Why Should I Take Creatine? Benefits, Risks & Myths for Men & Women
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Why Should I Take Creatine?
Benefits, Risks & Myths for Men & Women
Would you like to gain more muscle and perform better without spending much money or making radical life changes? No thanks, I’m fine as I am. Pfffft, don’t be silly, of course you would! That’s what this article is all about as we answer your question: Why should I take creatine?
The supplement market is hit and miss: there are some great, high-quality options on the market but there are also many sketchy, junk supplements with false miracle-claims attached to them!
This is why we put CleanLeanMachine.com together – to provide you with all the information you need! So stick with us as we spend this article taking you through everything you need to know about Creatine and what it can do for your health, fitness and lifestyle and therefore why you should be taking creatine…
What is Creatine?
Before we say just why you should take creatine, it’s important to know what it actually is. Creatine is a key step in developing energy for your muscles – you wouldn’t be able to do much if you didn’t have any creatine in your body.
Creatine is found in red meats, but it is also available as a white, powdered supplement. You can mix this into water or other drinks – it’s easily soluble and creatine monohydrate has a mildly sweet taste. You can also shotgun creatine if you’re feeling savage: simply put a teaspoon of powder into your mouth and wash it down – nargghhh beastmode!
What Are the Benefits of Supplementing Creatine?
So, why should I take creatine?
Adenosine Triphsophate (the fancy name for ATP) is the main energy source for your muscles – it powers everything from exercise to thought. More fuel is going to mean better performance, strength and endurance.
ATP is a huge deal in exercise performance and its one contributing reason to fatigue when you’re working out.
Creatine is a raw material for producing ATP – especially when you’re gassing out or struggling during exercise.
You only have around 5-8 seconds worth of ATP muscle-fuel stored you’re going to lean heavily on your creatine levels to keep you at peak performance.
Because of this effect on the production of ATP, supplementing creatine has a direct effect on your ability to grind out tough reps and keep your maximum strength throughout a workout. This is called strength-endurance and its going to mean that you get better at producing force for multiple repetitions – meaning better performance!
This also indirectly contributes to muscle growth and size: you’re going to be building more muscle when you can take the same weight for more reps – or more weight for the same reps! This boost to your volume is also paired with better recovery – the two biggest factors in determining how much muscle you can build!
Creatine is a great, popular and scientifically-backed supplement – there’s a reason its been so successful over the past half century!
Using Creatine: Loading, Cycling, Doses
Now that you understand in simplified terms why you should take creatine, getting the best effects with this supplement requires you to pay attention to how it works, how to time your intake and what sort of doses you’re using. Getting these wrong isn’t going to be dangerous, but it is an easy way to ruin your results and miss out on the amazing benefits that creatine provides.
Why should I use a loading phase?
The first step is to remember that you’re going to see the best results after 5-7 days of “front-loading” this supplement: your body needs to recognize that you’re getting a stable intake so that it can store and use the creatine, rather than just passing through.
Frontloading means taking higher quantities during the first 5-7 days – you should be taking 25g per day during this period – 10x more than you need to take on a day-today basis.
What dose should I take after loading?
The more muscle you have, the more creatine you’ll need, so you should aim to get 2.5g – 10g per day after your loading period. After this time, you’re going to notice improved strength and power – especially during long workouts.
Your creatine dose is based on your muscle mass so practice a little humility: you’re not going to need loads if you’re still on the light side and, if you’re huge and jacked you’re going to need more. You also need to match your intake to the type of exercise you’re performing – if you’re performing lots of high-intensity “to-failure” strength training, creatine is going to be key in your supplement routine.
The 5g scoop that comes with most creatine products is a good dose for the average person.
Do I need to cycle creatine?
Many people asking why should I take creatine think you need to cycle creatine, but this isn’t true: it’s not going to effect your hormones notably so you’re not going to need to take time off. It’s like taking time off of protein: it doesn’t work like that! You’re just giving your body the raw materials for peak performance – you’ll just pee out anything you don’t need.
Are There Risks or Side-Effects to Creatine?
Creatine has been exposed to a lot of bad press by people who don’t know what they’re doing! As with everything in diet, you have to balance your intake and ensure that you’re not overdosing, but there are no direct dangers to creatine if you’re healthy and don’t have a serious kidney condition!
Is there a link between creatine and kidney disease?
Creatine has risks for those who have poor kidney function because you’re going to have to extract it from the bloodstream if you’re using large quantities (the job of the kidneys). However, for most people this is not a problem – it’s a healthy and normal process and your protein and creatine intake aren’t going to cause you to develop kidney disease!
In fact, the majority of literature suggests that the relation between creatine in the bloodstream and kidney disease is the other way around! Kidney disease and other associated problems cause excess creatine to reach the bloodstream, rather than creatine causing kidney problems! Even some cases of kidney disease have been found to be able to accommodate creatine well – consult your doctor/GP if you feel like you need to check your needs and whether creatine is suitable for you.
What other side-effects are there to creatine?
Side-effects are possible, however – you might just not tolerate creatine very well. It’s a small part of wholefoods so taking a large amount might be difficult for your digestive system.
Common complaints are: nausea, stomach cramps, excessive bloating and diarrhea. However, these are often tied to individual intolerance and consuming too much creatine – they don’t pose a real risk to many people and cause no lasting damage.
Simply put, if creatine gives you stomach cramp and projectile diarrhea, it might just be simplest to stop taking it (but we hoped you’d guessed that)!
Creatine and Bloating
“But wait!” I hear you say “Doesn’t creatine cause water retention and a soft appearance?”.
This is actually true – water retention is a common effect of creatine supplementation but there are two things that need remembering when you worry about this:
- Water retention is termporary and will cease when you stop taking creatine – allowing you to shred down and lose weight rapidly
- 50% of all weight gained is likely to be muscle and you’re going to gain much more strength
Weight gain and water retention while on creatine are unavoidable. They’re part of the process that your body uses to produce the positive effects that creatine has on your strength: the water you’re holding is important for providing your muscles with the raw materials they need to improve your strength-endurance and keep you stronger for longer.
For example, if you’re holding 5lbs more weight from creatine, you’re going to be seeing 2lbs or so of muscle mass gains because the weight is used for dry muscle mass as well as water, creatine-based fuels and even glycogen (the stuff that makes your muscles look ‘full’).
You’re going to see weight gain in good stuff and, once you come off creatine, you’ll lose the water weight again and have more muscle underneath it!
The best approach is to use creatine as part of a gaining/cutting cycle: creatine is great for building muscle and strength when you’re willing to look a little softer and carry some water weight. Once you’ve achieved your muscle and strength goals, drop it out and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water – you’ll notice yourself getting tighter and leaner rapidly.
However, I personally use creatine all year round and maintain a constant ripped physique without any problems.
What is the Best Type of Creatine?
Creatine Monohydrate is the best form – it can be found at a low price point, is easily absorbed into water and has a slightly pleasant (but mostly unnoticeable) taste by itself. You can get flavoured types of creatine but it’s a great addition to your regular water intake.
Other forms of creatine have increased subcutaneous water retention, poorer absorption or reduced effectiveness in the body and better to avoid.
Micronized monohydrate is the most effective, if you feel like going premium look out for Creapure® – but there are many high-quality, low-cost monohydrates that will ensure you gain the results you’re looking for.
Who is Creatine for?
Creatine isn’t for everyone – it has great benefits but for some people it’s going to be useful at the wrong ranges. For example, if you’re a recreational gym-goer and don’t work in the 85-100% intensity range: say you’re performing sets of 12 reps below 65%, creatine isn’t going to be the best supplement for your goals!
Similarly, if you’re an endurance athlete then creatine isn’t the best choice. It can make a great combination with Beta-Alanine but, by itself, its not going to have positive effects in the low-intensity, high-endurance ranges.
The best time to use creatine is when you regularly exercise for 1.5-3 hours. This is when creatine really shines – it’s going to provide a huge amount of long-term energy.
Creatine is also key if you’re used to working with heavy weights: if you’re going to be working at 85% – especially for big-muscle movements like squats or bench press – then creatine is perfect.
These are in the phosphagenic system or ATP-CP system. CP stands for creatinine phosphate – a compound that creates ATP and uses creatine as a fuel source. Your body uses creatine (as CP) to produce high-energy ATP for bursts of maximum-force exercise such as a 3-rep max – where maximum strength really matters.
Creatine for Women
There are some awful preconceptions around training and nutrition for women and we’re going to bust them…
1. Creatine DOESN’T make women bulky
This is silly: women don’t get bulky or look like men from taking creatine. It’s going to be a great help with things like strength and building muscle, but it has no effects on hormones and should only have positive effects on performance.
Creatine is great for health and wellbeing, as well as improving the strength and appearance of muscles – it’s not steroidal or that effective! There’d be a lot more guys blowing up when taking creatine if it was comparable to anabolics!
2. Creatine is TOTALLY healthy for women
The only thing you need to worry about is adjusting your dosages according to your bodyweight. While most men will require around 2.5-10g, women are likely to carry less muscle mass (because of lower testosterone levels) and need less creatine.
Aim for anything between 1.5g and 8g of creatine – as ever, this depends on just how muscular you are and how much exercise you’re performing. There are no new health complications for most women and increased creatine levels will be great for many health markers – as well as a performance boost!
3. Women will NOT struggle with extra weight/bloating because of creatine during menstruation
This is a bit ridiculous, but we’ve seen it claimed before. The way that menstrual bloating and creatine bloating work is totally different. While menstrual bloating is the result of inflammation in the uterus or hormonal changes causing subcutaneous water retention (in the fat below the skin) while creatine results in fluid retention in the muscles.
But muscle fluids are primarily a good thing – they’re not only going to make your muscles look more toned, but they’re tied to glycogen. This is part of the fuel for the production of ATP and more glycogen is going to mean better performance in both short-term and mid-term exercise. You’re going to benefit from this fluid retention – it’s not just aesthetic!
Creatine and Healthy Aging
Creatine is even more important during aging. It’s great for keeping muscles strong and poor energy metabolism in the muscles is one of the easiest ways to become frail, weak and immobile.
Supplementing creatine is a great way to reduce the onset of sarcopenia – the age-related loss of muscle that makes you more susceptible to injury or immobility. Supplementing creatine can be a great way to protect your muscles which means:
- Better joint health
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Better quality of life through things like basic independent movement
- Improve metabolism and metabolic efficiency
- Better performance and ability to exercise into advanced age
Fitness isn’t just for now – we’ve said it before but putting time into your health and wellbeing now isn’t just for sick abs and biceps. It’s about putting yourself in the best position to live an amazing, full life for as long as possible.
You might not be worried about it now, but if a few spoonfuls of creatine here and there can help you stay stronger longer and keep you healthy, it might make the difference between playing with your grandkids or making them push you around in a wheelchair.
Why Should I Take Creatine?
Creatine is one of the best supplements on the market:
- It’s cheap, widely-available and easy to use
- It works well with B-Alanine
- It boosts strength-endurance – one of the key factors in muscle growth
You’re going to make positive changes as a result of creatine – just make sure you opt for top-quality products like Creapure®, stick with the right form, and control your quantities! Frontloading and proper dosages make a big change to your results, so be precise!
Creatine Monohydrate is widely available online and even in some supermarkets across the world, so you shouldn’t have any problems finding a good quality creatine supplement at a very cost effective price.
Although it isn’t one of the main ingredients, you can even find a small dosage of creatine monohydrate in our top recommended pre workout: 4 Gauge
This awesome pre workout supplement really gets your muscles pumped and carries you through the most intense workouts helping you to maintain focus, perform better and recover quicker! Although we still recommend supplementing creatine separately, the dosage in 4 Gauge helps to increase hydration, reduce muscle fatigue and also enhance cognition so you can focus better during your workouts along with the other incredible benefits from the main ingredients in this pre workout supplement.
Professional sport/fitness writer at ApexContent.org, weightlifter and S&C enthusiast. Liam has over 5 years experience in coaching positions, learning under the best mentors and sport coaches in Britain. At the same time developed a love for relentlessly researching and writing scientifically backed content in health, fitness and sport performance.
Liam wears many hats, but they’re unified by a love for competition, performance, and engaging writing. You can throw abuse (and questions) his way in the comments and he’ll be happy to help you!