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Do you need Creatine?

Everything you need to know


Whether a seasoned triathlete, looking to lift heavier, or new to working out entirely, you've probably heard all about creatine—the good and the myths. We're debunking common misconceptions and breaking down all things creatine.

What is creatine?

Creatine is found naturally in your body and lives primarily in your muscles. Three amino acids—methionine, glycine, arginine—make creatine in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas.

But you only produce between one and two grams daily, far below what you need to see maximum benefits. Sourcing creatine from foods like red meat and seafood or adding supplements like Jocko Creatine are popular ways to get more creatine into your system.

Creatine—from your body or as a supplement—is stored in your cells as phosphocreatine (also known as creatine phosphate). Like carbs and fatty acids, phosphocreatine can be broken down to produce energy. It acts as an energy store you can use during exercise, especially in high-intensity workouts.

Benefits of creatine

Creatine is chock-full of benefits, especially for vegans, vegetarians, and athletes looking to perform better in the gym and make serious gains.

1. Exercise performance
Studies show creatine supplements increase your phosphocreatine stores, allowing you to produce more ATP. During rigorous workouts—like HIIT training or sprints—where you quickly deplete energy, the ATP provides additional quick-burst energy.

Without it, you can't perform at maximum intensity. But when you add creatine, you replenish ATP faster and enhance overall performance. Studies back it up: creatine improved high-intensity performance by up to 15%.

Supplementation is necessary to fill the gaps in nutrition that athletes experience from increased training intensity.” - Wendi Irlbeck, registered dietician

2. Muscle strength and growth
Countless studies come to the same conclusion—creatine supplements help build muscles and strength:

Jump starts bodily processes that form new proteins and create new muscle mass
Can decrease muscle breakdown during strenuous exercise
Increases IGF-1, a necessary hormone for muscle growth
Allows you to do more reps and lift heavier—both boost muscle strength and growth

The results of individual studies are impressive, too, with some showing double the strength and muscle gains when using creatine supplements.

A study of college football players who took creatine supplements for nine weeks improved in nearly every area measured:

  • 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

3. Muscle recovery
Creatine supplementation helps your muscles recover in a few ways:

  • Muscle glycogen resynthesis. During extreme workouts, you burn through glycogen—a molecule necessary for recovery. Creatine increases glycogen resynthesis, accelerating muscle recovery.
  • Satellite cells. Working out creates micro-tears in your muscle fibers. Creatine activates satellite cells to help those tears heal.
  • Anabolic hormones. Creatine increases the hormones responsible for tissue repair, speeding up muscle recovery.
  • Muscle protein synthesis. Studies show creatine enhances muscle protein synthesis—the process responsible for muscle repair and rebuilding (post-workout).

4. Brain health and function
The brain uses most of your energy... and it works nonstop. Constant functioning requires high levels of ATP, which you can increase as you up your creatine levels. It helps with:

  • Increasing dopamine levels, which aid in brain function
  • Improving memory and recall in older adults
  • Protecting against neurological diseases in older adults
  • Optimal energy production
  • Boosting memory and intelligence scores in vegetarians

Studies of vegetarians (who typically have lower levels) showed those who used creatine supplements performed better on cognitive challenges like pattern recognition and reaction time.

Most common creatine misconceptions

Despite many studies debunking the most prevalent myths, some still exist. Let’s explore a few.

Creatine is only for men

Contrary to popular belief, creatine benefits women in many of the same ways as it does men. Studies highlight the physical improvements both young and post-menopausal women achieve when they supplement with creatine:

  • Increased intramuscular concentrations, muscle mass, strength, muscle performance, and muscle quality
  • Improved sprint and agility performance
  • Improved functionality (specifically in older women)

Creatine causes bloating

Early studies showed that adding 20 grams of creatine increased water retention (thus bloating)—it's where the bloating myth comes from. While the first few days you take creatine may cause temporary water retention as muscles pull water in, nothing supports the idea that creatine causes long-term bloating.

  • One study showed that both males and females who received creatine supplements saw no significant changes in intracellular water (ICW), extracellular water (ECW), or total body water (TBW)

Creatine damages your kidneys

Despite decades of research that show creatine supplements do not cause kidney damage, it remains a top concern. The myth is that the kidneys have to excrete higher than normal levels of creatine, which causes kidney damage—it's not true.

  • There have been no reported adverse effects from using the recommended dose of five grams (in healthy people)
  • To this day, no studies have found significant deviations from normal levels in kidney function

The best form of creatine

There are six forms of creatine, but the most researched, stable, and safest form is creatine monohydrate. We consider it the superior form.

  1. It's the safest form. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, there's no compelling scientific evidence using creatine monohydrate has any adverse effects.
  2. It's the most researched. Most of the 1,000+ studies on creatine researched creatine monohydrate.
  3. It's the most stable. Specifically in powder form, creatine monohydrate is the most stable, with no signs of degradation to creatinine.

When and how you should take creatine

Thinking about adding a creatine supplement to your regimen? We've got a few suggestions to help you get the most from it:

  1. If you want to raise your muscle creatine content ASAP, use a high-dose loading strategy—you'll reap the benefits even faster. Loading typically starts with 5-7 days of higher doses before switching to a lower maintenance dose. Research studies typically give participants 20 grams of creatine (loading phase) to expedite the building of creatine in their muscles with no detrimental effects.
  2. Supplement daily—even on rest days—to keep creatine levels elevated.
  3. Take your creatine supplement closely before or after a workout. A 10-week study discovered people who took creatine supplements close to their workout gained more muscle and strength than those who took it well before or after workouts.

Whether you want to increase muscle mass or have the energy to power through another rep, creatine supplements can help. And if you're looking for a high-quality, third-party-tested creatine monohydrate supplement without the junk, check out Jocko Creatine.