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Creatine – Everything You Need To Know About It


Many people believe creatine is harmful and can have negative impacts on your health, but creatine is one of the world’s most researched and tested supplement and is considered safe.

This article will give you a simple, detailed insight on everything you need to know about creatine and how it can benefit you.

What is creatine?

Creatine is a substance found naturally in our bodies, primarily in the skeletal muscle and is one of the most commonly used supplements for high intensity exercises and to gain muscle.

Approximately 95% of creatine is found in muscles and the other 5% is found in the brain.

It’s also found in red meat and certain types of fish such as beef, pork, tuna, and salmon. [1]

How does creatine lead to an increased muscle growth?

Adenosine Triphosphate, more commonly known as ATP, is found in mitochondria in cells and it is the molecule that provides energy.

During high intensity exercises, your body uses up ATP and converts it to ADP, known as Adenosine Diphosphate.

When you supplement with creatine, your body converts ADP back to ATP, so you have more of a constant supply of energy allowing you to train harder and for longer which in the long term leads to muscle growth.

It is also known to allow you to recover better and quickly which leads to more muscle growth.

Another effect of creatine is the water retention of muscle cells being increased due to the saturation of creatine levels in your muscles over time, making muscles look fuller.

This is due to the fact that creatine is an osmotically active substance [2] meaning that a higher level of creatine could result in a higher water retention.

Should I take creatine before or after a workout?

There is limited research in the timing of creatine consumption to maximise muscle growth and strength.

However, research shows that taking creatine after a workout increases strength and muscle growth.

One study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition [3] investigated the effects of creatine consumption before and after a workout on body composition and strength.

19 male recreational bodybuilders were split into two groups: one group consumed 5g of creatine before a workout and one group who consumed 5g creatine after a workout.

The participants followed a 5-day split for 4 weeks.

The results concluded that consuming creatine after a workout seemed more superior than consuming creatine before a workout in terms of body composition and strength.

What is loading phase and non loading phase?

Loading phase is when 20g of creatine monohydrate is consumed for 5-7 days which allows the body to increase creatine levels quickly.

5g is ingested from then on to maintain those levels. This type of phase can cause some discomfort such as stomach cramps but can increase muscle mass in a short space of time.

A non-loading phase is when 3-5g of creatine monohydrate is ingested daily until muscle cells are saturated with creatine. However, as a lower dosage is used, results can take longer.

Usually, 3g is suggested as there will be less chance of any stomach discomfort and also save money in the long run by not finishing the packet too quickly!

Below is an easy flowchart to follow that summarises the phases:

creatine phases
Creatine Phases

NOTE: For the loading phase, consume 5g of creatine four times a day at different times in order to meet the 20g daily demand. This method can avoid any stomach discomfort by spacing out creatine consumption.

Which form of creatine is the best?

Creatine is found in various forms and there are many different ones available on the market, but which one is the best?

A paper on the Efficacy of Alternative Forms of Creatine Supplementation on Improving Performance and Body Composition in Healthy Subjects [4] was published in 2021 and compared different creatine forms such as magnesium-creatine chelate, creatine citrate, malate, ethyl ester, nitrate, and pyruvate to creatine monohydrate.

The results indicated that the other forms were no more effective than creatine monohydrate and yielded the same results.

To save money in the long run, creatine monohydrate is the best option as it costs the least and can last a long time if lower dosage (3g) is used daily.

Side effects of creatine

What are the side effects of creatine? This is one of most common concerns people have.

The short answer is creatine is safe and has no major side effects.

The main side effect people experience is some stomach discomfort.

Below are some frequently asked questions.

Is creatine a steroid?


Creatine is not a steroid.

Many people think creatine is a magic drug or steroid that will enhance your muscle growth quickly, but it is not.

As previously mentioned, creatine is naturally found in our bodies. Increasing creatine intake through creatine monohydrate or other forms of creatine simply increases the ATP in our bodies allowing you to train harder and longer.

Does creatine cause hair loss?

Probably the most common question that gets asked a lot is the relationship between the creatine and hair loss.

One study by van der Merwe [5] investigated the concentrations of certain androgens after supplementing creatine for 3 weeks in make rugby players. The number of participants were twenty.

The participants were given 25g of creatine with 25g of glucose, or 50g of glucose (placebo) for 7 days followed by 14 days of 5g creatine and 25g of glucose (30g for placebo group) per day for maintenance.

The results showed that after the 7 days of creatine consumption, there were no changes in serum testosterone (T) levels.

However, the level of DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) increased by 56% and continued to remain 40% above baseline after the 14 days maintenance. Furthermore, after 7 days of creatine consumption, the ratio of DHT to T also increased by 36%.

DHT is one of the leading causes of hair loss and is produced when testosterone is converted into DHT by an enzyme called 5 alpha-reductase enzyme [6].

The study concluded that creatine supplementation could possibly increase the rate of testosterone to DHT conversion which could potentially lead to hair loss.

However, this study has not been repeated and based on an article from the Journal of the International Society of Sport Nutrition, 12 other studies investigated the relationship between creatine supplementation and testosterone, but none concluded that creatine caused hair loss.

Should I take caffeine and creatine together?

Caffeine is a natural stimulant and is commonly consumed before a workout to give a boost of energy.

Many pre workout drinks contain caffeine along with other substances (some including creatine) to provide energy for a workout.

However, should you combine creatine and caffeine together?

Does caffeine affect creatine?

Should you take creatine before or after caffeine?

While research is still limited, current studies show that caffeine and creatine tend to have opposing effects and may cause some gastrointestinal distress when both substances are consumed together.

Caffeine increases muscle relaxation time whereas creatine decreases muscle relaxation time resulting in caffeine cancelling out the effects of creatine when taken together [7].

However, more research is still required for conclusive evidence.

Ideally, to reap the benefits of creatine, it’s best to avoid caffeine altogether but since coffee is a widely used substance, many people will find it difficult to stop consuming caffeine.

The best recommendation at the moment is to avoid consuming caffeine and creatine at the same time.

For example, caffeine can be consumed before a workout to provide energy. Creatine can then be taken at a later time during the day or with your post workout meal.

What matters the most it to take creatine daily, at a consistent to time to maximise its benefits.


Overall, creatine is a safe and effective way to increase muscle mass and improve strength on certain exercises.

It is an optional supplement and a long-term investment, so if you decide to take creatine you have to take it continuously to maintain creatine levels in your body.

However, a good nutrition and training program is still important in order to maximise muscle growth.

Key takeaways

  • Creatine is naturally found in our bodies and increases body ATP levels resulting in more energy for high intensity exercises
  • Creatine seems to have greater effect when taken after a workout
  • There are two phases to consume creatine – Loading and Non-Loading Phase
  • The best and cheapest form of creatine is creatine monohydrate
  • Creatine is not a steroid and does not cause hair loss
  • Avoid consuming caffeine and creatine together


  1. https://www1.udel.edu/chem/C465/senior/fall00/Performance2/creatine#:~:text=Creatine%20can%20also%20be%20located,as%20a%20performance%20enhancing%20product.
  2. Antonio, J. et al. (2021) Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: What does the scientific evidence really show? – journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central. BioMed Central.
  3. Antonio, J. and Ciccone, V. (2013) The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength – journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central. BioMed Central.
  4. Fazio C, Elder CL, Harris MM. Efficacy of Alternative Forms of Creatine Supplementation on Improving Performance and Body Composition in Healthy Subjects: A Systematic Review. J Strength Cond Res. 2022;36(9):2663-2670. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000003873
  5. van der Merwe, Johann MBChB; Brooks, Naomi E PhD; Myburgh, Kathryn H PhD. Three Weeks of Creatine Monohydrate Supplementation Affects Dihydrotestosterone to Testosterone Ratio in College-Aged Rugby Players. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine 19(5):p 399-404, September 2009. | DOI: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e3181b8b52f
  6. Kinter KJ, Anekar AA. Biochemistry, Dihydrotestosterone. [Updated 2023 Mar 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557634/
  7. Trexler ET, Smith-Ryan AE, Roelofs EJ, Hirsch KR, Persky AM, Mock MG. Effects of Coffee and Caffeine Anhydrous Intake During Creatine Loading. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 May;30(5):1438-46. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001223. PMID: 26439785; PMCID: PMC4808512.

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