Benefits of Creatine

One of the most popular supplements in weight training and bodybuilding, after whey protein, is creatine. Marketed as an aid in gaining muscle, there are some other benefits to be had in creatine as well. But what does it actually do? How does it work? This article will answer those questions as well as showing you some of it's benefits.

An organic acid naturally found within all animals, creatine is tasked with "shuttling" energy to and from cells within the muscles that are located on the skeleton and are responsible for body shape and movement. These are called the skeletal muscles. The actual details of the process involves conversion of energy nutrients from ATP to ADP and back to ATP, but we'll skip the science lesson for now and focus on more practical things. Just know that creatine is involved in energy production within the skeletal muscles, and that everyone's body produces it naturally. Even vegetarians can synthesize it from the plant amino acids they consume. So, knowing this...

What are its benefits?

Popularly, creatine is used as a bodybuilding supplement. There are two main reasons for this. First, it's a chemical directly involved in the metabolism of the muscles that bodybuilders are so concerned about: the skeletal muscles. Second, it has been confirmed as having a direct improvement on short, intense bursts of energy in exercise like a bodybuilder would engage in, but not so much in long endurance exercises, such as jogging. The direct benefits to a bodybuilder seems to be a slight increase in the amount of work performed, such as amount of weight and number of reps, which will then lead to greater muscle gains. However, there is some controversy over how much it actually helps in this regard. It can also lead to water retention, and it's difficult to tell how much of a gain is actually due to the creatine or the exercise and diet.

Another possible benefit

There has also been extensive scientific research into the use of creatine for degenerative neuromuscular conditions. Muscular dystrophy is a good example of this type of disease. A prominent double-blind, placebo-controlled study performed in 2000 examined the effects of creatine on 36 patients with various types of muscular dystrophy. Very slight but still useful improvements in muscle coordination and ability were observed. A more recent study examined children with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Also placebo-controlled, this study concluded a marked increase in handgrip strength among the creatine users.

Creatine may have several benefits for these muscular diseases, but it is still thought of as a bodybuilding supplement. In general, we recommend its use along with a weight training program, but do not guarantee any definite results.

In addition, if you are going to purchase a supplement, there are many, many different forms of this nutrient. Most of which are nothing more than schemes to wring more money out of customers.


Neurology 2000;54:1848-1850