Should Women Take Creatine? Benefits in Sports & Health Explored

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While talking up creatine’s muscle-building benefits with a female friend, she asked if creatine would be good for her too.

I assumed so but didn’t know for certain.

So I hit the library, and this article shares my research on what sports science has to say about creatine for women.

 

Is creatine good for women?

The benefits of creatine supplementation are not gender-specific: they’ve been proven effective for both women & men alike.

Creatine is especially beneficial to women who participate in athletic, fitness, & strength training programs.

But it has also demonstrated its effectiveness at improving several other health-related areas as well. 

 

What’s next

Up ahead we’ll look at what specific health benefits creatine provides, how much creatine to take each day, dispel a few “creatine & women” myths along the way, and answer a couple of commonly asked questions about creatine supplementation.

Next though, let’s look at what sports science has shown regarding women taking creatine for performance-enhancing benefits in athletics, resistance training, and overall fitness training.

 

 

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Science resources included

As is my custom here on heydayDo, I will provide links to all of the relevant sports science & medical resources, clinical studies, and nutritional data used in this article.

 

 

Why active women should take creatine

It’s true that there are more creatine + exercise research studies to date done with men than with women.

However, there is quite a bit of scientific evidence proving creatine’s benefits for women too.

If you’re a woman who trains hard or works out regularly, creatine can help you improve your results.

 

5 good reasons women should take creatine:

Creatine has no gender bias.

The ISSN says creatine is the best exercise supplement.

Creatine makes you stronger.

Creatine boosts your endurance.

Creatine helps build lean muscle.

 

1. Creatine has no gender bias

A bogus gym meme is that creatine is a supplement for males only.

Don’t buy it: science clearly shows otherwise.

Creatine can effectively increase strength, improve performance, & build muscle for women too.

A review of over 100 creatine research studies found “no evidence in the literature of an effect of gender” with regards to the participants’ improvements in lean muscle (1).

And in a separate review focusing on more recent studies, other researchers noted the same thing, saying that creatine is

“most effective for activities that involve repeated short bouts of high-intensity physical activity…regardless of sport, sex or age.” (2).

 

When the ISSN speaks…

Steps made of clouds ascend to heaven, representing authority of the ISSN

 

One of the highest authoritative sources (on the planet) in our wonderful world of fitness is the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

When they speak, nutritionists, dietitians, & doctors listen, especially when they release a position stand on a particular nutrient.

For example, their ISSN Position Stand on protein & exercise is considered THE authoritative guide on how much protein people should eat, depending on their level of physical activity (3).

Their Position Stand guidelines are what doctors, nutritionists, and medical/health websites like Mayo, Harvard, Healthline, WebMD, etc. quote when they give you advice.

 

The ISSN gives creatine monohydrate an A+

Well, the ISSN thinks very highly of creatine and its benefits for athletes, fitness-focused people, and for several medical therapies as well.

So much so that they issued a position stand on creatine supplementation.

 

2. ISSN’s creatine position stand

Here’s a very brief summary of what they have to say regarding creatine & exercise (4).

 

Creatine is the best exercise supplement there is

Creatine (monohydrate) is the most effective supplement available for enhancing exercise performance & for increasing lean muscle.

 

It’s very safe

Creatine monohydrate is completely safe to use.

There are zero short-term or long-term negative effects from taking it, and its been proven to be medically beneficial in other areas besides exercise & strength performance too.

 

Its been researched heavily

Creatine monohydrate is the most clinically studied muscle building & performance-enhancing supplement that exists.

Last time I checked our U.S. National Library of Medicine database, there were 463 published creatine monohydrate research studies:

Creatine research studies at PubMed - heydayDo image

 

 

3. Creatine makes you stronger

There are several creatine + strength studies involving female athletes.

For 13 weeks, a collegiate women’s soccer team participated in an offseason creatine study that involved compound strength training exercises like the deep squat and the bench press.

The women taking the creatine monohydrate experienced “significantly greater increases in muscle strength” compared to the placebo group (5).

A Japanese research study using members of the University of Osaka women’s softball team showed the creatine supplementing group had significant strength & endurance gains compared to the no-creatine group (6).

 

Creatine + lifting better than weightlifting alone

Multiple studies using female non-athletes who lift weights have also found creatine to be beneficial in increasing strength & lean muscle mass.

Women who supplemented with creatine experienced greater gains in their strength than the women who lifted weights without taking creatine (7, 8).


 

4. Creatine boosts your endurance

Similarly, a number of studies have proven that creatine is effective at increasing the muscle endurance & exercise performance of women.

A study involving high-intensity exercise found significant increases in women’s anaerobic cycling power & exercise endurance while supplementing with creatine monohydrate (9).

Another research trial proved creatine supplementation increased the exercise performance of women’s soccer players while performing high-intensity endurance & plyometric training (10).

 

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5. Creatine builds muscle, reduces fat

A study of women’s lacrosse players showed that creatine supplementation during their preseason conditioning program

“significantly improved upper-body strength gain and decreased the percent (of) body fat”(11).

Their conditioning program involved resistance training, and the strength gains were measured by testing the women’s 1 rep maximums of their bench press & leg extension exercises.

 

Photo of woman at park doing push ups, taken for Should Women Take Creatine article on heydayDo

 

Creatine’s health benefits for women

As mentioned earlier, taking creatine has provided benefit in areas away from the athletic fields & gyms too.

Here are a few specific health-related areas where creatine has shown beneficial effectiveness.

 

Creatine helps improve osteoarthritis

Creatine was tested in a study of women with osteoarthritic knees who were also on a leg/knee strength conditioning program. Physicians noted that

“Creatine supplementation improves physical function, lower limb lean mass, and quality of life” (12).

 

Creatine improves bone strength & density

A year-long clinical trial involved postmenopausal women, resistance training, & creatine.

One group did strength training only, the other did the strength training plus received creatine supplementation.

The participants were tested for bone strength & bone mass density in their hip & leg bones.

At the conclusion of the study, the group who took creatine experienced greater preservation of their bone density and had better bone strength markers compared to the non-creatine control group (13).

 

Creatine improves strength in older women

Sedentary older women improved their strength, power, & lower-body motor functions after only 1 week of creatine monohydrate supplementation.

It’s worth noting that these women weren’t physically active – no gym or home exercise program.

Researchers said there were no adverse side effects of any kind (14).

And a 24-week study, down at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, showed that older women who performed resistance training and supplemented with creatine had the greatest increases in lean muscle mass and muscle function of all study groups measured (15).

Shop for creatine online 

 

Creatine improves cholesterol & lipids

Women who supplemented their diet with creatine for 8 weeks experienced “significant reductions” in their total cholesterol and blood lipids, i.e., the amount of fat in the bloodstream (16).

 

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Creatine lowers depression & anxiety

A few creatine studies have focused on mental health issues.

The studies are small, so more research is needed. But the results were certainly very encouraging.

Women who use meth-amphetamine and suffer from anxiety & depression were given creatine daily for 8 weeks.

Afterwards in psychological testing, they all had lower anxiety & depression scores compared to their pre-creatine ratings (17).

A study of female teens diagnosed with adolescent major depressive disorder (MDD) participated in a creatine supplementation study.

Their mental health disease is so severe it is resistant to traditional depression prescription meds.

They were tested using a standardized psychological profiling exam before beginning the creatine regimen, which was a daily dose for 8 weeks.

After the 8 weeks they were re-tested, and their depression scores had been reduced by 56% (18).

 

Creatine can boost your brain

There have been several studies that explored creatine’s benefits on our mental faculties.

In one Australian clinical trail titled appropriately enough Oral Creatine Monohydrate Improves Brain Performance, researchers summarized creatine’s beneficial effects by stating

“Creatine supplementation had a significant positive effect on both working memory and intelligence, both tasks that require speed of processing.” (19).

 

And in another neuroscience brain testing study, researchers concluded by simply saying that “we demonstrated that dietary supplement of creatine reduces mental fatigue”.

They attributed creatine’s effectiveness to its ability to “increase oxygen utilization in the brain” (20).

 

Creatine can help fatigue

There have been a few more areas where creatine has also demonstrated an ability to reduce other forms of fatigue:

  • Those with traumatic brain injury (21)
  • People with 24 hours of sleep deprivation (22)
  • During high levels of exertion (23)

 

Creatine is effective elsewhere too

By no means are my fitness & health lists of creatine’s beneficial impacts complete.

There are many other areas in both the exercise and medical arenas where creatine supplementation has improved the participants’ performance or health.

If you’re interested in finding out about any of this creatine research, click the link to read the ISSN position paper on creatine on their website (ISSN).

 

Creatine is cheap

One last nice thing about creatine to report: creatine is real easy on your wallet.

I’m pretty sure that its daily dose (of  5 grams) costs less than anything else you’re taking or thinking of taking.

How cheap?

Well…my fave creatine product over the past umpteen years is this powder form of creatine monohydrate from Optimum Nutrition.

The size I get is currently selling for about 15 bucks, and has 120 5g doses in it.

 

That comes out to 13 cents a day for 4 months’ worth.

 

I put it on my Subscribe & Save Prime thingamajig, so it’s even cheaper, somewhere around 11 cents a dose.

I’m amazed that something so effective is super cheap.

But then again, it occurs in nature & is easy to produce.

 

 

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How much creatine should I take?

The recommended daily dose of creatine for most people has been shown (many times over) to be in the 3-5g per day range (24).

This amount allows you to maintain optimal creatine stores in your muscles.

And while you can start taking that much right off the bat, you may want to seriously consider creatine loading for the first 5-7 days, and then go for the daily maintenance dose I mentioned above.

The ISSN’s position paper on creatine supplementation recommends this loading phase, in order to insure adequate filling of your creatine stores before switching to the daily maintenance level of 5g per day (25).

 

Creatine loading

Have you heard of creatine loading?

The effectiveness of this loading phase has been known since the early 90s (26).

And as mentioned above, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends this creatine loading method in their globally authoritative position paper. The ISSN state

“The most effective way to increase muscle creatine stores is to ingest 5 g of creatine monohydrate (or approximately 0.3 g/kg body weight) four times daily for 5–7 days.” (27)

 

You don’t have to load, but… 

If you choose not to load, that’s perfectly fine.

However, it’s important to understand that in that case, it may take up to a month before your muscle’s creatine stores have been adequately supplemented from your daily maintenance dose of 3-5g.

Once again referring to the ISSN bible on creatine — which itself refers to 269 peer-reviewed research studies — they explain

“In a normal diet that contains 1–2 g/day of creatine, muscle creatine stores are about 60–80% saturated.”

 

And so that’s why we supplement our diet with creatine, in order to get that 20-40% increase in our muscle stores.

The ISSN also says that

“the body needs to replenish about 1–3 g of creatine per day to maintain normal (un-supplemented) creatine stores depending on muscle mass.”

So if you don’t do that front loading, you see that some of your daily 3-5g dose will not be available for increasing your creatine stores – since part of it’s being used to help maintain your “normal” creatine level.

 

Woman taking creatine bench pressing - heydayDo image

 

 

Loading speeds up optimal creatine storage

When you do that creatine loading protocol I described earlier – that 20g/day for 5 days or so – you fill those stores much faster than if you were low-dosing it. It gets your muscles filled about 3 weeks sooner.

 

When you load, please spread your dosing

Let me repeat what the ISSN said on how to properly load creatine correctly, focusing on the timing of those 20 grams per day:

“ingest 5 g of creatine monohydrate…four times daily for 5–7 days.”

 

Definitely do not take 20g of creatine all at once.

Creatine poses no danger so there’s no health hazard to worry about.

But there could be a diarrhea event, since studies have found that the percentage of diarrhea likelihood goes up over 35% when someone takes 10 grams of creatine at once (28).

So definitely don’t knock down 20g all at once.

You can take it right when you wake up and right before bed, then take it twice sometime during the day.

Or go with whatever schedule works for you…just spread it out.

 

If you’re interested in reading what sports science research has shown regarding when to take creatine for best results, I wrote an article on that very topic right here on heydayDo.

 

No need to cycle creatine out & in

Some supplements come with the advice to stop taking them after X amount of time, wait a couple of weeks or so, then resume.

This is done to reset the body’s adaptation to that supplement, and it’s also called cycling.

Creatine doesn’t need you to do that.

Scientific research has found there is no reason nor benefit to cycling in & out of creatine supplementation (29).

You can take it every day for as long as you want to.

 

And if you stop taking creatine…

You can stop taking creatine anytime without any side effects or weird withdrawal symptoms.

Nothing even remotely like that occurs.

The one thing that will happen is that the creatine benefits will gradually fade over the time it takes your creatine stores to go back to their partially filled state.

Meaning the state they were in back before you started creatine supplementation.

 

 

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Creatine FAQ

Here are answers to a few of the common questions women ask regarding creatine.

 

Does creatine make you gain weight?

It can, but it is important to understand that creatine does not make you gain ‘fat’ weight.

When you add creatine to your fitness program you can expect to see a water weight gain of a couple of pounds, because creatine is hydrating your muscle cells (30).

This is a good thing, as water in your muscle cells helps you with protein synthesis, which in turn leads to muscle & strength gains (31).

This muscle cell water weight gain is different than the type of hormonally-caused water gain associated with PMS (32).

Another good weight gain you want and should expect over time is due to you adding more muscle to your body, thanks in part to the creatine improving your workout performance (33).

 

Does creatine help you lose weight?

Not directly no, because creatine’s not a weight loss supplement.

As you can see above, creatine will cause weight gain due to hydrating your muscles and helping them grow.

But in the big picture, more muscle for you means a higher metabolism rate for you too (34).

And a higher metabolism will help your body continue to burn more calories per day, even when you’re not working out (35).

So you will be losing fat weight as a result.

 

Can creatine help you sexually?

There is no medical science evidence that it either helps or harms the sex drives of women or men.

Well, none that I could find anyways.

(I searched through the 438 creatine monohydrate research papers at the National Institute of Health’s biomedical library (36).

 

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Wrapping Up

Related creatine articles here on heydayDo

12 Natural & Supplemental Creatine Alternatives Explored

 

I hope my article on the benefits of creatine for women in sports performance & in general health is useful to you, and I wish you well on your fitness journey.

Let’s go.

– greg

January 2021

 

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About heydayDo

heydayDo author Greg Simon
Hi I’m Greg Simon. Fitness training & nutrition researching since 1982. Organic food & wine grower. Surfer. Congenital heart disease survivor (so far). Read more…
heydayDo is my “fitness after 50” website that’s about embracing the physically active lifestyle as we get older.
 
I write about the fitness and health research I’ve found concerning the quality of life benefits that exercise and good nutrition provide.
 
When I get curious about something, I’ll dig into whatever sports science & medical facts there are on the topic to learn what’s real & what’s only hype. I also post my experiences product-testing & evaluating home gym equipment & fitness supplements.
 
 It’s an information-sharing, personal opinion blog of mine.
 
So if you’re looking for medical or nutritional advice, please consult with your doctor or health professional for that, since heydayDo does not provide medical advice.