Creatine is one of the world's most effective sports supplements.
It has been tested in hundreds of human studies, and is one of the most researched supplements in history.
Creatine is well known for its uses in sports and bodybuilding. It can increase muscle mass, strength and high-intensity exercise performance (, ).
What many people don't know is that creatine also has other benefits for your body and brain. For example, it may help fight neurological diseases and improve brain function in some people (, , ).
Not only that, but it is also extremely safe and has no serious side effects.
Here are 10 graphs that show the power of creatine.
Source: Hultman E, et al. Journal of Applied Physiology, 1996.
In order to provide benefits, creatine supplements must elevate your body's phosphocreatine stores ().
The additional phosphocreatine, which is stored in your muscles, brain and other organs, can then be used to create extra ATP energy (, ).
Greater phosphocreatine stores in the brain also protect against neurological diseases. They may also improve brain function in those with lower than average stores, such as the elderly and vegetarians (, , ).
As shown in the graph above, the average person will increase their phosphocreatine stores by around 20% following a typical 6-day creatine load of 20 grams per day ().
However, those who have higher levels to begin with may not receive a significant increase in these stores and therefore see little or no benefit from supplements.
Bottom Line: Creatine supplements increase the body's phosphocreatine stores by around 20%, providing numerous health and performance benefits.
Source: Steven L, et al. Journal of Applied Physiology, 1985.
When combined with weight training, creatine is the world's best supplement for adding muscle mass and improving exercise performance (, ).
These benefits occur via several processes, including alterations in the muscle cell, hormonal changes and other biological alterations within the body (, , ).
One review analyzed over 250 studies on sports supplements. As shown in the graph, adding creatine more than doubled the amount of muscle that participants gained per week, compared to training alone ().
Bottom Line: Creatine is the best legal supplement for adding muscle. Several studies show it can double muscle growth compared to training alone.
Source: Volek JS, et al. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1999.
In addition to increasing the water content of muscles, creatine can boost your actual muscle fiber size when combined with training ().
As shown in the graph above, this study found that the addition of creatine increased muscle fiber growth by up to 300%, compared to training alone ().
These benefits occurred in both the slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fiber types ().
After 12 weeks, this study also found that total body mass gain doubled, and bench press and squat 1 rep max increased 8% more than with training alone ().
Bottom Line: Creatine supplements can help increase muscle fiber size, as well as the water content within the muscle.
Source: Earnest CP, et al. The Journal of Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 1995.
Creatine plays a key role in the production of ATP, which is important for short and high-intensity exercise like weight lifting (, , ).
It can also positively alter numerous biological processes that aid in strength development (, , ).
In the graph above, this particular study found a large increase in bench press strength after combining creatine supplements with weight training ().
Numerous other studies and reviews of the literature have confirmed these findings, with average improvements ranging between 5–10% (, , ).
In addition to increased strength, this study found that the supplement group increased its number of repetitions from 11 to 15 when benching at 70% of 1 rep max. This higher rep count plays a major role in new muscle growth ().
Bottom Line: When combined with weight training, creatine can further boost strength and weight training performance.
Source: Mujika I, et al. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 2000.
As is the case with strength training, high-intensity sprints utilize the ATP energy system for fuel ().
Not surprisingly, creatine has been shown to boost sprint performance (, ).
In the study above, highly-trained soccer players supplemented with 20 grams of creatine for 6 days. The dosage protocol was four 5-gram servings per day ().
As shown in the graph, 15-meter sprint times were reduced after only 6 days of loading with creatine. It also improved recovery and helped the athletes maintain jumping performance ().
Although numerous studies show that creatine benefits sprint performance, it's worth noting that several studies found no benefit at all (, , ).
Bottom Line: Creatine can boost all aspects of high-intensity exercise, including sprint performance.
Source: McMorris T, et al. Journal of Neuropsychology, Development and Cognition, 2007.
Creatine supplements may help the elderly maintain muscle mass, strength and brain function (, , ).
In this graph, elderly participants scored significantly higher on long-term memory tests after only 2 weeks of supplementing with creatine.
They also scored higher on immediate memory recall and intelligence tests ().
Bottom Line: Your creatine stores decline with age. Supplements can restore these levels and boost memory and intelligence in the elderly.
Creatine supplements can improve brain function for those with low creatine levels.
This study tested vegetarians, who often have lower levels because they do not eat meat, which is the main dietary source of creatine ().
As shown in the graph, the vegetarians taking the supplement scored significantly higher on both memory and intelligence tests ().
When conducted in adults with normal creatine levels, studies have shown less or no additional benefits (, ).
Bottom Line: Creatine may boost both memory and intelligence in those with low levels, such as vegetarians.
Source: Sakellaris G, et al. Journal of Acta Paediatrica, 2007.
Creatine may aid in the recovery of concussions and brain injuries (, , ).
This study assessed children with traumatic brain injuries after 6 months of supplementing with creatine. As you can see in the graph, fatigue, dizziness and headaches were drastically reduced ().
This benefit may be due to an increase in the brain's phosphocreatine stores and maintenance of normal ATP levels, both of which often decline following a traumatic brain injury ().
While impressive, more research is needed to confirm the use of creatine as a treatment for traumatic brain injuries.
Bottom Line: Initial research suggests that creatine can significantly reduce the adverse effects of traumatic brain injury.
Source: Matthews RT, et al. Journal of Experimental Neurology, 1999.
Parkinson's disease is primarily caused by a decline in a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which has many key functions within the brain ().
Creatine supplements have been shown to slow the progression of the disease by slowing the decline of dopamine levels ().
As you can see above, this mouse study found the non-supplement group had a drastic decline in dopamine levels, while the creatine group had only minor reductions ().
Although these results are impressive, more research is needed in humans to confirm the long-term benefits against Parkinson's disease ().
Bottom Line: In mice, creatine supplements can help maintain normal dopamine levels and reduce the progression of Parkinson's disease.
Source: Gualanob B, et al. Journal of Amino Acids, 2008.
Although research on this particular benefit is still in its infancy, this study suggests that creatine can lower blood sugar levels ().
Blood sugar levels following a meal are a good indicator of health. They're used to determine risk factors for many diseases, such as heart disease (, ).
This study tested the use of creatine when combined with aerobic exercise ().
It was conducted in healthy individuals, which demonstrates a benefit for the general population and not just diabetics.
As shown in the graph, creatine helped improve the blood sugar response to a high-carb meal more than aerobic training alone ().
Bottom Line: Creatine supplements may help reduce blood sugar levels after a meal, especially when combined with exercise.
As you can see, creatine is an extremely impressive supplement with benefits extending far beyond improved exercise performance and muscle growth.
Backed by over a century of research, creatine is without a doubt one of the most effective supplements on the planet.
There is a lot more info on creatine here: Creatine 101 – What Is It and What Does It Do?