Creatine is an amino acid located mostly in your body's muscles as well as in the brain. Most people get creatine through seafood and red meat — though at levels far below those found in synthetically made creatine supplements. The body's liver, pancreas and kidneys also can make about 1 gram of creatine per day.
Your body stores creatine as phosphocreatine primarily in your muscles, where it's used for energy. As a result, people take creatine orally to improve athletic performance and increase muscle mass.
People also use oral creatine to treat certain brain disorders, neuromuscular conditions, congestive heart failure and other conditions. Topical creatine might be used to treat aging skin.
Research on creatine use for specific activities and conditions shows:
Strength, muscle size and performance.Oral creatine use might allow an athlete to do more work during reps or sprints, leading to greater gains in strength, muscle mass and performance. Creatine is often used by athletes involved in high-intensity intermittent activities that require a rapid recovery during training and competition.
Injury prevention.Oral creatine might reduce the frequency of dehydration, muscle cramping, and injuries to the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons and nerves.
Rare creatine-metabolizing syndromes.In children with the certain creatine deficiency syndromes, oral creatine supplements might improve some symptoms.
Cognition and brain health. Creatine supplementation might improve performance during cognitive tasks, especially in older adults.
Sarcopenia and bone health.Creatine supplementation might help counteract age-related declines in skeletal muscle and bone mineral density.
Heart failure.There isn't enough evidence to recommend use of oral creatine as a heart failure treatment.
Skin aging.Early research suggests that a cream containing creatine and other ingredients applied to the face every day for six weeks might reduce skin sag and wrinkles in men. Another study suggests that a cream containing creatine and folic acid improves sun damage and reduces wrinkles.
People who have low levels of creatine — such as vegetarians — appear to benefit most from creatine supplements.