Creatine is one of the most popular supplements in the exercise world. There are a variety of interesting statistics and facts about this compound.
Below you can find how popular creatine is, how much your body makes, who may need to supplement creatine more, what some of the effects are, etc.
Keep in mind that the figures below are often estimations from smaller studies, surveys, and polls. These things generally come with a lot of biases, suboptimal sample selection, and measurement errors.
In reality, the numbers will likely vary for the overall population, sometimes by a lot.
1. Popularity of creatine
As mentioned before, creatine is definitely one of the more popular supplements out there. This was already the case in 2001. One survey from this year asked the 13,194 participants whether they used creatine.
13.3% of these individuals reported using creatine in the last 12 months (1).
A more recent online survey from 2021 asked the 399 adult non-athletes about their creatine use. 77% of these people were regularly active in sports including weight lifting, running, and cycling.
45% of the participants mentioned using creatine daily and 38% mentioned using creatine 2-6 times a week (2). 40% of the creatine users were female.
As the following statistics will make clear, adults are not the only ones using creatine. One survey from 2002 asked 4011 high school student-athletes from Wisconsin about their creatine use.
16.7% of the athletes (25.3% males, 3.9% females) said they were using creatine (3). More specifically, creatine use was the least popular in the 9th grade (8.4%) and the most popular in the 12th grade (24.6%).
Of these people 38% said they were taking creatine daily, 24.5% said they were taking creatine 4-6 days a week, and 37.4% said they were taking creatine 1-3 times a week.
Another survey from 2001 asked 1103 athletes aged 10-18 years from Westchester County about their creatine use. 5.6% said they were taking creatine (4). Again, boys (8.8%) took more creatine than girls (1.8%).
2. Your body also makes creatine
Something that not everyone realizes is that your body also makes creatine. A rough estimation is that a 70-kg male (154 pounds) needs about 2 grams of creatine a day.
About up to half can be obtained from an omnivorous diet, the other half can be made by your body (5).
Of course, these are rough statistics. Some people could use more creatine than others even though they are at the same weight. Additionally, due to other factors the production of your body and the contents of your diet will vary.
That being said, this does show that your body is responsible for making a good amount of creatine.
Additionally, your body stores creatine in your muscles which can be used as energy. Again, the estimations are rough and vary on things like muscle mass but one study estimates that a 70-kg male (154 pounds) stores about 120-140g of creatine (6).
3. Why people take creatine
Before talking more about the actual benefits it can also be interesting to look at why people report taking creatine. There are a few sources of statistics on the subject.
In the previously mentioned survey from 2002 with 4011 high school student-athletes from Wisconsin, they also asked what the perceived benefits were of taking creatine. Some of the most popular responses were (3):
- Increased strength (70.2%)
- Increased power (63.6%)
- Weight gain (56.2%)
- Better endurance (41.1%)
- Increased speed (35.3%)
- Decreased body fat (23.6%)
In the other survey from Westchester County in 2001 with 1103 athletes aged 10-18 years, the responses were divided into simpler categories. 74.2% responded taking creatine for enhanced performance and 61.3% for improved appearance (4).
4. Creatine can improve physical performance
From the previous statistics, you can see that creatine is relatively popular and that people mainly take it with the goal of improving exercise performance.
The next question is whether these perceived benefits of creatine are scientifically proven. In short, there are many studies on creatine that conclude this is indeed the case.
One meta-analysis, a study that collects the data from other studies to get a better idea, about the impact of creatine on upper limb strength performance included 53 studies with in total 1138 individuals.
They concluded that creatine supplementation was effective in improving upper limb performance in exercise with a duration of fewer than 3 minutes (7). A similar meta-analysis about lower limb strength performance concluded the same (8).
Another meta-analysis gathered data from 22 studies with a focus on elderly individuals and in total 721 participants.
The authors concluded that creatine supplementation resulted in greater increases in lean tissue mass, chest press strength, and leg press strength (9).
One meta-analysis with 16 studies estimates that creatine supplementation helped increase the maximum weight lifting in the bench press exercise more with about 6.85 kg compared to placebo (10).
The same study also estimates that creatine supplementation improved the maximum weight lifting during squats by 9.76 kg compared to placebo. Lastly, they found no difference for arm curls.
In short, creatine will not help you double your short-duration exercise performance but it does help to a good extent. These amounts can definitely make taking creatine worth considering for certain individuals.
5. Creatine may improve mood
That creatine can improve exercise performance is a relatively well-known fact. There are also some less well-known potential benefits of creatine, one of these is that creatine can possibly improve your mood.
For example, one meta-analysis concludes that creatine seems to be able to reduce depressive symptoms (11)
In one specific study from South Korea, 52 women with major depressive disorder either received an antidepressant with creatine or the antidepressant with a placebo.
The individuals that received the creatine showed significantly greater improvements in the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale score (12).
6. Foods with creatine
- Herring: 8.9g – 17.8g per kilogram = 4g – 8.1g per pound
- Beef (lean): 6.7g – 11.1g per kilogram = 3g – 5g per pound
- Salmon: 6.7g – 11.1g per kilogram = 3g – 5g per pound
- Pork: 6.7g – 11.1g per kilogram = 3g – 5g per pound
- Chicken: 3.8g to 4.3g per kilogram = 1.7g to 2g per pound
- Milk (1%): 0.2g per liter
In short, fish and meat tend to be the biggest nutrition sources of creatine in a regular diet. The precise amounts vary from animal to animal and what area the meat comes from.
A different publication gives some very rough estimations between 4g – 5g of creatine per kg of animal meat and between 4g – 10g per kg of fish (17).
One study measured that chicken breast and thigh contain around 3.8g to 4.3g per kilogram (= 1.7g to 2g per pound) (16).
Important to note is that the creatine levels above are from food sources that are not prepared yet. Cooking foods tends to reduce their creatine contents (18).
Some studies suggest that consuming creatine with your carbohydrate-rich meals could improve absorption (19, 20). However, other studies conclude that this likely does not lead to a significant increase in performance (21, 22, 23).
7. Some people benefit extra from creatine
Creatine is a compound that is naturally present in the diet of most people. Even so, supplementing with extra creatine can definitely offer benefits, especially to certain types of people.
As mentioned before, supplementing with creatine can lead to increased performance on short-duration exercises and lead to more muscle mass. If you are interested in these things you can consider supplementing with creatine.
This also means that combining resistance training with creatine can slow down muscle decline more than resistance training without creatine (24).
Muscle decline as you age happens to everyone to some extent. Slowing this down can offer valuable benefits.
Simply exercising at high intensities also tends to increase how much creatine you use (25).
When looking at the list of foods high in creatine you would also conclude that individuals on a vegan and vegetarian diet would have lower creatine levels. Additionally, to make creatine your body uses protein, another nutrient vegetarians tend to struggle with.
That conclusion would be right. Vegetarians seem to have lower levels of creatine (26, 27). However, one of these two studies concluded that supplementing can restore creatine stores to levels similar to an omnivorous diet (27).
8. Creatine could improve cognitive performance
In addition to physical performance, creatine could also improve cognitive performance. One meta-analysis from 2018 gathered the statistics from 6 studies with in total 281 individuals.
They concluded that there was a general indication that creatine supplementation could benefit short term memory and intelligence/reasoning (28).
For other types of cognitive performance like long-term memory, spatial memory, attention, etc. the findings were conflicting.
Additionally, younger individuals tended to see less benefit from creatine in this area. Vegetarians generally saw more benefits than meat-eaters.
9. Popularity creatine vs other supplements
With all the benefits and popularity of creatine intake, this supplement is sold a lot. An interesting question is how popular creatine is vs other supplements.
Google Trends is a tool that shows you how much interest in certain search terms evolves over time for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular.
Below you can find a worldwide search volume comparison from 2004-2021 between “creatine”, “whey protein”, “pre workout”, “protein powder”, and “bcaa”.
As you can see, creatine has definitely been popular for longer than these other supplements. While up until recently popularity of creatine was declining, it seems to be gaining traction again.
10. Do creatine supplements work
A different question is how much these creatine supplements can actually increase the creatine levels inside of your body. There are some statistics that provide estimations on this subject.
One publication estimates that during a loading phase of ingesting 5 grams (about 0.3 g/kg body weight = 0.14 g/pound body weight) of creatine four times daily for 5 – 7 days leads to increases in the amount of creatine in muscle by 20% – 40% (29).
After that, to sustain these higher stores, 3g – 5g a day should be more or less enough. Bigger individuals with more muscle mass may need to consume up to 5g – 10g a day to sustain the same creatine levels.
A different meta-analysis concluded that this initial loading phase is not required and that daily dosages of 3-5 g or 0.1 g/kg (= 0.45 g/pound) of body mass is enough (30).
The precise dosage for you personally will vary on a wide variety of factors including activity levels, the rest of your diet, weight, training goals, etc.
11. Creatine tends to have limited risks
Initially when creatine first become popular there were all kinds of worries about potential risks. Many years and many studies later, the downsides of creatine seem to be limited or not noticeable in the short term (at least up to 5 years) (29).
One meta-analysis that looked at 200 other studies concluded that creatine supplementation seems to be safe for most people (30).
Some people raise concerns about potential dehydration, muscle cramps, kidney problems, musculoskeletal injuries, and hair loss but studies generally do not support these claims.