We all want to achieve the best results from the time we spend working out—but let’s face it—our main concern should be our health.
Some turn to anabolic steroids to move quickly without considering the negative issues and harmful side effects that taking them causes.
After all, what’s the point in looking and feeling our best self if we lose out because of injury or body-busting supplemental side effects? None, really.
There are plenty of supplements available that can help you push yourself to new limits. But, before you take them, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons.
If you’re thinking of taking a new supplement, there are certain things you need to consider like the short and long-term side effects. And, it’s also important to think long and hard about whether the pros outweigh the cons.
One such supplement is creatine. Whether you’re a gym goer, a boxer, a cross fitter, or whatever, you’re likely to stumble upon other people in the same area using creatine supplements regularly to improve their performance. Creatine is produced in small amounts in our body.
Still, it’s also a popular supplement for those looking to improve their creatine balance for better stamina, more strength, and increased muscle mass. If you talk to any bodybuilder, for example, they will likely sing the praises of creatine supplements and what it’s done for them.
One of the rumoured side effects of taking creatine supplements is hair loss, which sounds off-putting, but can it be accurate? And,is there a link between creatine and hair loss?
Let’s look closely at creatine, weigh up all the pros and cons, and maybe even put a false rumour or two to bed.
What is creatine?
Creatine is sold as a supplement, but not many people know that it also occurs naturally in our bodies. It’s produced in the kidneys as well as the liver and is formed a little like amino acids. Creatine works to give our bodies fuel and boost us with extra muscle mass when we exercise. We also take in additional creatine when consuming fish, chicken, and red meat.
So, if our bodies can produce it, why do we need to take it as a supplement?
The simple answer is that it’s produced naturally in minimal quantities, certainly enough to do the job it’s designed to do—but not necessarily to push us to new limits when we train.
This is where supplements come in. Yes, we can add creatine supplements to our system to push our workouts to new levels and push ourselves harder.
Creatine has probably been studied more vigorously than any other supplement, and the more people review it, the more benefits appear from these discoveries.
There are many forms of creatine out there, but creatine monohydrate is the “‘real deal’. It’s the one everyone is talking about.
What are the benefits of creatine monohydrate supplementation?
There are many benefits to supplementing with creatine, and it’s not just about boosting energy.
As more studies emerge, we’re discovering much more about this complex substance, and there’s no denying it has a lot to offer us.
We’ll look at what scientific studies have shown us rather than hearsay or what creatine might be capable of when it comes to health and wellbeing.
Creatine is one of the most studied supplements globally, and with good reason, as it seems to have numerous benefits if taken sensibly. Let’s look at some of the main advantages of creatine supplementation.
Creatine can increase your performance at the gym
One of the main ways creatine helps us perform better in workouts is by boosting energy in our muscles.
It does this by increasing our adenosine diphosphate (ATP) levels to give our muscle cells more capacity for energy. Creatine gives us an enhanced athletic performance, which can lead to more muscle power.
This means we can work out for much longer and build muscle quickly. Creatine is especially beneficial for exercises requiring a quick burst of energy, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or weight lifting. This is because it enables you to tolerate more intense activity and gives you the energy to push that bit harder and lift more weight.
Studies have shown substantial evidence that creatine supplementation during resistance training is more effective at increasing muscle strength and weightlifting performance than just through resistance training.
Creatine can reduce injuries
As creatine has been shown to reduce inflammation, muscle strains, dehydration and cramping, this can reduce our chance of injuries. When we work out with damaged muscles, there’s an increased risk of damaging a muscle or ligament. So if the recovery process is swifter, there’s less chance of an injury. Creatine helps activate satellite cells in our muscles, allowing the healing process to speed up.
Creatine can increase muscle mass
Creatine is one of the few legal supplements shown to aid muscle gain. Numerous studies have reported significant improvements in strength from athletes taking a creatine supplement regularly.
It can help to boost muscle mass by enabling us to tolerate more intense workouts. The longer and harder we work out, the bigger the gains (oh yeah), which is why creatine is so popular among bodybuilders. Creatine also increases anabolic hormone production, which helps muscle growth.
Did you know? A 2022 study proved that creatine supplementation was highly influential in building muscle mass. It also boosts our muscle cells’ hydration, speeding up muscle growth and repair. And, it’s the muscle-building phase where creatine really seems to excel. This is during the recovery period after exercise when your muscles are repairing and growing stronger.
A study in 2007 from the Victoria University Research Repository also shows that creatine helped to provide more significant strength gains and muscle growth during resistance training. Regular resistance training and creatine supplementation lead to greater athletic strength, more immense muscle mass, and increased performance.
Creatine can improve aerobic performance and cardio efficiency
A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine shows that those who consumed creatine supplements daily had far more efficient oxygen usage. Put simply, they could push themselves harder, for longer, without getting as tired.
Plus, their maximum heart rate during exercise decreased by almost 4%, showing a much greater cardiovascular efficiency. Other Studies have also shown that creatine can increase your ability to perform aerobic exercises.
Creatine is good for brain health
Having a decent store of creatine in the brain can increase energy production, brain function, and cognitive performance. Creatine stores decrease as we age, making us feel more tired and less likely to exercise.
Keeping the brain healthy and focused is essential to keep moving forward and stay sharp. Creatine has been shown to increase the amount of phosphocreatine in our brain, which can help with our memory, too.
Creatine can help lower blood sugar levels
Clinical trials have shown to lower blood sugar levels when combined with exercise. This happens through a process where the creatine increases the blood sugar brought to the muscles.
This has an essential effect on the body as it helps blood sugar control and enables sugar to be cleared from the blood more quickly. Creatine has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels after a meal.
Creatine can reduce muscle soreness
Creatine supplementation can also reduce muscle inflammation during and after exercise. A Life Sciences study looked at runners who took creatine supplements for five days before a race to see if there would be any effect on them post-race.
The study proves less cellular damage and less muscular inflammation than the runners in the placebo control group. Regular creatine supplementation helps to reduce muscle soreness and leads to a faster recovery after cardiovascular exercise.
How does creatine work?
Our body needs energy, and our muscles need a lot of energy, especially when working out.
Creatine stores this energy, mostly in our skeletal muscles, and provides a hit when we need it the most. This is especially important when we’re doing high-intensity exercises like:
- Weight lifting
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Anaerobic exercises
Creatine supplementation increases cellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which releases the energy we need in rapid time.
ATP is an energy deposit that is readily available to use at a moment’s notice. ATP is essential for biological processes, and the energy we get from it enables muscle function.
The body requires a constant flow if we’re doing intense, longer workouts. So, the more ATP we can create, the more we can push ourselves with more reps, sets, and general training endurance.
Creatine supplementation appears to work regardless of age or gender, which is excellent news for everyone who wants to push themselves harder and gain additional energy, strength, and lean muscle mass.
It has been proven to benefit several key areas of exercise, especially as it enables us to keep going for more extended periods. Those taking creatine when performing resistance training will find they have increased muscle strength, body mass, and a larger bone mineral density, more so than they would have without the creatine boost.
Creatine boosts vertical power and endurance and reduces the time we need to rest in between sets due to its ability to reduce blood pressure and get our heart rate back to normal after exercise.
It also seems to be highly beneficial if you take it over a long period. Creatine loading, for example, has been shown to increase anaerobic capacity, which again means we can exercise longer without tiredness. This effectively means that we can progress at a much faster rate.
Is Creatine Safe?
Creatine is one of the most frequently scientifically studied supplements, so it’s been proven safe and effective (time and time again) if taken sensibly and in the recommended dose.
The bottom line here? There are no major health issues associated with long-term creatine supplementation.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) has confirmed no scientific evidence of adverse effects on healthy individuals supplementing with creatine. You can feel assured that if you’re taking it for a specific reason, it will deliver.
Taking too much creatine, however, can do more harm than good. It sounds like a good idea in principle: the more creatine we take, the more energy, muscle mass, and bone density we’ll have.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that. Our bodies can cope with a certain amount of creatine overload, but supplementing with too much can cause issues, so we must stick to the recommended dose and normal clinical limits. Let’s have a look at the adverse effects of creatine supplementation.
How should I take creatine supplements?
You can mix creatine with your daily supplement shake—or water. If you’re mixing it with other supports, like protein powder, it’s a good idea to do the taste test first to ensure the mixture of flavors is palatable.
You can take creatine before or just after a workout. While there is some debate about how long before your workout you should take, the general consensus is around 30 minutes before exercise to ensure it gets into your system.
When you take your creatine is down to personal preference. But, some prefer to take half a dose before a workout to help them push harder and half the dose afterwards to aid recovery. Either way, it will work in your system pretty quickly, and you’ll be able to see what works best for you.
How much creatine you take depends on what stage you’re at with the supplement. Those new to creatine can begin with a “loading phase.” After that, you can take the recommended daily maintenance dose between 3g and 5g daily. Creatine loading isn’t essential, but it will give your system a head start and help to build up stores in your muscles quickly.
By creatine loading, you can increase the creatine in your muscles by up to 40% in under a week.
This means your body will be ready to reap the benefits of creatine more quickly, which means bigger and better gains in a shorter space of time
Why? Well, because your muscles will be fully saturated with creatine much quicker than they would if you start with a daily dose.
Without creatine loading, it can take up to a fortnight before your body’s creatine stores are at the same level as loading. Creatine loading isn’t essential, but it will give you a head start.
A daily dose of creatine
The scientifically approved daily dosage of creatine is between three and five grams for both men and women, which applies regardless of age or ability.
Anything more than this daily, and you could be in danger territory as your body tries to adapt to the overload. Creatine loading is okay for the first week, but taking a similarly large amount for weeks or months would lead to trouble (see our rundown of ‘side effects’). It sounds like a perfectly sound idea that the more creatine you take, the more powerful you’ll be. But we’re not superhuman and we must respect our body’s limitations. Taking too much creatine is going against science and our health and well-being.
The creatine loading phase: how to do it
Loading essentially means taking more creatine than you would usually be recommended to load up the stores in your system, so you’re effectively taking much higher doses for the first five to seven days.
After this period, when you’re ‘stocked up,’ you can top your system up each day with the daily dose. Without creatine loading, it can take up to three weeks before you are up to the same levels through daily dosing. It’s possible to gain some water retention during this period, but it usually wears off after a few days.
Gym trainers often recommend creatine loading as you can benefit from it from the start. Saturating your muscles with creatine supplements before you start a workout will power your activities from day one and help speed up your recovery.
The creatine loading phase usually takes around 25g of creatine daily for a week. The 25g is normally spread out over the day in 5g doses. This should boost your creatine stores by between 10 and 40%.
After a week, you should drop to the recommended daily dose to avoid ‘overloading.’ There are alternative ways to load, but doing so over a week and then dropping down appears to be the most effective and safest way.
What are the side effects of taking creatine?
No one is saying that creatine supplementation is all one-way traffic. But, if you use it sensibly, there should be little or no side effects. Everyone is different, however, so it’s essential to look at the rare instances where side effects have been reported to make you aware of potential issues.
Creatine may cause digestive problems
Not every kind of food or supplement agrees with everyone, and creatine has been known to cause gastrointestinal distress. So, if you have a particularly sensitive stomach, it could be a problem.
Issues like diarrhoea and stomach discomfort have been reported, but this is often because users are overloaded.
There have been some reports of muscle cramping by creatine users, but there’s no clear evidence that it has been linked to the creatine itself.
Creatine helps to reduce muscle cramping. So, any effects are likely to be a lighter version of the one that would have occurred without the creatine supplementation. It could also be linked to other supplements taken rather than creatine.
It can cause water retention
We can file this claim in the ‘Chinese Whisper’ category. Why, you say? Well, because water retention is often confused with weight gain. Water retention can happen in the short term when you first start taking creatine as your body adapts to the supplement. This usually stops after a few days, so it shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
It may cause kidney and liver issues
There have been reports of kidney issues, but it’s often from people with ongoing kidney issues, such as kidney disease, rather than a new problem.
Studies show no real link between creatine supplementation and liver or kidney function issues in people with no underlying conditions.
There have been a few reports of creatine supplements causing dizziness. This may be because they’ve been taken without food. It could also be because the body adjusts to the additional creatine intake. Further research is needed to draw definitive conclusions, but it doesn’t seem to be a regular side effect.
High blood pressure
Studies show that creatine doesn’t appear to have an issue with the blood pressure of healthy individuals.
But, it has been noted that it may increase the risk of complications associated with hypertension for those with pre-existing conditions.
Why do people think creatine supplementation causes hair loss?
So, we arrive at the big question: Does taking creatine lead to hair loss?
There’s certainly a creatine hair loss myth that regularly does the rounds in gyms worldwide: “Creatine will make your hair fall out.”
Certainly, if you were told this by a gym-goer with just a few strands of hair on his head, we can understand you’d be worried. It’s all good to take a supplement to improve your physique, but if it’s going to affect your hair health, it surely isn’t worth it.
We need to look at the science to assess hair loss issues with creatine supplementation. The scientific evidence is that whether your hair will fall out as you age is mostly due to androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness), which is down to your genetic makeup or issues such as cancer treatments. Yet, creatine still gets bad press over this, even though there is no scientific evidence to support it.
Did you know? The misconception comes from an early study in which a group of rugby players were given a creatine supplement for 21 days.
The study concluded that by the end, there was a significant increase in serum dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels compared to the placebo group. DHT is a byproduct of testosterone, which can make hair follicles shrink in size if there are enough concentrations.
It can reduce the hair growth cycle and cause it to fall out. But, you’d have to take ridiculous amounts of creatine to make this happen.
So, the real question of the study is: Did any of the rugby players suffer actual hair loss due to creatine?
Drum roll. please…the answer is, no. Not a single one is statistically significant as it completely negates the false rumour that creatine will affect DHT levels to the extent that it will cause hair loss.
Even though the creatine seemed to affect serum dihydrotestosterone levels, it was nowhere high enough to be a hair loss issue. Myth busted.
So, does creatine cause hair loss?
We’ll say it again: No. The rugby player experiment is the perfect example of an urban myth where half a story is taken and used out of context instead of coming to the correct conclusion.
There’s no scientific evidence whatsoever of creatine supplements causing hair loss. Even if it raised your serum dihydrotestosterone level in the body, you’d have to take a huge amount of creatine supplements to raise it to a level where it might cause your hair to fall out.
Still, if you took it in such a large quantity, hair loss would probably be the least of your health concerns.
This is another example of creatine working for us as long as we have a sensible daily creatine intake and are not abusing it.
Yes, there can be side effects if you use too much creatine as a supplement, but if you use it the right way and have no underlying health concerns, there shouldn’t be an issue.
Creatine is one of the most widely scientifically studied supplements, and no one has shown that it causes hair loss. Male pattern baldness is in the genes and not linked to creatine.
So, should you take creatine supplements?
We’ve had a good look at creatine and weighed up the pros and cons. The negative issues surrounding creatine supplementation mainly lie around its abuse.
In other words, if you take more than the scientifically recommended dose, you may find yourself in danger territory. As long as you are taking it sensibly, you can expect creatine to raise your workouts and performance to new levels.
When you’re working out, you want to progress and to do so, you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone to achieve more.
Creatine supplements help you to do this by allowing increased muscle performance to help you to become stronger, work out for longer, run further, recover quicker and at the same time, help to keep you mentally focused on your challenges.
Even without creatine, to become bigger, stronger, and better versions of ourselves, we need to take it one step at a time: build, recover, and then build again. It’s not a quick dash to the line.
Creatine works with us to allow us to achieve this through increasing endurance and strength and speeding up recovery times.
This means we can progress quickly and achieve more by pushing harder and recovering quickly. Even a tiny step each day builds up over time, and creatine will give you that added push to finish much more quickly.
Keeping our creatine levels slightly higher than usual will give our bodies added energy resources. The ability to push yourself harder safely means a quicker progression to the next level, so it’s no surprise that creatine is so widely used in competitive sports.
Creatine will help you to:
- Increase your performance at the gym by allowing you extra bursts of energy and quicker recovery times
- Reduce injuries by fast-tracking the recovery and repair period
- Increase muscle mass by allowing our bodies to tolerate more intense workouts and boosting the hydration of our muscle cells, which speeds up muscle growth and repair
- Improve aerobic performance and cardio efficiency by giving you a better cardiovascular and VO2 max efficiency
- Improve your cognitive health by helping you to focus more by keeping the creatine levels in the brain topped up
- Lower blood sugar levels by increasing the amount of blood sugar pushed through to the muscles, allowing the sugar to be cleared more quickly from the blood
- Reduce muscle soreness after exercise by reducing muscle inflammation during and after exercise
What creatine supplements should you take?
Crazy Nutrition’s CRN-5 creatine formula contains all the benefits of creatine with many added bonuses. It’s crafted with five grams of creatine plus electrolytes to help boost energy, support lean muscle mass, and maintain hydration, giving your muscles more energy and strength to push harder and progress faster.
It’s significantly stronger and more stamina-enhancing than other creatine formulas. It has an added blend of minerals to support electrolytes for muscle hydration so you can lift harder and recover faster.
We hope this guide has you all pumped up and ready for action. To discover more about this most epic of supplements, read our essential guide to the world’s most common creatine myths (busted).
Want to know the answer to some of the most commonly asked questions around FAQs? Let’s take a look.
What is creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound that our body can make in small quantities and you can consume through eating fish and chicken. But, you can also take it in the form of a supplement to enhance the body-boosting benefits.
What are the benefits of creatine?
There are a number of benefits that can help you push your workout to the next level, including:
- Increased performance
- Reduced injury
- More muscle mass
- Improved aerobic performance
- Better cognitive health
- Lower blood sugar
- Less muscle soreness
Is creatine safe to take?
Yes, in the recommended dosages, creatine is safe. It can come with a few side effects, including cramps, water retention, dizziness and kidney damage. But, only if you take it in the wrong amounts.
Does creatine make your hair fall out?
No scientific evidence suggests that creatine can make your hair fall out. One study has shown that creatine can cause an increase in serum dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels which are associated with reduced follicles and hair loss. But, this increase is not at the level that would cause hair loss. It’s a myth.