Creatine for Muscle Gain – The Facts on its Strength and Size Benefits

Written by: Brilliant Staff

Fact checked by: SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

Creatine for Muscle Gain – The Facts on its Strength and Size Benefits

Does creatine actually live up to all the muscle-building hype? Research suggests it can be a helpful supplement for your gym goals when taken within safe and legal limits. 

Let’s explore the science-backed benefits and potential drawbacks to watch out for.

What Exactly is Creatine?

Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in your body. It helps supply energy to your muscles and brain.8 

Types of foods that contain creatine include beef, tuna, and salmon. Many athletes supplement with creatine powder to increase their stores further.

The amounts of creatine naturally found in foods like meat are generally considered safe according to FDA guidelines for nutritional products. 

The International Society of Sports Nutrition states that creatine supplementation of up to 30 grams per day appears to be safe for most healthy people during short and long-term periods.7

The Consistent Statistics on Building Muscle

Meta-analyses pooling results across hundreds of study participants suggest modest benefits, especially when paired with resistance training.2,3,10

Significant increases in upper body strength in older women who supplement with creatine for at least 24 weeks have been observed. There have also been small increases in upper and lower body muscle thickness, especially in younger individuals.

These statistically significant changes are believed to come from enhanced work capacity and protein synthesis efficiency.10

One caveat is that a small percentage of individuals are “non-responders,” so your genetics may determine if you fully benefit from taking creatine. Nonetheless, with relatively low supplement costs, most can attest trying is worthwhile.4

Additional Body-Composition Benefits to Consider

Beyond augmenting strength and size gains with a rigorous training split, research indicates creatine may:

  • Reduce fat mass and increase lean mass percentage.5
  • Improve post-workout recovery.9
  • Support brain health and mood stability.6

Applications likely reach far beyond the gym. However, long-term impacts across diverse groups require further controlled study.

Finding Your Optimal Creatine Dosage For Muscle Gain

Proper dosing is vital to maximizing creatine's muscle-building benefits. Studies showing strength and mass gains have used varying protocols. These include the following:

  • Loading Phase: Take ~20 grams per day — split into four daily doses of five grams — for the first five to seven days when starting supplementation. This rapidly saturates your muscle stores.
  • Maintenance Phase: Take three to five grams daily (a single dose is acceptable) after that to maintain elevated muscular creatine levels.
  • By Body Weight: Around 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight (~5 grams daily for a 165-pound person) seems effective in research.

Note that response to creatine can vary in individuals; you may discover that you require more or less than the typical dose. Pay attention to the effects in your training and make adjustments as needed.

Creatine Forms

While monohydrate is most researched, some feel alternative forms like creatine HCl or creatine ethyl ester may work better due to enhanced solubility and absorption. However, research hasn't found superior efficacy or reductions in side effects.7

The most prudent approach is to begin with an inexpensive creatine monohydrate form. Then, experiment to find what feels optimal for your body.

Ultimately, creatine drives adaptations like strength and hypertrophy through its benefits of energy provision. Fine-tune your dosage and timing to maximize these well-researched muscle-building effects. For the best results, seek guidance from a registered dietitian who is a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD).

Potential Safety Considerations

Minor side effects affecting a small percentage of people, like upset stomach or cramping, often resolve quickly. More severe incidents seem extremely rare in medical literature.1

To err on the side of caution, start with smaller doses, stay well-hydrated, and consult your doctor before using creatine. This is especially important if you have pre-existing conditions or are taking prescription medications.

As with most supplements, risks may be heightened outside of recommended intakes or with underlying contraindications. However, researchers conclude creatine is likely safe when taken responsibly by healthy adults.7

TL;DR: Should You Take Creatine for Muscle Gain?

Given the research on measurable performance and muscle growth benefits – plus an affordable price tag – creatine makes a sensible addition to rigorous training routines for those seeking to maximize their results.

Just be smart with use. Follow dosage guidelines, watch out for side effects, disclose to medical providers, and carefully weigh personal health factors. And as always, a balanced fitness lifestyle is what matters most!


  1. Antonio, Jose et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 18,1 13. 8 Feb. 2021, doi:10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
  2. Burke, Ryan et al. Nutrients vol. 15,9 2116. 28 Apr. 2023, doi:10.3390/nu15092116
  3. Dos Santos, Ellem Eduarda Pinheiro et al. Nutrients vol. 13,11 3757. 24 Oct. 2021, doi:10.3390/nu13113757
  4. Ferguson, Tina B, and Daniel G Syrotuik. Journal of strength and conditioning research vol. 20,4 (2006): 939-46. doi:10.1519/R-18485.1
  5. Forbes, Scott C et al. Journal of functional morphology and kinesiology vol. 4,3 62. 23 Aug. 2019, doi:10.3390/jfmk4030062
  6. Forbes, Scott C et al. Nutrients vol. 14,5 921. 22 Feb. 2022, doi:10.3390/nu14050921
  7. Kreider, Richard B et al. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 14 18. 13 Jun. 2017, doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
  8. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2 June 2022,
  9. Wax, Benjamin et al. Nutrients vol. 13,6 1915. 2 Jun. 2021, doi:10.3390/nu13061915
  10. Wu, Shih-Hao et al. Nutrients vol. 14,6 1255. 16 Mar. 2022, doi:10.3390/nu14061255