Creatine for Muscle Strength?

creatine for muscle strength

Creatine is a natural substance used in alternative medicine to build muscle mass and boost muscle strength. Available in meat and fish, creatine is also produced naturally in the human body and found primarily in skeletal muscle.

Creatine is known to play a key role in the production of the energy needed for muscle function. Many athletes use creatine supplements (in the form of creatine monohydrate) in an effort to enhance muscle strength and improve sports performance.

The Science Behind Creatine and Muscle

To date, research on creatine's effectiveness in building muscle mass and boosting muscle strength has yielded mixed results.

In a 2005 research review published in the journal Sports Medicine, for instance, scientists found that taking creatine supplements may be most effective for improving performance in activities that involve "repeated short bouts of high-intensity physical activity" (including jumping, sprinting, or cycling). However, the review's authors also found little evidence that creatine supplementation may help improve strength-training performance. In addition, the review showed that use of creatine supplements has little benefit when it comes to preventing or suppressing post-exercise muscle damage or soreness.

Other research indicates that using creatine may help improve muscle strength in people with certain health conditions. For example, a small study published in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair in 2007 found that creatine supplements may enhance the benefits of strength-training in people with Parkinson's disease (a condition associated with decreased muscle mass and muscle strength).

For the study, 20 people with Parkinson's disease took either creatine supplements or a placebo daily while completing a total of 24 strength-training sessions (performed twice a week). While both groups showed improvement in muscle endurance, the creatine group experienced significantly greater gains in several measures of muscle strength.


Although creatine is likely safe when taken at recommended doses, creatine supplements may trigger a number of side effects (including stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and cramps).

There's some concern that creatine may harm the kidney, liver, or heart function when taken at high doses.

Additionally, taking creatine in combination with medications that can harm the kidneys (such as ibuprofen, cyclosporine, and naproxen) may increase risk of kidney damage. You should also avoid taking creatine in combination with ephedra.

Since creatine causes muscles to draw water from the rest of your body, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) warn that exercising in the heat while using creatine may lead to dehydration.

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals.

 Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements here.

Sources of Creatine

Creatine supplements are generally available in capsules or as a powder. You can find creatine supplements in natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Creatine is also found in small amounts in red meat and fish. However, much of the creatine in these foods is destroyed in the cooking process.

Creatine and Carbohydrates

There's evidence that taking creatine in combination with carbohydrates can increase muscle levels of creatine more effectively than consuming creatine on its own. For instance, the NIH state that supplementing five grams of creatine with 93 grams of simple carbohydrates four times daily for five days can increase muscle creatine levels as much as 60 percent more than creatine alone.

Using Creatine for Muscle Mass and Muscle Strength?

Due to a lack of scientific support, use of creatine supplements cannot currently be recommended for building muscle mass or improving muscle strength.

If you're considering the use of creatine supplements in the treatment of muscle problems associated with a condition, consult your primary care provider prior to starting your supplement regimen. It's important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with creatine supplements and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.


Bemben MG, Lamont HS. "Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: recent findings." Sports Med. 2005;35(2):107-25.

Hass CJ, Collins MA, Juncos JL. "Resistance training with creatine monohydrate improves upper-body strength in patients with Parkinson disease: a randomized trial." Neurorehabil Neural Repair. 2007 Mar-Apr;21(2):107-15.

National Institutes of Health. "Creatine: MedlinePlus Supplements." January 2011.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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