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How Creatine Helps You Gain Muscle and Strength

How Creatine Helps You Gain Muscle and Strength

Creatine is the most effective supplement for increasing muscle mass and strength (1Trusted Source).

It is a fundamental supplement in the bodybuilding and fitness communities (2Trusted Source).

Research shows supplementing with creatine can double your strength and lean muscle gains when compared to training alone (3Trusted Source).

This article takes a detailed look at the effects of creatine on strength, power and muscle mass.

Creatine Enhances Energy Production

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the most basic form of energy in your body’s cells. It plays a fundamental role in metabolism and muscle function.

Unfortunately, you can only store enough ATP for 8–10 seconds of high-intensity exercise. After this, your body must produce new ATP to match the demands of the activity (4Trusted Source).

Performing exercise at maximum intensity requires more ATP per second than your body can produce (5Trusted Source).

This is one reason why you can only sprint at full speed for a few seconds. Your body’s ATP energy simply runs out.

Creatine supplements increase your body’s stores of phosphocreatine, which is used to produce new ATP during high-intensity exercise (5Trusted Source).

In fact, just a 6-day creatine load followed by a 2 gram/day maintenance dose can drastically elevate your muscle stores, as shown in the graph below (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

 

The extra creatine in your muscles can then be used for ATP production, providing a small amount of extra energy before fatigue sets in.

Bottom Line:

Creatine may provide additional ATP energy, which is vital for maximal power and strength-based activities.

Creatine Has Other Benefits for Muscle Function

In addition to creatine’s role in ATP energy production, it may also improve the function of your muscle cells in other ways (7Trusted Source).

One example is an increase in the water content of your muscle cells, which is known as cell volumization or swelling (8Trusted Source).

It may also increase IGF-1, a key hormone for muscle growth (9Trusted Source).

These changes trigger several processes that lead to the formation of new proteins, subsequently creating new muscle mass (7Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).

Creatine may also help you reduce muscle breakdown and retain muscle during exercise. This may result in a greater amount of muscle in the long-term (11Trusted Source).

Another long-term benefit of creatine is the ability to perform more exercises or repetitions and lift heavier weights per training session (12Trusted Source).

Although this may not make a difference in one week, the total amount of weight lifted is a key factor in long-term muscle growth (12Trusted Source).

The graph below demonstrates the changes in size of different types of muscle fibers following creatine supplementation (13Trusted Source).

 

Bottom Line:

Creatine can cause numerous changes within muscle cells, signaling your body to build new muscle

Creatine Enhances Strength and Power

 

ATP energy is the main fuel source for high-intensity exercise.

Because creatine can increase phosphocreatine levels and therefore increase ATP energy production, it is one of the few supplements repeatedly proven to increase strength and power (14Trusted Source).

One 4-week study found a 17% improvement in cycling sprints, an 18-lb (8-kg) increase in bench press 1-rep max and 20% greater work load at a lower weight (3Trusted Source).

As you can see in the graph below, 10 weeks of taking creatine supplements also drastically increased half-squat power (15Trusted Source) .

 

Another study assessed both gym and fitness-based markers of power output.

After 9 weeks of taking creatine, Division 1 college football players witnessed the following improvements in performance (16Trusted Source):

  • Bench press (1 rep max): 5.2% increase
  • Power clean (1 rep max): 3.8% increase
  • Squat (1 rep max): 8.7% increase
  • High-intensity anaerobic peak power: 19.6% increase
  • High-intensity anaerobic capacity: 18.4% increase

Most of the studies on creatine have found positive effects. One large review found a 5% average improvement in strength and power (17Trusted Source).

Bottom Line:

Creatine improves numerous aspects of strength and power. The average increase may be around 5%.

 
 
Creatine Helps You Gain Muscle

There are only a few legal supplements that can directly add muscle mass when combined with exercise (14Trusted Source).

Of these, creatine is the most effective and has the most scientific support (1Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).

A review of 250 studies compared the most popular muscle building supplements, as shown in the graph below. Creatine provided the greatest benefit of all of them (14Trusted Source).

 

One 8-week study found that creatine increased muscle mass when added to an exercise regimen. Strength on the bench press was improved, along with a reduction in myostatin, which is a protein that inhibits muscle cell growth (18Trusted Source).

What’s more, creatine has benefits for both beginners and more advanced weight lifters.

One study among well-trained athletes found that creatine added 5.7 lbs (2.6 kg) of muscle mass, 24 lbs (11 kg) to the bicep curl and 70 lbs (32 kg) to the leg press (1 rep max) (19).

Research has shown creatine supplements can also help women to tone up or increase strength. One study in women found a 60% greater increase in lean mass compared to a group that only strength trained (20Trusted Source).

Additionally, a review of over 150 studies reported an average 2.2% increase in lean body mass and a 3.2% decrease in body fat for those taking creatine (21Trusted Source).

Bottom Line:

Current research suggests that creatine, when combined with weight training, is the single most effective supplement for adding muscle mass.

 
How to Take Creatine for Maximum Gains

Creatine comes in several different forms. While the newer versions of creatine show beneficial results, they are no more effective than creatine monohydrate (1Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).

Until more research has been conducted on these new versions, creatine monohydrate is likely the most effective and cheapest option available.

Most studies use a high-dose loading strategy, which can rapidly elevate your muscle creatine content. Although this is not necessary, it will help you reap the benefits of creatine after just a few days (1Trusted Source).

To load with creatine, take four 5-gram servings throughout the day for about 5-7 days. After that, take 3-5 grams per day to maintain your muscle creatine stores (1Trusted Source).

The benefits you receive from creatine also depend on your current creatine muscle stores. The graph below shows the varied pre and post supplement levels in 16 people (23Trusted Source).

 

Those with already high creatine stores may receive less or insignificant benefits from the extra supplements. However, those with low creatine stores may see big improvements (1Trusted Source).

Smaller amounts of creatine can also be obtained from foods, such as red meat. This suggests vegetarians or anyone eating only small amounts of meat may receive even greater benefits (23Trusted Source).

Although long-term creatine supplementation is safe for healthy individuals, it may not be suitable for those with kidney problems or other related diseases (22Trusted Source).

Bottom Line:

The most common dosage protocol is a 5-7 day loading phase with about 20 grams of creatine per day, split into 4 doses. This is followed with a 3-5 gram per day maintenance dose.

Should You Take Creatine?

As with most supplements, research shows that a small percentage of people do not receive any benefit from using creatine.

It may be most beneficial for vegetarians, vegans and those who do not eat much animal protein.

And although creatine is the number one exercise supplement, it will only provide benefits if you consistently follow a sensible exercise and nutrition plan.

If you regularly weight train and are looking to add muscle, creatine supplements may provide faster results while improving gym performance.

Here is a very detailed article about creatine: Creatine 101 – What is it and What Does it do?

 

Creatine 101 — What Is It and What Does It Do?

Creatine is the number-one supplement for improving performance in the gym.

Studies show that it can increase muscle mass, strength and exercise performance (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).

Additionally, it provides a number of other health benefits, such as protecting against neurological disease (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

Some people believe that creatine is unsafe and has many side effects, but these are not supported by evidence (7, 8Trusted Source).

In fact, it is one of the world’s most tested supplements and has an outstanding safety profile (1Trusted Source).

This article explains everything you need to know about creatine.

 
 
What is creatine?

Creatine is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells. It helps your muscles produce energy during heavy lifting or high-intensity exercise.

Taking creatine as a supplement is very popular among athletes and bodybuilders in order to gain muscle, enhance strength and improve exercise performance (1Trusted Source).

Chemically speaking, it shares many similarities with amino acids. Your body can produce it from the amino acids glycine and arginine.

Several factors affect your body’s creatine stores, including meat intake, exercise, amount of muscle mass and levels of hormones like testosterone and IGF-1 (9Trusted Source).

About 95% of your body’s creatine is stored in muscles in the form of phosphocreatine. The other 5% is found in your brain, kidneys and liver (9Trusted Source).

When you supplement, you increase your stores of phosphocreatine. This is a form of stored energy in the cells, as it helps your body produce more of a high-energy molecule called ATP.

ATP is often called the body’s energy currency. When you have more ATP, your body can perform better during exercise (9Trusted Source).

Creatine also alters several cellular processes that lead to increased muscle mass, strength and recovery (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).

Summary

Creatine is a substance found naturally in your body — particularly in muscle cells. It is commonly taken as a supplement.

 
How does it work?

Creatine can improve health and athletic performance in several ways.

In high-intensity exercise, its primary role is to increase the phosphocreatine stores in your muscles.

The additional stores can then be used to produce more ATP, which is the key energy source for heavy lifting and high-intensity exercise (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).

Creatine also helps you gain muscle in the following ways:

  • Boosted workload: Enables more total work or volume in a single training session, which is a key factor in long-term muscle growth (12Trusted Source).
  • Improved cell signaling: Can increase satellite cell signaling, which aids muscle repair and new muscle growth (13Trusted Source).
  • Raised anabolic hormones: Studies note a rise in hormones, such as IGF-1, after taking creatine (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
  • Increased cell hydration: Lifts water content within your muscle cells, which causes a cell volumization effect that may play a role in muscle growth (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
  • Reduced protein breakdown: May increase total muscle mass by reducing muscle breakdown (19Trusted Source).
  • Lower myostatin levels: Elevated levels of the protein myostatin can slow or totally inhibit new muscle growth. Supplementing with creatine can reduce these levels, increasing growth potential (20Trusted Source).

Creatine supplements also increase phosphocreatine stores in your brain, which may improve brain health and prevent neurological disease (3Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).

Summary

Creatine gives your muscles more energy and leads to changes in cell function that increase muscle growth.

Effects on muscle gain

Creatine is effective for both short- and long-term muscle growth (25Trusted Source).

It assists many different people, including sedentary individuals, older adults and elite athletes (17Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).

One 14-week study in older adults determined that adding creatine to a weight-training program significantly increased leg strength and muscle mass (27Trusted Source).

In a 12-week study in weightlifters, creatine increased muscle fiber growth 2–3 times more than training alone. The increase in total body mass also doubled alongside one-rep max for bench press, a common strength exercise (28Trusted Source).

A large review of the most popular supplements selected creatine as the single most beneficial supplement for adding muscle mass (1Trusted Source, 25Trusted Source).

Summary

Supplementing with creatine can result in significant increases in muscle mass. This applies to both untrained individuals and elite athletes.

Effects on strength and exercise performance

Creatine can also improve strength, power and high-intensity exercise performance.

In one review, adding creatine to a training program increased strength by 8%, weightlifting performance by 14% and bench press one-rep max by up to 43%, compared to training alone (29Trusted Source).

In well-trained strength athletes, 28 days of supplementing increased bike-sprinting performance by 15% and bench-press performance by 6% (30Trusted Source).

Creatine also helps maintain strength and training performance while increasing muscle mass during intense over-training (31Trusted Source).

These noticeable improvements are primarily caused by your body’s increased capacity to produce ATP.

Normally, ATP becomes depleted after 8–10 seconds of high-intensity activity. But because creatine supplements help you produce more ATP, you can maintain optimal performance for a few seconds longer (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source).

Summary

Creatine is one of the best supplements for improving strength and high-intensity exercise performance. It works by increasing your capacity to produce ATP energy.

 
Impact on your brain

Just like your muscles, your brain stores phosphocreatine and requires plenty of ATP for optimal function (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).

Supplementing may improve the following conditions (3Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source, 35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source):

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Ischemic stroke
  • Epilepsy
  • Brain or spinal cord injuries
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Memory and brain function in older adults

Despite the potential benefits of creatine for treating neurological disease, most current research has been performed in animals.

However, one six-month study in children with traumatic brain injury observed a 70% reduction in fatigue and a 50% reduction in dizziness (40Trusted Source).

Human research suggests that creatine can also aid older adults, vegetarians and those at risk of neurological diseases (39Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source).

Vegetarians tend to have low creatine stores because they don’t eat meat, which is the main natural dietary source.

In one study in vegetarians, supplementing caused a 50% improvement in a memory test and a 20% improvement in intelligence test scores (21Trusted Source).

Although it can benefit older adults and those with reduced stores, creatine exhibits no effect on brain function in healthy adults (42Trusted Source).

Summary

Creatine may reduce symptoms and slow the progression of some neurological diseases, although more research in humans is needed.

Other Health Benefits

Research also indicates that creatine may (5Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source, 43Trusted Source, 44Trusted Source, 45Trusted Source, 46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source):

However, more research in these areas is needed.

Summary

Creatine may combat high blood sugar and fatty liver disease, as well as improve muscle function in older adults.

 
Different Types of Supplements

The most common and well-researched supplement form is called creatine monohydrate.

Many other forms are available, some of which are promoted as superior, though evidence to this effect is lacking (1Trusted Source, 7, 49Trusted Source).

Creatine monohydrate is very cheap and is supported by hundreds of studies. Until new research claims otherwise, it seems to be the best option.

Summary

The best form of creatine you can take is called creatine monohydrate, which has been used and studied for decades.

 
Dosage instructions

Many people who supplement start with a loading phase, which leads to a rapid increase in muscle stores of creatine.

To load with creatine, take 20 grams per day for 5–7 days. This should be split into four 5-gram servings throughout the day (1Trusted Source).

Absorption may be slightly improved with a carb- or protein-based meal due to the related release of insulin (50Trusted Source).

Following the loading period, take 3–5 grams per day to maintain high levels within your muscles. As there is no benefit to cycling creatine, you can stick with this dosage for a long time.

If you choose not to do the loading phase, you can simply consume 3–5 grams per day. However, it may take 3–4 weeks to maximize your stores (1Trusted Source).

Since creatine pulls water into your muscle cells, it is advisable to take it with a glass of water and stay well hydrated throughout the day.

Summary

To load with creatine, take 5 grams four times per day for 5–7 days. Then take 3–5 grams per day to maintain levels.

Safety and side effects

Creatine is one of the most well-researched supplements available, and studies lasting up to four years reveal no negative effects (8Trusted Source, 51Trusted Source).

One of the most comprehensive studies measured 52 blood markers and observed no adverse effects following 21 months of supplementing (8Trusted Source).

There is also no evidence that creatine harms the liver and kidneys in healthy people who take normal doses. That said, those with preexisting liver or kidney problems should consult with a doctor before supplementing (8Trusted Source, 51Trusted Source, 52Trusted Source).

Although people associate creatine with dehydration and cramps, research doesn’t support this link. In fact, studies suggest it can reduce cramps and dehydration during endurance exercise in high heat (53Trusted Source, 54Trusted Source).

One 2009 study found that creatine supplementation is associated with an increase in a hormone called DHT, which can contribute to hair loss. More research is needed, but people who are predisposed to hair loss may wish to avoid this supplement (55Trusted Source).

Summary

Creatine exhibits no harmful side effects. Though it’s commonly believed to cause dehydration and cramps, studies don’t support this.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, creatine is one of the cheapest, most effective and safest supplements you can take.

It supports quality of life in older adults, brain health and exercise performance. Vegetarians — who may not obtain enough creatine from their diet — and older adults may find supplementing particularly useful.

Creatine monohydrate is likely the best form. Try out creatine today to see if it works for you.

Side Effects of hGH: What You Should Know

Overview

Human growth hormone (hGH) is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the pituitary gland. It’s important for growth, cell regeneration, and cell reproduction.

HGH helps to maintain, build, and repair healthy tissue in the brain and other organs. This hormone can help to speed up healing after an injury and repair muscle tissue after exercise. This helps to build muscle mass, boost metabolism, and burn fat.

HGH is also said to benefit the quality and appearance of the skin. It’s said to slow down the aging process and treat age-related diseases. However, research supporting these claims is limited.

HGH works by stimulating metabolic processes in cells to activate metabolism. It stimulates the liver to make an insulin-like protein that produces cartilage cells. This plays a part in bone and organ growth, as well as muscle protein synthesis.

Although hGH is a naturally occurring substance, it’s also available in synthetic forms as a treatment or supplement. But what are the risks of taking it?

Uses and benefits

Synthetic hGH is used to treat poor growth in children and adults. It can also be used to treat adults with short bowel syndrome or muscle loss due to HIV or AIDS.

Lack of growth may be the result of medical causes such as:

Injections of hGH can help people with a growth hormone deficiency to:

  • increase exercise capacity
  • improve bone density
  • build muscle mass
  • reduce body fat

Because of these benefits, many people use hGH to enhance their athletic ability. It’s sometimes used in combination with anabolic steroids to increase muscle mass and to enhance athletic performance.

Some people believe hGH has anti-aging effects since natural levels of hGH decrease with age. It’s also said to naturally increase testosterone. However, it should be noted that not all of these benefits have been scientifically proven. The use of hGH for athletic and anti-aging purposes is controversial due to this lack of scientific evidence and its potential side effects.

Popular forms

HGH is injected intramuscularly (IM) and subcutaneously (under the skin) if it’s been prescribed. Sometimes, illicit manufacturers offer hGH in an injectable form as well.

HGH and substances that promote hGH production are sold online by some companies as dietary supplements, which claim to have the same benefits as the injections. These supplements are sometimes known as human growth hormone releasers. Some of them are said to increase hGH levels in your body because of ingredients such as amino acids.

However, there’s no evidence that these supplements have the same results as prescribed hGH. Homeopathic remedies containing human growth hormone also exist. Evidence supporting their benefits is lacking.

SeroVital is a popular brand of dietary supplement. It’s said to be able to naturally raise hGH levels because of the amino acids it contains. This is said to have an anti-aging effect. SeroVital also claims to build stronger bones, increase lean muscle mass, and reduce body fat. These claims need more study. SeroVital contains no hGH.

 
What are the side effects?

There are several side effects that may go along with hGH use. These side effects are possible with the prescribed version, as well as an illicit form of hGH since the content isn’t completely known and regulated. Side effects may affect older adults more than younger people. The long-term effects of hGH aren’t known.

Possible side effects of excess hGH injections include:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • nerve, muscle, or joint pain
  • swelling of the arms and legs from fluid retention (edema)
  • high cholesterol levels
  • numb and tingling skin
  • an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
  • growth of cancerous tumors
  • growth of facial features, hands, and feet (acromegaly)
  • mood changes, dependency, and withdrawal
  • an enlarged heart
  • low blood sugar
  • liver damage
  • fatigue
  • enlarged breasts in men (gynecomastia)

Possible side effects of SeroVital differ from those of hGH since SeroVital is an amino acid blend that doesn’t contain hGH. Side effects of the amino acids in SeroVital may include:

  • stomach pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • bloating
  • increased asthma symptoms
  • gout
  • low blood pressure
  • allergic reaction
  • heartburn
 
The takeaway

HGH should be used with care and consideration. Only use hGH that you get via a doctor’s prescription. Check in regularly with your doctor while you’re taking it.

Take special care to note how your body reacts and if you experience any adverse reactions. If you wish to strengthen your body or improve your health but don’t have a condition known to cause growth hormone deficiency, you may consider finding other ways to do this. Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and engage in healthy habits to improve your overall health and well-being.

Can hGH give women bulky muscles?

Q:

Can hGH give women bulky, masculine-looking muscles?

Anonymous patient

A:

 

There’s no evidence available to suggest that taking hGH will give healthy women (with normal growth hormone levels) the appearance of bulky muscles. It may help women lose fat and gain lean muscle mass, but this is dependent on many characteristics specific to each woman.

 

Lindsay Slowiczek, PharmDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
 

Creatine and Whey Protein: Should You Take Both?

In the world of sports nutrition, people use various supplements to increase their performance and enhance exercise recovery.

Creatine and whey protein are two popular examples, with a great deal of data backing their effectiveness.

While their effects are similar in some regards, they are distinctly different compounds that work in different ways.

This article reviews what creatine and whey protein powder are, their main differences, and whether you should take them together for optimal benefits.

 
 
What are creatine and whey protein?

Creatine and whey protein have unique molecular structures and work differently in your body.

Creatine

Creatine is an organic compound produced naturally in your muscle cells. It aids energy production during high-intensity exercise or heavy lifting.

When taken in supplement form, creatine can help increase muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance (1Trusted Source).

It works by increasing phosphocreatine stores in your muscles. This molecule aids energy production for short-duration muscular contractions (2Trusted Source).

Creatine is also found in many foods, specifically meat products. However, the total amount you can obtain from eating meat is rather small. This is why many people who are looking to increase muscle mass and performance take creatine supplements.

Creatine in supplement form is synthetically produced in a commercial laboratory. The most common form is creatine monohydrate, though other forms exist (1Trusted Source).

Whey protein powder

Whey is one of the primary proteins found in dairy products. It’s often a by-product of cheese production and can be isolated to form a powder.

In terms of protein quality, whey is at the top of the list, hence why its supplements are so popular among bodybuilders and other athletes.

Consuming whey protein following a bout of exercise has been linked to enhanced recovery and increased muscle mass. These benefits can help improve strength, power, and muscular function (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).

Getting in a good source of protein after resistance exercise is important for maximizing muscle-building. About 20–25 grams of protein is a good amount to aim for (3Trusted Source).

Whey protein powder can be an efficient way to meet this recommendation, considering a typical 25-gram serving provides around 20 grams of protein.

Summary

Creatine is an organic compound that, when taken as a supplement, can help increase muscle mass, strength, and exercise performance. Whey protein is a dairy protein commonly consumed with resistance exercise to increase muscle mass and strength.

Both promote muscle gain

Both creatine and whey protein powder have been shown to increase muscle mass when taken in combination with resistance exercise (1Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).

Creatine increases exercise capacity during high-intensity exercise. This leads to improved recovery and adaptations such as increased muscle mass (1Trusted Source).

Meanwhile, ingesting whey protein in combination with exercise provides your body a high-quality source of protein, enhancing muscle protein synthesis and leading to increased muscle gains over time (3Trusted Source).

While both creatine and whey protein promote muscle gain, they differ in the ways they work. Creatine increases strength and muscle mass by increasing exercise capacity, whereas whey protein does so by stimulating increased muscle protein synthesis.

Summary

Both whey protein powder and creatine supplements have been shown to increase muscle mass, though they accomplish this in different ways.

 
Should you take them together?

Some people have proposed that taking whey protein and creatine together may lead to benefits beyond those associated with taking either one alone.

However, several studies have shown this is likely not the case.

One study in 42 middle-aged and older men found that participants did not experience any additional training adaptations when they took both whey protein and creatine, compared with taking either supplement alone (5Trusted Source).

Additionally, a study in 18 resistance-trained women found that those who took whey protein plus creatine for 8 weeks experienced no difference in muscle mass and strength than those who took whey protein alone (6Trusted Source).

The results seem to suggest there is no added benefit of taking whey protein and creatine together. However, some people may decide to take them together for convenience (7Trusted Source).

Additionally, no evidence suggests that taking creatine and whey protein at the same time causes any negative effects. It’s generally recognized as safe to take them together.

Choosing whether to take whey protein, creatine, or both comes down to your individual goals. If you are a recreational gym-goer just looking to stay in shape, whey protein may be a good option to aid muscle building and recovery.

On the other hand, if you are looking to maximize muscle mass and strength, it may be beneficial to take both whey protein and creatine.

Summary

Studies have observed that taking whey protein and creatine together with exercise offers no additional muscle or strength gains than taking each individually. Taking either alone likely provides the same benefits.

The bottom line

Whey protein powder and creatine are two popular sports supplements that have been shown to increase muscle mass and improve exercise performance, though the ways in which they accomplish this differ.

Taking the two together does not appear to offer additional benefits for muscle and strength gains.

However, if you’d like to try both and are looking to increase muscle mass and performance in the gym or on the field, taking whey protein and creatine together is safe and effective.

10 Health and Performance Benefits of Creatine

Creatine is a natural supplement used to boost athletic performance (1Trusted Source).

It’s not only safe but also one of the world’s most popular and effective supplements for building muscle and strength (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

Here are 10 science-based benefits of creatine.

 

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

1. Helps muscle cells produce more energy

Creatine supplements increase your muscles’ phosphocreatine stores (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).

Phosphocreatine aids the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the key molecule your cells use for energy and all basic life functions (8Trusted Source).

During exercise, ATP is broken down to produce energy.

The rate of ATP resynthesis limits your ability to continually perform at maximum intensity, as you use ATP faster than you reproduce it (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).

Creatine supplements increase your phosphocreatine stores, allowing you to produce more ATP energy to fuel your muscles during high-intensity exercise (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).

This is the primary mechanism behind creatine’s performance-enhancing effects.

Summary Supplementing with creatine provides additional ATP energy, which improves high-intensity exercise performance.

2. Supports many other functions in muscles

Creatine is a popular and effective supplement for adding muscle mass (1Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).

It can alter numerous cellular pathways that lead to new muscle growth. For example, it boosts the formation of proteins that create new muscle fibers (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).

It can also raise levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), a hormone that promotes increases in muscle mass (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).

What’s more, creatine supplements can increase the water content of your muscles. This is known as cell volumization and can quickly increase muscle size (15Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).

Additionally, some research indicates that creatine decreases levels of myostatin, a molecule responsible for stunting muscle growth. Reducing myostatin can help you build muscle faster (18Trusted Source).

Summary Creatine can stimulate several key biological processes that lead to increased muscle growth and size.

 
3. Improves high-intensity exercise performance

Creatine’s direct role in ATP production means it can drastically improve high-intensity exercise performance (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).

Creatine improves numerous factors, including (6Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source):

  • strength
  • ballistic power
  • sprint ability
  • muscle endurance
  • resistance to fatigue
  • muscle mass
  • recovery
  • brain performance

Unlike supplements that only affect advanced athletes, creatine benefits you regardless of your fitness level (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).

One review found that it improves high-intensity exercise performance by up to 15% (2Trusted Source).

Summary Creatine is the world’s most effective supplement for high-intensity sports. It offers benefits regardless of your current fitness level.

4. Speeds muscle growth

Creatine is the world’s most effective supplement for adding muscle mass (1Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).

Taking it for as few as 5–7 days has been shown to significantly increase lean body weight and muscle size.

This initial rise is caused by increases in the water content of your muscles (15Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source).

Over the long term, it also aids in muscle fiber growth by signaling key biological pathways and boosting gym performance (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 23Trusted Source).

In one study of a 6-week training regimen, participants who used creatine added 4.4 pounds (2 kg) more muscle mass, on average, than the control group (23Trusted Source).

Similarly, a comprehensive review demonstrated a clear increase in muscle mass among those taking creatine, compared with those performing the same training regimen without creatine (27Trusted Source).

This review also compared the world’s most popular sports supplements and concluded that creatine is the best one available. Its advantages include being less expensive and far safer than most other sports supplements (27Trusted Source).

Summary Creatine can increase both short- and long-term muscle mass growth. It’s the most effective muscle building supplement available.

 
5. May help with Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by reduced levels of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter in your brain (8Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source).

The large reduction in dopamine levels causes brain cell death and several serious symptoms, including tremors, loss of muscle function, and speech impairments (28Trusted Source).

Creatine has been linked to beneficial effects in mice with Parkinson’s, preventing 90% of the typical drop in dopamine levels. However, there is no evidence that it has the same effect in humans (29Trusted Source).

In an attempt to treat the loss of muscle function and strength, those with Parkinson’s often weight train (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).

In one study in individuals with this disease, combining creatine with weight training improved strength and daily function to a greater extent than training alone (32Trusted Source).

However, a recent analysis of five controlled studies in people with Parkinson’s noted that taking 4–10 grams of creatine per day didn’t significantly improve their ability to perform daily activities (33Trusted Source).

Summary Creatine may reduce some symptoms of Parkinson’s disease by improving muscle strength and function. However, certain studies observe no effects.

7 Foods That May Help Boost Testosterone

Testosterone is a sex hormone that affects:

  • sex drive
  • bones and muscle health
  • sperm production
  • blood cell production

Testosterone declines as you age, but other factors can also cause low testosterone, including certain medications, high body-fat levels, and some health conditions (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source) .

Low testosterone, also called hypogonadism or low T, occurs when testosterone levels fall below 300 nanograms/deciliter (ng/dL). Low testosterone can be medically treated through testosterone replacement therapy (3Trusted Source).

Hypogonadism is very common. In fact, around 40% of men over 45 years old and 50% of men in their 80s are considered hypogonadal (3Trusted Source).

A health-promoting lifestyle, including diet, is important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels. Some studies have found that diets high in ultra-processed foods and low in nutrient-dense foods may reduce testosterone levels (4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).

If you have low testosterone levels, follow a medical professional’s recommendations. Additionally, you may consider adopting a dietary pattern rich in foods that contain nutrients important for maintaining healthy testosterone levels.

Many nutrients, including vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc, are important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels (7Trusted Source).

However, there’s limited research investigating the impact of specific foods on testosterone levels.

This article covers 7 foods that are rich in nutrients that may help promote healthy testosterone levels.

 
Jeremy Pawlowski/Stocksy United
1. Fatty fish 

Fatty fish like salmon and sardines are rich in nutrients that are important for hormonal health, such as vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Even though certain high fat foods, such as fried foods, have been linked to decreased testosterone levels in some people, research has also shown that low fat diets may be detrimental for testosterone levels (5Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).

A systematic review of six studies found that low fat dietary patterns were associated with decreased testosterone levels, compared to higher fat dietary patterns (8Trusted Source).

However, the researchers noted that more high quality studies are needed to fully understand this relationship (8Trusted Source).

Regardless, adding healthy sources of fat like fatty fish to your diet likely benefits overall health, including hormonal health.

What’s more, fatty fish are good sources of zinc, vitamin D, and protein — nutrients that are important for maintaining healthy testosterone levels.

For example, studies show that men with lower levels of vitamin D tend to have lower testosterone than men with higher levels. This is because vitamin D is essential for male reproductive health (9Trusted Source).

 
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2. Dark, leafy greens

Dark, leafy greens are an excellent source of micronutrients, including magnesium, a mineral that’s critical for maintaining optimal testosterone levels, especially in older men.

It’s thought that magnesium increases testosterone bioactivity in the body because magnesium reduces oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is an imbalance between antioxidant defenses and free radicals in the body.

Oxidative stress and inflammation can reduce testosterone, so introducing nutrients that combat oxidative stress may help maintain healthy testosterone levels (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).

An older study in 399 men ages 65 or older found that those who had higher levels of magnesium in their blood had higher testosterone levels compared with those who had lower magnesium levels (10Trusted Source).

Additionally, a study in Taiwanese men found that low intake of leafy green vegetables was linked to lower testosterone levels (5Trusted Source).

Therefore, eating more magnesium-rich foods, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens, may help promote healthy testosterone levels.

3. Cocoa products 

Cocoa products like cocoa powder and cacao nibs are high in magnesium and flavonoid antioxidants, both of which are important for testosterone.

Flavonoids are plant compounds that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects in the body.

Studies suggest that certain flavonoids, including cocoa flavonoids like quercetin and apigenin, may help increase the production of testosterone from cells in the testicles called Leydig cells (13Trusted Source).

When you shop for cocoa products, you may want to choose ones that contain no added sugar or only small amounts of added sugar. Consider cocoa powder, cacao nibs, or low-sugar dark chocolate for their impressive health benefits.

4. Avocados

Avocados provide healthy fat, which is important for hormonal health. Plus, avocados contain magnesium and a mineral called boron, which studies indicate may benefit testosterone levels (14Trusted Source).

Boron is a trace mineral that seems to influence testosterone metabolism in the body and may protect against testosterone degradation (15).

Though some studies show that supplementing with high levels of boron may help boost testosterone in certain people, study results are mixed. More research is needed to fully understand how boron supplements impact testosterone (16Trusted Source).

While it’s not currently recommended to take boron supplements to increase testosterone, adding dietary sources of this mineral, like avocados, may help maintain healthy testosterone levels.

 
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5. Eggs

Egg yolks are rich in healthy fat, protein, and selenium, a mineral that acts as an antioxidant in the body.

According to some studies in test tubes and animals, selenium may help enhance the production of testosterone by activating certain pathways and the expression of certain genes (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).

Additionally, some studies in humans and animals have found that testosterone levels are higher in those with optimal selenium levels in their blood (18Trusted Source).

However, we need more research, especially in humans, before we can draw conclusions about selenium’s effect on testosterone.

Eggs are highly nutritious, so adding them to your diet if they’re not already a part of it is a good idea, unless you have an egg allergy. Remember that whole eggs are much more nutritious than plain egg whites, since the yolks contain most of the micronutrients.

6. Berries, cherries, and pomegranates 

Berries, cherries, and pomegranates are high in flavonoid antioxidants, which may help protect testosterone-producing cells from damage and increase testosterone production (13Trusted Source).

An older study in rats found that pomegranate juice supplementation helped protect against induced oxidative stress, increased testosterone levels, and helped protect Leydig cells (which produce testosterone) from injury (19Trusted Source).

However, we need more research in humans before we can conclude whether pomegranates or their juice can affect your testosterone levels.

Pomegranates, berries, and cherries may protect against obesity-induced inflammation, which can lower testosterone levels (20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).

Therefore, consuming antioxidant-rich foods like these fruits may promote overall health, including hormonal health.

 
7. Shellfish

Shellfish like oysters and clams are excellent sources of zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which may support optimal testosterone levels.

Because of its important role in reproductive health, zinc deficiency can cause hypogonadism (22Trusted Source).

What’s more, high dose zinc supplements appear to be effective for treating hypogonadism in some men. Yet, zinc supplements are not currently recommended as a universal treatment for hypogonadism (23Trusted Source).

But eating foods high in nutrients important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels like zinc, selenium, and omega-3 fats may support hormonal health.

 
Other ways to boost testosterone

Health-promoting diet changes may help with low testosterone, but they’re not cures for hypogonadism. A doctor must confirm that you have low testosterone through a physical exam and blood test.

If you’re diagnosed with low T, you may be prescribed testosterone replacements, such as (3Trusted Source):

  • tablets or pills
  • skin patches
  • topical gel
  • injections

These medications can come with the risk of serious side effects, so make sure you discuss all of them with your doctor.

Additionally, consider making dietary adjustments to boost your overall health, not just to treat low T.

Factors like body weight and certain lifestyle choices can affect testosterone levels as well.

For example, men with obesity are more likely to develop hypogonadism than moderate-weight men (24Trusted Source).

Therefore, maintaining a healthy weight is critical for hormonal health.

Being more physically active, quitting smoking if you smoke, and cutting back on alcohol and drug use may also help men with low testosterone improve their testosterone status (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).

Frequently asked questions

This section covers factors that may affect testosterone levels and the symptoms you may experience with low T.

What are the symptoms of low testosterone levels?

Symptoms of low testosterone include (3Trusted Source, 28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source):

  • decreased spontaneous erections
  • decreased sex drive
  • reduced testicular size
  • reduced bone and muscle mass
  • loss of body hair
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • profuse sweating

Keep in mind that symptoms related to low testosterone are non-specific and overlap with symptoms of other, potentially serious health conditions.

You should not self-diagnose low testosterone. If you suspect that you may have low testosterone, talk with a healthcare professional for proper testing.

Can drinking and drug use impact testosterone levels?

Yes. Research shows that harmful use of alcohol and drugs can affect sex hormone levels, including reducing testosterone (27Trusted Source).

In fact, alcohol and drug misuse is recognized as a potentially reversible cause of hypogonadism (27Trusted Source).

If you’re currently struggling with substance use, know that there are ways to get help. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for more information on treatment and support.

Are “testosterone-boosting supplements” safe?

It’s not a good idea to use supplements marketed as “testosterone boosters”.

That’s because many of these supplements contain ingredients like herbs that could potentially interact with medications or cause other dangerous side effects.

For example, pulmonary embolism and elevated liver enzymes are just some complications that have been associated with the use of supplements marketed to boost testosterone (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).

Plus, a study that evaluated 50 “T booster” supplements found that over 10% of the supplements contained ingredients that may negatively affect testosterone levels (31Trusted Source).

The study also discovered that many of the supplements contained unnecessarily high amounts of certain nutrients like zinc and B3 (31Trusted Source).

If you suspect that you have low testosterone, avoid supplements marketed as “testosterone boosters.” Instead, talk with a healthcare professional for advice on safe and evidence-based treatments.

The bottom line

Diet and lifestyle impact hormonal health and may impact testosterone levels.

Adding foods rich in nutrients important for maintaining optimal testosterone levels like vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, and flavonoid antioxidants may help support hormonal health.

However, if you have low testosterone or suspect that you’re experiencing symptoms of low testosterone, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for advice on the right testing and treatment.

Just one thing

Try this today: Symptoms of low testosterone, including fatigue, muscle loss, and low sex drive, overlap with symptoms of other, potentially serious medical conditions.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to visit your doctor to undergo appropriate testing to determine whether your symptoms are related to low testosterone or something else. You can also view options by clicking the link below.

LetsGetChecked

 
 
Source: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/boosting-food#bottom-line

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