Does Creatine Boost Testosterone? (Science Backed Answer)

Creatine is one of the most popular sports nutrition supplements — and for good reasons. Hundreds of studies support creatine supplementation for boosting muscle mass, strength, and power.

Despite these benefits — and its strong safety profile — many rumors about creatine have circulated over the years, with a persisting one being that it boosts testosterone production. Being naturally curious, you might wonder whether this rumor is true so you can either capitalize on some extra gains or avoid this supplement.

This article provides a science-backed explanation of whether creatine boosts testosterone production.

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is a compound naturally produced by your body from three amino acids — glycine, arginine, and methionine.

You make around 1–2 grams daily and store it primarily in your skeletal muscles (1).

It's also found in animal products like beef, chicken, pork, and fish. For this reason, people who consume animal products have higher levels of creatine in their skeletal muscle compared with vegetarians and vegans.

Aside from being naturally found in animal products, creatine is also sold as a supplement. There are many forms available, but creatine monohydrate is the most well-studied and effective form.

Creatine supplementation is a much more practical approach than trying to get creatine from your diet alone since you would need to eat several pounds of meat, poultry, and seafood just to get the same amount that you could from one serving of a supplement.

Taking creatine supplements also spares your body from having to use glycine, arginine, and methionine to produce creatine and instead use them for other important things like produce proteins, nitric oxide, and the powerful antioxidant glutathione.

Does Creatine Increase Testosterone Levels?

If creatine supplementation were able to boost testosterone, it would be the ultimate legal supplement. But, despite what you've heard, creatine does not increase testosterone (it's also not an anabolic steroid or steroid-like, another pervasive myth).

The idea that creatine supplementation may increase testosterone production likely stems in part from a clinical trial that suggest it increases levels of dihydrotestosterone — a hormone derived from testosterone. While DHT has some muscle-building effects, the participants' levels stayed well within normal levels and fell back to baseline after 21 days. There were also no direct changes to testosterone (2).

In contrast, several other studies — lasting up to 12 weeks — reported that creatine supplementation had no effect on testosterone levels. While these studies were all conducted in men, it's likely that the results demonstrating no effect on testosterone production would be the same for females (3, 4, 5, 6).

Creatine Benefits

While creatine supplementation can't increase testosterone production, it's worth supplementing with for many other reasons.

Increases Muscle Size and Strength

Creatine's primary benefit lies with its ability to replenish a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — a molecule that stores and provides energy by donating a phosphate to become ADP (adenosine diphosphate) (1).

This phosphate can provide energy for a muscle contraction, for example. However, intense exercise rapidly depletes ATP, so you need to replenish it to keep your performance up. To do this, creatine donates a phosphate group to "recharge" ADP and form ATP.

Thus, creatine increases the available fuel to power ATP, allowing you to perform a few more repetitions, lift heavier weights, and fatigue less easier, leading to gains in muscle growth, strength, and exercise performance.

Enhances Cognitive Function

While most of the research surrounding creatine supplementation is on its ability to increase mass mass and boost exercise performance, increasing research suggests that it can enhance cognitive function. Your cognitive function refers to various mental abilities, including problem-solving, decision-making, reasoning, learning, and reasoning.

Most creatine is stored in your skeletal muscles, but a small amount is also stored in your brain where it supplies energy to neurons and is thought to support neural or brain plasticity, which is your brain's ability to change as a result of experience, learning, and memory formation.

This may make creatine supplementation especially useful for older adults who tend to experience cognitive decline with advancing age. To this point, one study showed improvements in various tasks of cognitive performance in older adults who supplemented with creatine compared with those who didn't (7).

May Have Antidepressant Effects

Because small amounts of creatine are stored in the brain — specifically the prefrontal cortex, which plays a central role in controlling mood and emotions — research suggests it may help regulate mood and offer protection against depression.

By enhancing energy metabolism, alleviating damaging oxidative stress, and regulating molecules involved in mood regulation like dopamine, creatine is believed to offer protective effects against depression with lower creatine concentration in the prefrontal cortex having been associated with depressive symptoms (8).

This may be why vegetarians and vegans are at a higher risk of depression compared with omnivores since they avoid meats, but it's also possible that this increased risk is due to other nutrients found in meats and seafood that play a role in depression risk, such as vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Either way, several small trials have demonstrated improvements in depressive symptoms with creatine supplementation in the range of 2–10 grams daily for 4–8 weeks (9).

How to Supplement Creatine and Safety

There are generally two ways to supplement with creatine. The most common way is to take 20–25 grams — divided into four or five, 5-gram servings — daily for 5–7 days and then take 3–5 grams daily thereafter (1).

Or, you can skip the first phase — called the "loading phase" — and supplement with the 3–5 grams daily (the maintenance dose). Both methods are equally effective, but it takes several weeks longer to fully saturate your muscle cells and experience its benefits with the latter method.

While you can find creatine in many pre-workout products, it has no immediate effects so it doesn't matter when you take creatine as long as you remember to take it — including on rest days.

But, you might wonder whether creatine supplementation is safe and what the side effects of supplementation are — if any. Fortunately, creatine is remarkably safe. Contrary to popular belief, creatine doesn't harm the kidney or liver functions (1).

Creatine supplementation may cause water retention in the first few days of supplementation but this effect is only temporary and doesn't occur in everyone. If temporary water retention is a concern, you might be able to prevent it by supplementing with the 3-5 maintenance dose instead of following the loading phase.

The Takeaway

Creatine supplementation is a popular sports supplement that is also naturally produced in the body and found in animal products like meats, poultry, and seafood.

Despite rumors to the contrary, creatine hasn't been shown to increase testosterone production in men, which is likely true in females also. But, supplementing with creatine offers other benefits, including increased muscle strength, muscle protein synthesis, and exercise performance. Increasing research also suggests a role in enhancing cognitive performance and protecting against depression.

Creatine supplementation is remarkably safe and nearly everyone can stand to benefit from its exercise-enhancing and health benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Creatine Bad for You?

Creatine has no detrimental effects on health. Instead, it's proven to offer many health- and exercise-related benefits — for both men and women.

Is Creatine a Steroid?

Creatine is composed of three amino acids and in no way resembles the chemical structure of steroid. Thus, while creatine can enhance performance, it's not an illegal performance enhancing drug.

Is Creatine Safe for Teens?

Based on limited evidence, creatine supplementation appears to be safe and likely beneficial for teens (10).

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