- What other names is Creatine known by?
- What is Creatine?
- Is Creatine effective?
- How does Creatine work?
- Are there safety concerns?
- Are there any interactions with medications?
- Dosing considerations for Creatine.
Creatine is most commonly used for improving exercise performance and increasing muscle mass in athletes and older adults. There is some science supporting the use of creatine in improving the athletic performance of young, healthy people during brief high-intensity activity such as sprinting. But older adults don't seem to benefit. Creatine doesn't seem to improve strength or body composition in people over 60.
Creatine use is widespread among professional and amateur athletes and has been acknowledged by well-known athletes such as Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and John Elway. Following the finding that carbohydrate solution further increases muscle creatine levels more than creatine alone, creatine sports drinks have become popular.
Creatine is allowed by the International Olympic Committee, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and professional sports. However, the NCAA no longer allows colleges and universities to supply creatine to their students with school funds. Students are permitted to buy creatine on their own and the NCAA has no plans to ban creatine unless medical evidence indicates that it is harmful. With current testing methods, detection of supplemental creatine use would not be possible.
In addition to improving athletic performance, creatine is used for congestive heart failure (CHF), depression, bipolar disorder, Parkinson's disease, diseases of the muscles and nerves, an eye disease called gyrate atrophy, and high cholesterol. It is also used to slow the worsening of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease), rheumatoid arthritis, McArdle's disease, and for various muscular dystrophies.
Americans use more than 4 million kilograms of creatine each year.
Creatine also seems to increase strength and endurance in patients with heart failure and in people with various muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy and similar conditions.
Some people try creatine for rheumatoid arthritis. But creatine does not seem to help for this use.
There isn't enough information to know if creatine is effective for other conditions people use it for, including: high cholesterol and conditions such as ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), Huntington's disease, and Parkinson's disease.
Possibly Effective for...
- Athletic performance. Many factors seem to influence the effectiveness of creatine, including the fitness level and age of the person using it, the type of sport, and the dose. Creatine does not seem to improve performance in aerobic exercises, or benefit older people. Also, creatine does not seem to increase endurance or improve performance in highly trained athletes. There is some evidence that creatine "loading," using 20 grams daily for 5 days, may be more effective than continuous use. However, there is still some uncertainty about exactly who can benefit from creatine and at what dose. Studies to date have included small numbers of people (all have involved fewer than 72 participants), and it is not possible to draw firm conclusions from such small numbers.
- Syndromes caused by problems metabolizing creatine. Problems metabolizing creatine cause low levels of creatine in the brain, which results in mental retardation, seizures, autism, and movement disorders. Taking creating by mouth daily for up to 3 years increases creatine levels in the brain and improves movement disorders and seizures, but has little effect on mental ability in children and young adults with the creatine deficiency syndrome called gaunidinoacetate methyltransferase (GAMT) deficiency. However, taking creatine for up to 8 years seems to improve attention, language, and academic performance in children with the creatine deficiency syndrome called arginine-glycine amidinotrasferase (AGAT) deficiency. Taking creatine does not seem to improve brain creatine levels, movement disorders, or mental abilities in children with creatine transporter defect.
Possibly Ineffective for...
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease). Taking creatine by mouth does not seem to slow disease progression or improve survival in people with ALS.
Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...
- Skin aging. Early research shows that applying cream containing creatine, guarana, and glycerol to the face daily for 6 weeks reduces wrinkles and skin sagging in men. Other research suggests that a cream containing creatine and folic acid reduces wrinkles and improves sun-damaged skin.
- Lung disease (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Research on the effects of creatine in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is inconsistent. Some research suggests that taking creating daily does not improve lung function. However, other research suggests that taking creatine may improve lung function or exercise capacity.
- Heart failure. Taking creatine by mouth daily for 5-10 days seems to improve muscle strength and endurance but not symptoms of heart failure.
- Depression. Early research suggests that taking creatine daily for 8 weeks enhances the effects of the antidepressant drug escitalopram in women with major depressive disorder.
- Diabetes. Early research shows that taking creatine by mouth for 5 days reduces blood sugar after eating in people with newly diagnosed diabetes. However, the effects of taking creatine for longer than 5 days in people with diabetes are not know.
- Vision loss (gyrate atrophy of the choroid and retina). Early research shows that creatine deficiency, which has been associated with this form of vision loss, can be corrected with supplements. Taking creatine daily for one year seems to slow eye damage and vision loss.
- Inherited nerve damage (hereditary motor and sensory neuropathy). Early research in people with inherited nerve damage diseases such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease, suggest that taking creatine by mouth daily for between one and 12 weeks has no effect on muscle strength or endurance.
- Inherited disease called Huntington's disease. Early research suggests that taking creatine by mouth daily for one year does not improve muscle strength, coordination, or symptoms in people with Huntington's disease.
- Muscle diseases such as polymyositis and dermatomyositis. Early studies suggest taking creatine might produce small improvements in muscle strength in people with these conditions.
- Muscle disorder called McArdle disease. Some early research suggests that taking creatine by mouth daily improves muscle function in some people with McArdle disease. However, taking higher doses of creatine seem to make muscle pain worse.
- Muscular and neurological diseases called mitochondrial myopathies. Early research suggests that taking creatine by mouth does not improve muscle function or quality of life in people with mitochondrial myopathies. However, creatine might improve some measures of muscle strength.
- Multiple sclerosis. Early research suggests that taking creatine by mouth daily for 5 days does not improve exercise ability in people with multiple sclerosis.
- Loss of muscle tissue. Taking creatine by mouth daily does not seem to increase muscle mass or strength in men with muscle loss due to HIV. However, taking creatine seems to help maintain muscle mass and reduce the loss of muscle strength that is associated with having to wear a cast.
- Muscle cramps. Early research shows that taking creatine by mouth before hemodialysis treatments seems to reduce muscle cramps.
- Muscular dystrophy. Early research on the use of creatine in people with muscular dystrophy is not clear. Some evidence shows that muscle strength and fatigue seem to improve after taking creatine daily for 8-16 weeks. However, other research suggests that creatine provides no benefit for people with muscular dystrophy.
- Breathing problems while sleeping in newborns. Early research shows that giving creatine to premature infants does not improve breathing problems while sleeping.
- Spinal cord injury. Early research shows that taking creatine by mouth daily for 7 days increases the ability to exercise by increasing lung function in people with a spinal cord injury. However, other research shows that creatine does not improve wrist muscle or hand function.
- Osteoarthritis. Early research suggests that taking creating by mouth daily in combination with strengthening exercises improves physical functioning in postmenopausal women with knee osteoarthritis.
- Parkinson's disease. Early research suggests that taking creatine daily reduces how quickly Parkinson's disease progresses. However, in people who already have advanced Parkinson's disease, taking creatine does not provide this benefit.
- Nervous system disorder called Rett syndrome. Early research suggests that taking creating daily for 6 months can slightly improve symptoms in females with Rett syndrome.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. Early research shows that taking creatine by mouth daily increases muscle strength, but does not improve physical functioning in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Schizophrenia. Early research shows that taking creatine by mouth daily for two months does not improve symptoms or mental function in people with schizophrenia.
- Muscle loss in the spine. Early research suggests that children with muscle loss in the spine do not benefit from taking creatine by mouth.
- Recovery from surgery. Early research shows that taking creatine daily does not speed up recovery of muscle strength after surgery.
- Trauma. Early research suggests that taking creatine by mouth daily reduces amnesia, headache, dizziness, and fatigue in children after a traumatic brain injury.
- High cholesterol.
- Bipolar disorder.
- Other conditions.
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).
Next: How does Creatine work?
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Get breaking medical news.