Creatine Benefits, Side Effects, And More The Ultimate Science-Based Creatine Guide

The ultimate creatine benefits guide. Learn what creatine is, how it does what it does, and the potential side effects you may need to brace yourself for.

Creatine benefits: makes you bigger, faster, stronger.

This is something we've all heard — but have you ever wondered about the history of creatine? Like, who was the lucky person to have discovered creatine and its benefits on our muscle size, strength, and athletic performance?

Also, how does creatine even work in the first place? And more questions: given such an impressive list of creatine benefits, there be a catch, right? What are we missing?

Well, good news. You'll find all (or most) of the answers you're seeking in this article. Here, I'll explore:

How we came to know of creatine benefits (I'll keep the history portion brief, I promise) The role creatine plays in energy production and how that helps with your #gains Creatine pros and cons ... and more

Creatine Benefits: Who Discovered Them?

Let's travel back in time. All the way to 1835.

Because that was when a French scientist, Michel-Eugéne Chevreul, first extracted it from meat. But, fascinatingly, that when creatine became well-known.

Instead, creatine only became popular much later — in the 20th century, after its first reported use by British track and field athletes during the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona (understandably, because creatine benefits = bigger, stronger, faster).

And it's rumored that creatine's growth in popularity has a linear relationship with the number of gym-bros, then later exercise scientists, due to their fascination with the mechanisms of creatine.

Well, OK, so it isn't so much a rumor as a joke ... but deep down, I suspect there's a kernel of truth within.

What Is Creatine?

OK, but before we cover creatine benefits, we need to talk about what creatine, one of the longest and most well-studied sports supplements on the market, is.

It's a naturally occurring, nonessential (note: your body synthesizes it in your liver), organic, nitrogen-containing compound made up of 3 amino acids:

Arginine Glycine Methionine

At least95% of the body’s creatine is stored in skeletal muscle.

And speaking of ... let's now take a look at creatine's primary function in muscle: energy production.

Creatine's Role In Energy Production

To understand creatine benefits (e.g., athletic performance enhancement), it is important to be somewhat familiar with how the human body creates energy.

Or, put in a slightly nerdier way, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — the organic compound that provides energy to drive and support many processes in your body, such as digestion and muscle contraction.

Now, the human body produces ATP via 3 distinct pathways:

ATP-phosphocreatine system Glycolysis Oxidative phosphorylation

Without overwhelming, boring, or turning you off with the specifics, I'll draw an analogy to help you better understand creatine's role in ATP production.

So, remember those days when you needed physical cash to buy stuff? Or maybe you're still using cash? Either way, it doesn't matter. You can think of your muscle as your wallet; it contains readily spendable money — ATP/energy — you can use when trying to make a quick purchase.

Creatine, on the other hand, functions more like a backpack or purse.

It's like a form of "back-up cash". When your muscles run low on ATP, your body would call on those creatine stores to "donate" a phosphate group that quickly converts adenosine-diphosphate (i.e., 2 phosphate groups) into adenosine triphosphate (i.e., 3 phosphate groups) to replenish your muscles' energy supply.

Understanding How All That Ties Back To Creatine Benefits

OK, so what does all that have to do with creatine benefits?

In short, when you do low-intensity activities, your body is able to still rely on your readily available ATP to sustain your efforts.

the moment you do (e.g., sprinting or repping out a set of 10 hard bench presses), your body quickly runs out of "spendable" ATP, and that's when it asks for additional phosphate group from creatine phosphate to "restore" your energy supply.