By Dr. Brittany Masteller
Creatine is synthesized in the liver and kidneys from amino acids and is stored primarily in muscle tissue. Its role is to regenerate intracellular ATP (energy) stores via the phosphocreatine system during high-intensity activity. This energy system is responsible for short-term, intense activity lasting up to ~15 seconds. Humans can produce creatine naturally, but can also absorb and store creatine found in various foods like meat, eggs, and fish. It can also be supplemented for additional positive effects.
Creatine is one of the most widely researched supplements out there (1-8). For decades, researchers have examined the effects of creatine supplementation on various outcomes and in several different populations.
The body needs to replenish about 1–3 grams of creatine per day to maintain normal stores. We recommend beginning by simply ingesting small amounts of creatine monohydrate (e.g., 3–5 g/day) on a daily basis to increase muscle creatine stores over a 3–4 week period. The quickest method of increasing muscle creatine stores is a prescription of 0.3 g/kg of body weight/day (20-25 grams) of creatine monohydrate for 5–7-days followed by 3–5 g/day after that. This is often called "loading." The reason we don’t specifically recommend the latter – loading – is because we often see supplement companies pushing loading as a recommendation to their customers since it increases the amount of creatine you consume (and purchase), and while you can load if you prefer, we recommend simply starting with maintenance consumption (1 scoop per day) instead.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your medical provider about any and all supplementation.
At Buff Chick, we promote supplements with ingredients that are science-backed. This is why we offer creatine monohydrate in 4 different flavors, all properly dosed for your strength and power needs!
The most important factor with creatine supplementation is consistency. Creatine supplements are meant to be consumed daily. Does it matter if that is before or after your workout? Not really! Just make sure you are consistently taking it. Many people find it beneficial to take it with pre-workout, or with their post-workout shake to more effectively build the habit of taking it, which is great! If you are having trouble remembering to take it daily, we suggest an approach like this not for effectiveness, but for consistency.
Myth 1: Creatine is a Steroid.
Creatine is made of amino acids and is stored in muscle tissue. The myth about creatine being an anabolic steroid is completely false. While the benefits of creatine overlap with some of the reported benefits of anabolic steroid use, creatine is a safe, effective, (and very legal) supplement for individuals who want to take their training to the next level.
Myth 2: Creatine supplementation leads to fat gain.
One of the most commonly reported side effects of creatine supplementation is bloating. When someone starts supplementing creatine, particularly during the loading phase, there is often an increased water retention. Although this may cause a temporary increase in weight, it is not actual fat gain and should subside after consistent use. Furthermore, if someone is able to improve muscle mass via increased performance after creatine use, it may result in weight (muscle) gain (2).
Myth 3: Creatine supplementation is only for men.
Traditionally, many supplements that are known to improve strength, power, and athletic performance are primarily marketed towards men. However, that does not mean females can’t experience those benefits as well. Generally, the amount of studies examining the effects of creatine supplementation in women is much less than the number of studies that have been done in men. Research continues to examine the effects of creatine supplementation on physiological outcomes specific to females, such as the menstrual cycle and pre vs. post-menopause (7, 8).
Myth 4: Creatine causes kidney problems.
To address this myth, let’s talk about creatinine - a metabolite of creatine and can be used as a marker of kidney function. Excessive creatine supplementation, far beyond the recommended dose, could potentially show an increase in creatinine – signaling a (false) potential problem with the kidneys. Aside from creatinine levels increasing, there is no evidence that creatine supplementation negatively impacts kidney health when consumed in the proper dosage. Several short and long-term clinical trials assessing the effects of creatine supplementation on kidney function have been published demonstrating no adverse outcomes in healthy individuals with no kidney problems (1, 6). We recommend discussing your supplement routine with your doctor.
While the above covers the majority of these questions, here’s a quick reference guide for some of our most commonly asked questions:
Can I stack Creatine with other supplements?
Yep! While our flavored Creatine is delicious on it’s own, you can easily combine it – and our unflavored Creatine – with any of our other powdered supplements including Buff Pre, Buff Pump, Buff Whey, Buff Greens, and Buff Reds.
Who should use Creatine?
Any healthy adult. Always consult your doctor or healthcare provider prior to taking any supplements, especially if you have any health conditions, are pregnant or nursing, or under the age of 18.
When should I use Creatine?
Creatine can be taken at any time of day. Daily supplementation (not just the days you train) is more important than timing.
Do I need to cycle Creatine?
Creatine does not need to be cycled.
Do I need to load Creatine?
No, you do not need to load creatine. Revisit the supplementation recommendation above for what the research says.
What kind of training is best for using Creatine?
Resistance training; strength, power, and hypertrophy (muscle-building) programs.
Does creatine cause weight gain?
See the full details in our Myth #1 above.
Does Creatine have any side effects?
Besides the minor gastrointestinal issues from excessive creatine, it is unlikely to be unsafe or bad for you. Additionally, while some anecdotal evidence exists of cramping when supplementing with creatine, the current research shows that creatine supplementation does not cause dehydration or cramping when paired with sufficient water intake. If you have any kidney conditions, consult your doctor or healthcare provider prior to taking creatine or any other supplements.
References for the FAQ section can be found here.
1. Kreider, Richard B et al. “International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 14 18. 13 Jun. 2017, doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z.
2. Branch JD. Effect of creatine supplementation on body composition and performance: a meta-analysis. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Jun;13(2):198-226..
3. Kendall KL, Smith AE, Graef JL, Fukuda DH, Moon JR, Beck TW, Cramer JT, Stout JR. Effects of four weeks of high-intensity interval training and creatine supplementation on critical power and anaerobic working capacity in college-aged men. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Sep;23(6):1663-9.
4. Kreider RB, Jung YP. Creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Exerc Nutr Biochem. 2011;15(2):53–69.
5. Mills, Scotty et al. “Effects of Creatine Supplementation during Resistance Training Sessions in Physically Active Young Adults.” Nutrients vol. 12,6 1880. 24 Jun. 2020, doi:10.3390/nu12061880
6. Almeida, Douglas et al. “Creatine supplementation improves performance, but is it safe? Double-blind placebo-controlled study.” The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness vol. 60,7 (2020): 1034-1039. doi:10.23736/S0022-4707.20.10437-7
7. Smith-Ryan, A. E., et al. "Creatine Supplementation in Women’s Health: A Lifespan Perspective. Nutrients 2021, 13, 877." (2021).
8. Gotshalk, Lincoln A., et al. "Creatine supplementation improves muscular performance in older women." European journal of applied physiology 102.2 (2008): 223-231.