Alternatives To Creatine

Building muscle is hard work. It requires time, effort, and dedication. To build muscle, you need to hit the gym, lift weights, and literally break your muscles down and cause microtrauma. While this might sound brutal, this catastrophic breakdown is the trigger for muscle repair and growth.

Intense workouts take a lot out of your body, and you need sleep and food to fuel recovery. That’s what makes building muscle such a time-consuming process; what you do out of the gym is just as important as what you do in it.

A lot of exercisers use supplements to enhance their progress. Options include protein powder, pre-workouts, testosterone boosters, recovery drinks, and mass gainers. But, of all the supplements currently available, creatine is arguably the most popular choice.

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance that your body uses to make ATP, which is its primary source of energy during high-intensity activities like strength training. Creatine has been around for over 40 years, which strongly suggests it works.

While creatine is generally regarded as safe and it’s widely available, some people prefer not to use it. The good news is that there are several muscle-building alternatives to creatine.

Alternatives To Creatine

Creatine Benefits

Creatine has been popular for a long time, and it’s one of the most well-researched sports supplements on the planet, but what does it actually do? The main benefits of creatine are:

man and woman running down stairsLonger, Harder Workouts

Creatine provides your body with more ATP, which is the fuel of muscle contractions. With more ATP, you will be able to train harder and longer and make faster progress.

Faster Recovery Between Workouts

Taking creatine means you can train more often. Again, this will lead to more rapid progress.

Increased Strength

Creatine is hydrophilic, which means it attracts water. By driving more water into your muscles, creatine enhances leverage, which means you can lift heavier weights. Heavier weights mean more mechanical muscle tension, which leads to more significant strength increases.

Bigger Muscles

The extra water in your muscles will make them look bigger and fuller. Creatine causes a rapid increase in muscle size.

Reduced Myostatin Levels

Myostatin is a compound that stops muscle growth. Creatine appears to block myostatin, leading to faster muscle repair and growth.

Increased Anabolic Hormone Production

Creatine may increase the production of testosterone, human growth hormone, and IGF-1. These are anabolic or muscle-building hormones. These increases are small but useful.

What Are the Drawbacks?

There have been hundreds if not thousands of studies into the effects and benefits of creatine, and there are very few unwanted side effects. However, despite its excellent safety record, there are a few drawbacks to using creatine, including:

Water Retention

Creatine increases water retention in your muscles, which is both an advantage and a drawback. While water retention will increase muscle size and strength, it could also leave you feeling puffy and bloated.

Stomach Upsets

A few users experience stomach upsets with creatine, especially if they take too much. Avoid this problem by sticking to the recommended dose of between 5-10 grams per day. Taking more offers no advantages, and you are just more likely to experience unwanted side effects if you do.

Muscle Cramps

Creatine causes water to move from the outside of muscle cells to the inside. This may cause cramps. Use a potassium supplement or eat a banana a day to avoid this issue.

What Foods Are Naturally High in Creatine?

Creatine might sound like something that was invented in a science lab, but it’s actually a naturally occurring substance, and your body produces it too. If you don’t want to take a creatine supplement, you can get creatine from the following foods, albeit in relatively small amounts:

  1. animal proteinBacon
  2. Beef
  3. Beef heart
  4. Chicken
  5. Ham
  6. Herring
  7. Lamb
  8. Milk
  9. Pork
  10. Rabbit
  11. Salmon
  12. Tuna

Creatine is almost exclusively made by animals, which is why there are no plant-based sources.

What Are the Alternatives to Creatine?

In reality, there are no creatine alternatives. Only can creatine do what creatine does! That said, there are several other muscle-building supplements that you can use to enhance your workouts, recover faster, and make better progress.

If you don’t want to take creatine, consider using these supplements instead:


To increase endurance and delay fatigue. Check out the latest best beta-alanine products to buy.

Branched-Chain Amino Acids

To speed up recovery after training and boost energy.

Whey Protein

To speed up recovery after training and provide your muscles with the amino acid building blocks needed for growth and repair.


For more energy and less fatigue.


An amino acid that enhances muscle growth and boosts strength and performance.

Nitric Oxide

N.O. supplements relax the blood vessels to enhance blood flow for more energy and a better pump.

Do You Really Need Creatine?

some supplements and weightIf you eat meat, and even if you don’t, you are already “on” creatine. It’s in the food you eat, and your body makes it.

Using a creatine supplement merely increases the amount of creatine in your body. As such, you don’t need to take creatine if you don’t want to, but it can be advantageous.

Maximizing your creatine stores means you’ll be able to train harder, longer, and heavier and recover faster.

It’s not addictive, there are no long-term health risks, and creatine is cheap, widely available, and easy to use. While you don’t need creatine to build muscle and strength, using it could mean you make faster progress than you could without it.

Bottom Line

Studies have shown that creatine is both effective and safe. It’s been popular for at least forty years, and that means it works. If it didn’t, it would no longer be available. You don’t even need one of the specially engineered creatine isomers; plain (and cheap) creatine monohydrate works best.

Creatine provides lots of valuable benefits for exercisers, including increased muscle size and strength, faster recovery between sets and workouts, better fat burning, and the increased intramuscular water may also ease aches and pains. There are very few downsides to using creatine, and, contrary to popular opinion, it’s not bad for your kidneys, and it isn’t addictive. Nor will it cause anger or rage issues.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t build muscle without creatine. This popular supplement has been around for four decades, but people successfully built bigger muscles long before that.

Training, diet, and sleep are more important than supplements. Your body produces creatine naturally, and it’s also in all the animal proteins you eat.

However, if you want to make the most of your time and effort in the gym, creatine could help. Take five grams five times a day for five days to load up, and then five grams once a day after that. There is no need to cycle off creatine; it’s safe for long-term use.

So, while you don’t have to use creatine, and there are alternatives, there are very few reasons not to use this safe, proven, effective nutritional supplement.


Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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