Effectiveness. Creatine does work, but it’s often hard to get an idea of exactly how well it works, since every study has slightly different findings. It seems like if you lift weights well and eat well, creatine can accelerate your gains. That’s important to keep in mind: it will not help you gain muscle if you aren’t already gaining muscle.
For an idea of how well it works, a 2004 study found that the group of participants taking a placebo increased bicep size by 6% over the course of six weeks, whereas the group taking creatine increased their bicep size by 10% (study). A 2010 study had similar findings—creatine increased muscular gains by about 20% (study). These studies are a dime a dozen—there are hundreds confirming the effectiveness of creatine.
It’s not just water weight or anything either—these size increases come along with significant strength increases, and these muscular gains will stick around even if you stop using creatine.
Safety. The only known side-effect of creatine is stomach cramping, which just means that you aren’t digesting it properly. Taking smaller doses and/or drinking more water usually seems to fix that. There are no long-term health issues or anything, and it’s been rigorously and critically studied for several decades now.
Health. Creatine seems to be pretty great for general health in a number of ways, although research is still limited. It’s both cardioprotective and neuroprotective. As for being good for your heart, it seems to have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity in guys who exercise (study) and it may help reduce cholesterol and triglycerides (study). For your brain, it may help prevent and treat depression (study) and it’s currently being researched for prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s (study).
This research is all still preliminary though. Most of the research done into creatine has to do with muscle strength, size, power and speed.
If you want a more thorough explanation of creatine, check our article on muscle-building supplements for ectomorphs out.
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