May 22, 2024 8 min read

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    Reviewed by Chris Bellanger, BHSc in Nutritional Medicine

    If you classify yourself as a gym rat or an avid gym goer, you’re probably quite familiar with creatine. This supplement is praised in fitness and professional sports circles, and it is an irreplaceable element of many athletes’ routines for several reasons. What may come as a surprise is that creatine’s beneficial effects extend far beyond the fitness realm.

    In addition to its multifaceted role in improved athletic performance, recovery, muscle growth, and energy, creatine greatly impacts cognitive function. On top of all these significant advantages of supplementing with creatine, we must add its unjustly neglected - but equally important - function in graceful aging. 

    This guide will cover burning creatine questions, including those that even seasoned creatine users weren’t informed about.

    Defining Creatine & Its Effects

    What is creatine, and how does a creatine supplement work?

    Often mistaken for an amino acid, creatine, in fact, doesn’t belong to the 20 amino acids that can be found in protein. Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid naturally manufactured in our bodies using three amino acids: glycine, L-arginine, and L-methionine. However, due to its multiple benefits, many people choose to supplement with creatine and, that way, ensure they’re receiving the necessary amount.[1]

    Creatine's primary role in our bodies is distributing energy to cells, especially muscles. This is precisely why creatine is so praised in the sports community and remains one of the top supplementation choices for athletes. In addition to being synthesized in the body, creatine can be consumed through dietary sources such as fish and red meat. However, the amount obtained from food isn’t always sufficient, especially during strenuous exercise.[2]

    Some of the well-known benefits of using a creatine supplement include performance enhancement, improved quality of high-intensity intermittent speed training, boosted endurance performance, and increased strength and power during physical activity. Many people don’t know that creatine is highly beneficial for neurological functions, injury recovery, mood management, and skin health.[2]

    A quality creatine supplement has been found to increase cellular water content in the muscles, aiding muscle growth. It is a known agent in muscle repair and a go-to choice for professional athletes, especially regarding endurance.[3] Creatine draws water into the muscles, preserving muscle fibers. This is why supplementation specialists recommend prioritizing hydration when supplementing with creatine.[7] 

    Does creatine have side effects?

    Generally speaking, oral creatine supplementation does not have any significant side effects.[4] That being said, before introducing any supplementation into your daily diet, it is advised to consult with a medical professional - especially if you’ve been diagnosed with a health condition. Higher doses of creatine (more than 3-5g per day) aren’t recommended if you have any type of renal condition, whether it be hypertension, diabetes, or reduced glomerular filtration rate.[5] 

    It is also advised for individuals with impaired kidney function to consult with a healthcare professional before starting creatine supplementation. Keep in mind that studies have shown increased urinary methylamine and formaldehyde excretion levels in cases of high creatine doses (20g per day), which were still within the normal range and had no adverse effect on the kidneys.[5]

    Creatine vs. glutamine: Which is better?

    In this case, the “either-or” approach doesn’t really apply. While creatine is a chemical derived from amino acids often mistaken for an amino acid, glutamine is actually an amino acid heavily present in muscles. Glutamine, just like creatine, is produced naturally in the body.[8] 

    Still, the body may not be able to replace it after intense physical activity adequately—hence the need for a supplement. The need for glutamine is high even when the daily protein goal has been hit. Much like glutamine, creatine plays a vital role in muscle growth, repair, and overall performance, as more than 90% of creatine is stored in the muscles.[8] Taking creatine and glutamine together is safe and recommended, as they’re an unbeatable duo in muscle recovery and energy restoration.[9]

    Creatine and Brain

    Does creatine have effects on the brain?

    Yes, creatine is a rather impactful supplement for cognitive health. The brain requires energy to function correctly. It is so energy-reliant that it uses over 20% of the body’s total energy reserves! Supplementing with creatine can raise creatine stores in the brain, promoting mental function—especially memory. Creatine has also been shown to affect reasoning abilities and intelligence positively.[10]

    What is the recommended creatine intake per day?

    The recommended creatine dosage is 3-5 grams daily (14 mg/pound). However, if you’re interested in creatine loading, you may want to take 4-5 doses of 20-25g of creatine for 5-7 consecutive days. Once the loading phase is complete, 3-5g/day is considered to be maintenance and is generally safe and recommended to preserve creatine in the muscles.[11] Also, keep in mind that while creatine monohydrate most commonly comes in powder form, creatine HCL is conveniently available in capsules.

    Why loading? Many athletes and gym-goers prefer to creatine-load and create a “reserve” of the supplement to grab all the benefits and ensure that the muscles are “packed” with creatine, especially before a competition. However, if you experience digestive discomfort, loading is not for you. Not to worry though, it isn’t mandatory or significantly superior to regular supplementing![11

    Does creatine make you pee?

    Since it is recommended to up your water intake when taking creatine to get the full effect, some individuals may notice a difference in their urination patterns and frequency. However, it is important to mention that creatine doesn’t cause dehydration or decrease electrolyte levels.[12]

    Does creatine cause water retention?

    In short, yes, but only in the early stages when taken in large doses, such as during a loading phase, as the body adjusts intracellular water with extracellular water.[13]

    Is creatine an anabolic steroid? 

    While the physiological and performance outcomes of creatine can be considered similar to anabolic steroids, they are, in fact, quite different. 

    Anabolic steroids are drugs, while creatine is a dietary supplement with a completely different chemical structure.[13]

    Does creatine cause kidney damage or renal problems?

    After more than 20 years of research, no adverse effects have been observed. This myth probably persists due to the fact that the word creatine is similar to creatinine, which is associated with kidney function tests.[13]

    Does creatine cause hair loss?

    Creatine and Hair Health

    A single study of college rugby students that found an increase in serum dihydrotestosterone, which is associated with hair loss, has resulted in this persisting myth around creatine despite never having been replicated.[13]

    Does creatine cause dehydration and muscle cramping? 

    Prior to a large amount of research we have available now on creatine, the American College of Sports Medicine recommended that people exercising intensely in hot environments should avoid creatine use based on the rationale that creatine is osmotically active and could influence fluid distribution.[13]

    Now, with much more clinical data, this well-meaning precaution has been invalidated. 

    Is creatine harmful for children or teenagers? 

    Despite creatine's flawless safety profile, some speculated it could cause problems in children. However, a comprehensive review examining adolescent safety found no evidence of adverse effects.[13]

    Creatine Timing

    Can I take creatine without working out?

    A common misconception about creatine is that it is strictly a fitness-related product with no additional health or wellness benefits. In fact, creatine is highly beneficial for individuals who want to improve their cognitive function. A study on the effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function[6] found that creatine can improve short-term memory and has a neuroprotective role - hence its undeniable significance in brain health. The same study suggested that creatine may aid in glucose level regulation, which may also benefit cognitive health.[6]

    As far as performance-enhancing and muscle-building effects of creatine, exercise plays a vital role in this process. 

    Can I take creatine on an empty stomach?

    Taking a creatine supplement on an empty stomach may result in digestive discomfort. Therefore, you may want to take creatine with a carb-dense meal or after it to avoid potential digestive issues. 

    Other than that, does the timing matter? There are different opinions regarding this topic, but many studies have confirmed that timing isn’t crucial - as long as you’re consistent with creatine supplementation.

    As a pre-workout supplement, creatine may boost energy levels, improve focus during your workout, and elevate the entire workout experience by giving you a better “pump.” Supplementing with creatine after your workout may be part of your muscle recovery strategy, which could reduce soreness and muscle cramps.  

    Is the timing of creatine ingestion around workouts important? 

    While many propose taking creatine before workouts, consensus is lacking, and research is still preliminary. Early evidence suggests taking creatine after a workout confers greater benefits; however, taking creatine at any time of day should be the primary concern for now, as benefits will be experienced regardless.[13]

    Creatine and Fitness

    Creatine & Weight Loss

    Is creatine good for weight loss?

    If you’re worried about creatine compromising your weight loss process, that isn’t the case. If anything, creatine can help you build and maintain lean muscle mass, which is a vital factor in healthy weight loss. The more muscle mass you have, the more fat you’re going to burn; therefore, creatine can only be an ally on your weight loss journey. 

    Moreover, creatine is an excellent performance-enhancing, energy-boosting supplement that can help you make your workouts even more intense - burning even more fat and reaching your goals.[7] Remember that creatine is only a piece of the puzzle regarding weight loss and muscle building. Overall, the nutrition and workout split play a much bigger role in the bigger scheme of things. 

    Check out ourmacros-focused nutrition guide to learn more about creating a balanced diet and healthy relationship with food. 

    Should I take creatine while cutting?

    As discussed in the previous answer, creatine is an excellent companion in building lean muscle, burning fat, and achieving your desired physique. Therefore, it is safe to say that creatine is one of the most popular supplement options during a cut. Creatine can be used to power your workouts, aid the recovery process, and protect your muscles during cutting season.[7] A cut is a period that entails a calorie deficit that ultimately results in body fat loss while maintaining or building lean muscle mass.

    Remember that as effective and beneficial as creatine is, it is just a tool for enhancing your gym performance and building muscle. Still, many other factors play a role in the success of your cut—mainly nutrition, sleep, genetics, and, of course, consistency!

    Does creatine increase body fat? 

    Many speculated it increased fat, potentially due to the increase in body mass experienced from creatine supplementation. However, numerous randomized controlled trials do not validate this notion.[13]

    In Summary

    While gym rats claim it, creatine is so much more than just a performance enhancer. In addition to many fitness and bodybuilding-related benefits, creatine offers an array of surprising beneficial effects, including improved cognitive function and graceful aging. Creatine plays a vital role in cellular energy expenditure and muscle recovery and is an affordable yet effective natural energy booster. Discover more all-natural, non-GMO supplements in our online store.

    Article References:

    1. MD, Howard E. LeWine. “What Is Creatine? Potential Benefits and Risks of This Popular Supplement.” Harvard Health, 20 Mar. 2024,
    2. Creatine: Uses, Benefits, and Health Risks.”, 20 Dec. 2017,
    3. Mawer, Rudy. “Creatine 101 — What Is It and What Does It Do?” Healthline, 25 Oct. 2018,
    4. Poortmans, Jacques R., and Marc Francaux. “Adverse Effects of Creatine Supplementation.” Sports Medicine, vol. 30, no. 3, 2000, pp. 155–170,,
    5. Kim, Hyo Jeong, et al. “Studies on the Safety of Creatine Supplementation.” Amino Acids, vol. 40, no. 5, 12 Mar. 2011, pp. 1409–1418,,
    6. Avgerinos, Konstantinos I et al. “Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials.” Experimental gerontology vol. 108 (2018): 166-173. doi:10.1016/j.exger.2018.04.013
    7. What to Know about Using Creatine While Cutting.” Healthline,
    8. Creatine vs. Protein vs. Glutamine.” LIVESTRONG.COM,
    9. Can Glutamine & Creatine Be Taken at the Same Time?”, Accessed 22 May 2024.
    10. Should You Take Creatine to Boost Your Brain? | Psychology Today.”, Accessed 22 May 2024.
    11. Can You Take Too Much Creatine? Side Effects and Dosage.” Healthline, 24 Apr. 2019,
    12. Is Creatine Safe, and Does It Have Side Effects?” Healthline, 7 Jan. 2019,
    13. Antonio, Jose, et al. “Common Questions and Misconceptions about Creatine Supplementation: What Does the Scientific Evidence Really Show?” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, vol. 18, no. 1, 8 Feb. 2021,

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