is relatively inexpensive and gives the final product a high degree of purity.

Extraction from natural sources involves obtaining it from animal sources, such as beef or fish, and then purifying it for use in supplements. This method is less common and more expensive than chemical synthesis. Still, it is preferred by some consumers who prefer a more “natural” source.

Once it has been synthesized or extracted, it is typically processed into a powder or capsule form for use as a dietary supplement. The manufacturing process may involve additional steps, such as micronization to improve solubility or flavoring to improve the taste.

How Do Creatine Supplements Work?

Creatine supplementation can improve health and athletic performance in many different ways.

While performing high-intensity exercise, these supplements increase phosphocreatine stores in your skeletal muscle. The additional stores of creatine supply energy as those stores are used to produce more ATP, which increases your capacity for heavy lifting and high-intensity exercise. This helps in facilitating muscle gains by:

Creatine has been shown specifically to increase leg press strength.
Creatine has been shown specifically to increase leg press strength.

Creatine supplementation is not just beneficial for sports nutrition, though, as it increases phosphocreatine levels in the brain. This improves overall brain health and may help prevent neurological disease.

Effects of Creatine Supplements on Weight Gain

Creatine supplementation is effective for long-term and short-term growth

This study found that adding creatine monohydrate to a weight training program significantly increased leg strength as well as muscle mass.

shorter study found that creatine supplements increased muscle fiber growth 2-3X more than just training alone.

One large review by the International Society of Sports Nutrition of the most popular supplements selected creatine monohydrate as the single most beneficial supplement for adding muscle mass.

Effects of Creatine Supplements on Strength and Exercise Performance

These supplements can also improve strength, power, and high-intensity exercise performance. In fact, one review found that adding creatine to a training program increased strength by 8% and weightlifting performance by 14%. Just 28 days of supplementing also increased bike sprint performance by 15%.

These improvements can be attributed to the increased capacity to produce ATP while taking the supplement. Under normal conditions, the body’s ATP is depleted after 8-10 seconds of high-intensity activity. However, creatine supplements increase this time by a few seconds.

Different Types

The most common and well-researched form is monohydrate. Here is the brand that is recommended based on rigorous testing and purity reviews. Many different forms exist. However, the research still supports that monohydrate is the best for results. It also happens to boast the best price for creatine powder. If you are looking for a lower price point than the recommended company above- try Dosing Instructions

Many people who use creatine start with what is called a loading phase, which causes a rapid increase in creatine stores within the muscles. You can still experience the benefits of it without loading. However, the results will come faster if you do the loading period.

If you plan to do a loading phase, take 20 grams per day for 5-7 days, split into four separate 5-gram servings, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition. To increase absorption, take it with a carb-based meal.

After the loading period, continue taking only 5 grams per day to maintain the muscle stores. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, there is no benefit to cycling this supplement. Essentially, this 5-gram dosage can be taken for an extended period of time.

If you choose not to complete a loading phase, it will take 3-4 weeks to maximize muscle stores.

Note that regardless of loading or not, it is important to stay well hydrated when taking dietary supplements, especially creatine, as it is pulling additional water into your muscle cells.

Does Creatine Have Side Effects?

According to the Mayo Clinic, creatine can be taken safely for up to five years. However, it is important to choose a product that follows safe manufacturing practices and uses third-party testing to ensure quality.

Any sports supplements should be used at the appropriate dose. When taking it, you may notice weight gain, generally as lean body mass

One item noted by the Mayo Clinic is that individuals with decreased kidney function or a related health condition should speak to their doctor before consuming creatine. More research must be done regarding its use in individuals with decreased kidney function, so it is better to play it safe in this case.

Outside of that, the Mayo Clinic notes a possible interaction between creatine and caffeine. Combining the two will decrease the effectiveness of both.

One common misconception is that it may cause dehydration and cramps. However, research does not support this. It actually has been shown to reduce cramps and dehydration during endurance exercise in high heat.

If you are really worried about it, just make sure you are getting enough water in throughout the day.


Can you take creatine before bed?

Yes, you can take it before bed. The timing is less crucial than consistently taking it daily. Creatine is stored in the muscles, and taking it before bed can help increase muscle recovery and growth during the night. However, some people may experience difficulty sleeping after taking creatine before bed due to the stimulatory effects. If this is the case for you, take it earlier in the day.

Does creatine make you bloated?

One of the most common concerns of creatine supplementation is the potential for bloating and water retention. While this is a possible side effect, not everyone experiences bloating. If you do, it can often be mitigated with proper hydration and dosage.

The reason for bloating and water retention is that creatine draws water into the muscles, which can cause a temporary increase in body weight and a feeling of bloating. However, this effect is usually mild and should subside after a few weeks of consistent use.

To minimize the risk of bloating, stay well-hydrated and start with a lower dose, gradually increasing over time if needed. Choosing a high-quality supplement from a reputable brand is also essential, as this can reduce the risk of impurities or other contaminants contributing to bloating.

Is creatine natty?

Creatine is considered a natural supplement since it is found in food sources such as meat and fish and is produced naturally in the human body.

Does creatine make you poop?

While some individuals may experience gastrointestinal discomfort or diarrhea as a side effect of taking it, this is not a common or typical reaction to the supplement. In fact, studies have shown that creatine is generally well-tolerated by most people, with the most common side effect being mild water retention and weight gain.

Can you take creatine without working out?

While taking it without working out is possible, it may not provide the desired benefits.

Does creatine break a fast?

While it does not contain calories, it is typically mixed with other ingredients, such as sugar or carbohydrates, which can break a fast. If you are taking pure creatine monohydrate without any added ingredients, it should not break your fast.

Does creatine make you pee?

Yes, it may cause an increase in urination frequency or volume as it draws water into the muscles. However, this is okay and is a normal physiological response to creatine supplementation. It is essential to drink enough water to stay hydrated when taking creatine.

Can you take creatine on an empty stomach?

Yes, you can take it on an empty stomach.

There is no specific requirement for taking this supplement with or without food, so taking it on an empty stomach is generally safe. However, some people may experience gastrointestinal discomfort when taking it on an empty stomach, especially if they take high doses.

Taking it with a meal or immediately after a meal is recommended to minimize the risk of stomach discomfort. This can help slow absorption and reduce gastrointestinal side effects risk.


Creatine monohydrate is one of the least expensive, most effective, and safest supplements you can take. If you do not currently have it in your exercise regimen it is highly recommended that you add it in! This is the recommended one!

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In 2013 I attended TVCC with my studies focusing on nutrition and biology. After leaving TVCC I pursued a career in inbound marketing and have worked in many different industries including health and fitness, firearms, coaching, and many more. I spent 6 years training for powerlifting and 6 years after training for a bodybuilding show in Idaho, which sadly did not come to fruition.

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