Should Women Take Creatine?


Creatine is one of the most researched supplement in the fitness and supplement industry. It's often associated with men and bulking or men and increasing muscle mass. But what about creatine and its effects on women? Should women take creatine? Are the effects the same?

Creatine supplementation for males versus females varies. An article from the MDPI on Nutrients, states that women exhibit 70-80% lower endogenous creatine stores compared to men. What does all that mean, and why? In this blog post from Innovative Sports Nutrition we are going to dive deeper into the effects creatine plays on female bodies. 

How does creatine affect strength performance in women?

Studies have shown that creatine supplementation in untrained and trained women can ensue significant improvements in muscular strength and power, without causing significant effects on one’s weight or percentage of body fat. The authors from the article in the MDPI on Nutrients state that the ergogenic effect that creatine has on a female’s body, “can be attributed to an increase in intramuscular PCr stores that facilitate an increase in training intensity and enhanced recovery between successive bouts of training.” Over time, this increased training stimulus that results from creatine supplementation causes greater physiological adaptations, such as increased cell hydration and increased gene expression, that lead to increases in strength and hypertrophy. 

How does creatine affect exercise performance in women?

Studies have shown that creatine exhibits an ergogenic effect in anaerobic and aerobic exercise performance. Due to increased intramuscular stores of PCr as was mentioned in the last paragraph, creatine supplementation has the ability to prevent fatigue during exercise. These intramuscular stores of PCr increase ATP turnover and buffer endogenous H+ protons to maintain pH. Creatine supplementation has not yet been investigated well enough for its effects on endurance exercise performance, but based upon the research conducted in this article evidence they found suggests that it does still have some ergogenic benefits. Therefore, women amongst different levels of training and fitness may experience improvements in anaerobic and aerobic exercise performance from creatine supplementation.

How does creatine affect pre-menopausal women?

Are you reluctant to use creatine because of a fear that it will cause you to gain weight? A rapid gain of weight after starting to take creatine is more often seen in males, however women can still experience weight gain, especially if you start by loading your creatine dosage (which is not recommended for females to do). This weight gain reflects the increase in cellular hydration your body experiences from taking creatine–your water weight. Increasing your hydration is key when taking creatine because creatine works to pull water to your muscles to increase this cell hydration. However, if you are not drinking enough water when taking creatine, this can cause your body to pull water from anywhere it can get it in the body in order to push it towards your muscles. Any adverse side effects from taking creatine have no factual foundation, therefore the benefits from this supplement override any associated risks from taking it. 

How does creatine affect post-menopausal women?

Women experience a decrease in estrogen after menopause, and this decrease has been found to be a major contributing factor to an age-related loss in muscles, bone mass, and overall strength. The supplementation of creatine has been found to counteract this menopausal decrease in muscle, bone, and strength by reducing inflammation, oxidative stress, serum markers of bone resorption. Creatine has also been found to upregulate muscle integrity which can result in increased cell activity, growth factors, protein kinases, and transcription factors that are all involved in cell growth and reproduction. Therefore, creatine supplementation may be a way for post-menopausal women to support the growth of their bone and muscle mass.

How does creatine affect depression and mood in women?

Did you know that depression rates are two times higher in females than males? This increased rate is mostly due to hormonal imbalances females experience throughout their lifetime and how sensitive the female brain is to these hormones. Research has found that, “efficient neurotransmission of metabolites affecting mood depends upon the creatine-PCr system functioning properly,” according to the authors from the article on Creatine Supplementation in Women’s Health in the MDPI. This infers that there is a distinct relationship between the metabolism of creatine in the brain and depression. Dietary supplementation of creatine can therefore act as an antidepressant treatment by providing an energetic effect in brain chemistry “through efficient regeneration of intracellular high-energy phosphates in females.” Therefore, increasing one’s creatine consumption through supplementation can be a way for females to boost their mood and decrease their levels of depression. 

How does creatine affect cognition and sleep in women?

Research studies have continuously demonstrated that creatine supplementation can place a huge impact on cognitive performance and brain function, and can also play a role in reducing mental fatigue during stressful mental tasks. When you are under high mental stress, a higher PCr demand is required for brain activity, resulting in a potential impairment in ATP turnover. “Creatine supplementation has been shown to support greater neural ATP resynthesis, which provides a cognitive advantage for tasks that rely on the frontal cortex (i.e., cognition, attention, memory).” Females have been known to process their stress differently than males. Females are subject to more sleep deprivation due to different factors such as menstrual cycles, pregnancy, post-partum demands, and menopausal sleep disturbances, and often participate in multi-tasking habits more often than males. The supplementation of creatine has been shown to provide support during these different scenarios by increasing a female’s mental capacity during these periods of impairment in cognition and sleep. 

The concentrations of creatine in your brain vary depending upon your age, lifestyle, diet, and other factors, so when considering taking a creatine supplement remember that it can work differently for you as it does for another female. I always recommend giving it a try yourself to test the waters as to how helpful a creatine supplement can be to you. 

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