Link between creatine, testosterone, and exercise: Does creatine increase testosterone levels?

This article aims to help you understand the complex relationship between creatine supplementation and testosterone levels. It separates fact from fiction and simplifies the multifaceted effects of creatine on testosterone, athletic performance, and muscle growth.

Image showing creatine and protein shake pre-workout supplements

Key takeaways

  • Creatine is a popular supplement known for enhancing physical performance and muscle growth.
  • Despite common beliefs, there is insufficient evidence that creatine directly increases testosterone levels.
  • Creatine offers various benefits, including improved energy production, muscle growth, cognitive function, and improved glycemic control.
  • Regular exercise and a balanced lifestyle are essential for maintaining optimal testosterone levels naturally.

Testosterone is the main male hormone that oversees the regulation of sex differentiation, the development of male sex characteristics, sperm production, and fertility. 

Testosterone plays a crucial role in primary sexual development, including processes such as testicular descent, sperm formation, the development of the penis and testes, and the enhancement of libido. Basically, testosterone is a hormone associated with masculinity and muscle growth. 

Hence, many athletes seek ways to optimize testosterone levels to improve their muscle gains and overall performance. These athletes, most often, believe that creatine supplementation increases their testosterone levels, thereby further improving their performance.

What is creatine?

Creatine, a naturally occurring compound, is synthesized within the body and commonly found in diets that are rich in meat and fish. It is predominantly stored in skeletal muscles, existing both in phosphorylated and free forms.

To understand more about the use of creatine, here is a brief review of what happens during muscle contraction.

When muscles contract, they become tighter and shorter. This action pulls on the bones they are attached to, causing movement, thus enabling you to perform physical activities.

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the primary energy source for cells, powering various cellular processes, including those of muscle cells. When ATP is broken down into adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and inorganic phosphate (Pi), energy is released, which fuels activities like muscle contraction, nerve impulse transmission, and protein synthesis.

During intense muscle contractions, creatine is vital in maintaining a high ratio of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to adenosine diphosphate, which means more energy is available.

Creatine also plays a crucial role in energy metabolism, particularly during short bursts of high-intensity activities such as weightlifting and sprinting. 

Subsequent studies have revealed a direct relationship between increased creatine absorption and enhanced performance during repeated bouts of maximal exercise. Therefore, the introduction of creatine supplementation represents a significant advancement in sports nutrition.

Does creatine increase testosterone levels in males and females?

Although there are few studies that have shown a slightly insignificant increase in testosterone levels following creatine supplementation, several studies that are current show that creatine supplementation does not increase testosterone levels.

This applies to both males and females. However, a study suggests that engaging in resistance exercises alongside creatine supplementation for over five days significantly raises testosterone levels.

Another study published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine in 2009, showed that while creatine supplementation did not directly affect testosterone levels, it led to an increase in dihydrotestosterone (DHT), an androgen hormone derived from testosterone. 

It is important to note that, while DHT is related to testosterone, it is not the same thing. DHT is a more potent androgen that is formed when the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase acts on testosterone.

Therefore, the increase in DHT as seen in the 2009 study suggests that creatine may have some impact on androgen hormones but does not conclusively prove that it directly increases testosterone levels. 

The role of creatine supplementation on physical performance and muscle growth

Creatine has been proven to be an effective supplement for enhancing muscle mass and overall athletic performance among healthy young individuals. A study, however, showed that the impact of creatine lessens with an increase in exercise duration. 

While individual responses to creatine supplementation vary, it is widely acknowledged that it enhances creatine storage and facilitates quicker regeneration of adenosine triphosphate during high-intensity exercises.

Therefore, this would result in improved performance and foster greater adaptations to training. 

Taking creatine monohydrate can boost the ratio of phosphocreatine to creatine in muscles. This helps muscles quickly make more ATP (adenosine triphosphate), used as a source of energy during intense exercises.

Gaining more muscle mass from using creatine is partly because muscles hold onto more water. The increase in creatine can make muscle cells swell, which is believed to help them grow and increase in size.

How much creatine should you take to build muscle?

The optimal dosage of creatine varies among individuals and depends on factors such as body weight, muscle mass, and exercise regimen. 

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the amount of creatine monohydrate needed to build muscle is approximately 0.3 g/kg/day for 5-7 days, after which 3-5 g/day can be taken to maintain the elevated stores of creatine.

Notably, starting with taking just 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate each day will slowly increase muscle creatine levels within 3–4 weeks, and there is less evidence to support the effectiveness of this supplementation method at the beginning stages. 

It is important to consult certified trainers or fitness experts to determine the most suitable dosage based on individual needs and goals.

Other benefits of creatine

It is already known that creatine is useful in improving physical performance and muscle growth. However, creatine also has other benefits. These benefits include:

  • Lowers cholesterol, and triglyceride levels
  • Helps manage blood lipid levels
  • Reduces fat accumulation in the liver
  • Lowers homocysteine levels to reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Acts as an antioxidant
  • Improves glycemic control
  • Slows down the progression of certain types of cancer
  • Reduces bone loss
  • Enhances functional capacity in patients with osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia
  • Improves cognitive function, especially in older adults
  • Enhances the effectiveness of certain antidepressant medications in some cases

Side effects of creatine

Some of the side effects associated with creatine supplementation include: 

  • Dehydration
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort, such as stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weight gain
  • Kidney strain, especially in individuals with pre-existing kidney conditions
  • Redness and itching when applied to the skin
  • Dizziness

How exercise may trigger testosterone production

Even though creatine supplementation does not directly increase testosterone levels in the body, regular exercise may stimulate short-term testosterone production. 

Different types of exercise can lead to different levels of serum testosterone concentrations. According to a 2020 study, high-intensity exercise results in the highest increase in serum testosterone levels. However, this increase in testosterone is mostly temporary and only sustained right after exercise.

The same study also indicated that resistance exercises, like weightlifting, jumping, and sprinting, can increase testosterone levels.

This increase is dependent on the muscle mass used during the exercise. Using large muscle groups, like the legs, and also free weights, like barbells, during resistance exercise can result in a greater increase in testosterone levels than using machines and smaller muscle groups, like the biceps.

Resistance training, in particular, elicits mechanical tension on muscle fibers, triggering hormonal responses that promote muscle repair and hypertrophy. 

While more studies need to be carried out to determine the effect of exercising on sustained or long-term testosterone production, most fitness experts believe that consistent exercise, coupled with adequate rest and recovery, should be part of a holistic approach to optimizing testosterone levels and achieving fitness goals.

Final thoughts

Despite the fact that creatine supplementation remains a cornerstone of many athletes' regimens for enhancing physical performance and muscle growth, its direct impact on testosterone levels remains uncertain and debated. 

While some individuals may experience subtle changes in testosterone levels with creatine intake, the evidence supporting a significant effect is lacking. 

However, creatine offers various benefits, including improved energy production, muscle hydration, and cognitive function. Thus, it is a valuable supplement for individuals pursuing athletic excellence and overall well-being.

For those seeking to naturally optimize testosterone levels, prioritizing regular exercise, adequate sleep, stress management, and eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients may help.

While supplements like creatine may complement a well-rounded approach to fitness and performance, they should be viewed as one component of a comprehensive lifestyle strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you take testosterone and creatine together?

Taking synthetic testosterone and creatine together is generally considered to be safe for healthy individuals. However, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen.

Is creatine safe for teens?

No. Creatine may be safe for healthy athletes of all ages when used at appropriate doses, but more research is needed to understand any potential long-term effects, especially in young athletes.

This is the reason why the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Society of Sports Medicine do not recommend creatine for people under 18 years of age.

Does creatine affect sperm?

There are a few studies that have found creatine supplementation to improve sperm quality, though more research is needed to say for sure. Research has shown no consistent adverse effects of creatine supplementation; however, ensure you consult a healthcare professional before use.

How long after a workout should you take creatine?

Most people take creatine after a workout, but there is no definitive evidence to show that there's a "best" time to take creatine. The main thing is to take it consistently.

Creatine works by building up in your muscles over time, so you need to take it regularly and in the dosage recommended by your healthcare provider or the product’s manufacturer in order to see results.