Creatine may further improve the testosterone-boosting effect of resistance training.
Creatine is one of the most popular and effective ways of improving anaerobic exercise performance. In addition, recent research evidence suggests that it might also:
- Act as a testosterone booster when paired with resistance training via a yet-unknown mechanism.
Creatine is a naturally-occurring organic acid found throughout the human body. Creatine serves a number of roles, but it’s most recognized function is to increase energy supply in muscle cells during anaerobic activity such as resistance training or sprinting. Indeed, 95% of the body’s creatine is stored in muscle for this exact reason.
However, our muscles can hold more creatine than is naturally present; for example, a 70 kg man has about 120 g of creatine in his muscle tissue, but can actually store up to 160 g. Because of this discrepancy, supplementing creatine is an effective way of boosting its natural levels.
Creatine is one of the most effective and popular sports nutrition supplements in the world. In addition, recent research also suggests that it may increase testosterone levels when used alongside resistance training.
How Creatine Might Help Testosterone
Although a number of studies have reported higher testosterone production or greater dihydrotestosterone (a more potent version of T) levels after creatine supplementation, it’s not entirely clear how this effect is achieved, and so researchers continue to look for answers.
- One possibility is that this effect is indirect. Since all these studies focused on individuals involved in resistance training–which is known to boost testosterone1 — it’s possible that creatine’s improvement of anaerobic exercise performance results in a a stronger hormonal response, thus indirectly increasing testosterone levels.
Creatine is the super-star dietary supplement for training, whether in a stack or a standalone product. Decades of research and rave reviews seem to validate that creatine significantly improves performance during anaerobic activity such as resistance training or sprint running.
In the physical performance capacity, creatine is often used as a pre workout for bodybuilding purposes. It is popularly stacked with protein powders and BCAAs, as a 1-2 combo for mass building and general muscle support.
- Although it’s not typically considered among the Test-boosters, recent research evidence also suggests that creatine might help increase testosterone levels.
However, this pro-T potential is far from a proven truth: The effect was only reported in individuals undergoing resistance training, which suggests that this type of exercise may be required to elicit the testosterone-boosting effect of creatine.
Creatine has been shown to increase testosterone, but in most cases this effect was identified under a specific set of circumstances (such as sleep deprived rugby players or after resistance training) and was not the main goal of the study. Moreover, several studies reported no effect. As such, more high-quality research that focuses specifically on creatine’s effect on testosterone is needed to say anything conclusive.
This randomized study examined the effects of creatine and caffeine on rugby passing after sleep deprivation. Ten elite rugby players performed 10 passing trials — 5 with normal sleep (7-9 h) and 5 with deprived sleep (3-5 h), 1 .5 hours after taking placebo, creatine (50 or 100 mg/kg) or caffeine (1 or 5 mg/kg). Both creatine and caffeine prevented the fall in skill performance seen with sleep deprivation and placebo. Furthermore, a b secondary finding of the study was that salivary testosterone level tended to rise at the 100 mg/kg creatine dose.
- The researchers concluded that “Acute sleep deprivation affects performance of a simple repeat skill in elite athletes and this was ameliorated by a single dose of either caffeine or creatine…Testosterone was unaffected by sleep deprivation and by all treatments except the high dose of creatine, where there was a trend towards higher concentrations“2
In this double-blind, crossover study, researchers looked at whether creatine supplementation affects testosterone and other male sex hormones. Twenty college rugby players followed a creatine loading protocol (25 g creatine daily) for a week, followed by two weeks of a maintenance dose (5 g).
The study found that while testosterone (T) levels were unaffected, the levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) – the most potent male sex hormone – increased by 56% after loading, and remained 40% higher than baseline during the maintenance phase. In addition, the ratio of DHT:T was also increased – 36% after loading, and remained 22% higher during maintenance.
- The researchers concluded that “Creatine supplementation may, in part, act through an increased rate of conversion of T to DHT“3
This randomized study examined the effects of creatine and beta-alanine on college football players. Thirty-five men took either placebo, creatine 10.5 g (C), or creatine 10.5 g with beta-alanine 3.2 g (CP) daily for 10 weeks while following a resistance training program. One of the findings was that resting testosterone levels were raised by 22% only in the C group, in addition to a trend for higher free testosterone index, indicating higher testosterone availability.
- The researchers concluded that “Resting testosterone concentrations were elevated in C, however, no other significant endocrine changes were noted. Results of this study demonstrate the efficacy of creatine and creatine plus β-alanine on strength performance“4
In a double-blind, randomized trial, 20 physically-active men were given creatine (20 g) or placebo daily for a week while undergoing resistance training. Resting testosterone levels increased significantly in the creatine group on days 5 and 7, alongside a drop in the stress hormone cortisol, which has been associated with muscle wasting.
- The researchers concluded that “short term Cr supplementation (5 and 7 days) increases resting serum testosterone and decreases serum cortisol concentrations“5
In this double-blind, randomized, crossover study, 11 men performed a 1 hour resistance training session before and after 5 days of placebo or a creatine (20 g) formulation. Five weeks later, the groups were switched and repeated the treatments. There was no difference in growth hormone or testosterone levels between the two treatments in the 1 hour after exercise.
- The researchers concluded that “It is concluded that short-term creatine supplementation does not alter the responses of growth hormone, testosterone, and cortisol to a single bout of heavy resistance training“6
- Most successful studies use a loading protocol, where a 20-25 g dosage is split into 4-5 doses taken daily for 5-7 days, and then a maintenance dose of 5 g is taken indefinitely
- This suggests that the same protocol already used for taking creatine as a pre-workout also works for boosting testosterone
- Creatine monohydrate is the preferred form of creatine, as it has been the most studied. Look for this form if you buy creatine.
Supplements in Review Says
- Creatine Monohydrate 20 g Micronized Powder
Creatine appears to improve the beneficial effect of resistance training on testosterone. Although research on this topic is still in its early stages, it seems that you have to undergo resistance training — which boosts testosterone in its own right — in order to reap creatine’s enhancement of testosterone.
Most successful studies used a loading dose of 20 grams. Loading creatine by taking a 20-25 g dose for about a week is used to quickly saturate muscle creatine levels, after which a 5 g maintenance dose is taken. Creatine is generally safe and well-tolerated, especially creatine monohydrate.
- Kraemer WJ, Ratamess NA. Hormonal responses and adaptations to resistance exercise and training. Sports Med. 2005;35(4):339-61. ↩
- Cook CJ et al. Skill execution and sleep deprivation: effects of acute caffeine or creatine supplementation – a randomized placebo-controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2011 Feb 16;8:2. ↩
- van der Merwe J et al. Three weeks of creatine monohydrate supplementation affects dihydrotestosterone to testosterone ratio in college-aged rugby players. Clin J Sport Med. 2009 Sep;19(5):399-404. ↩
- Hoffman J et al. Effect of creatine and beta-alanine supplementation on performance and endocrine responses in strength/power athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 Aug;16(4):430-46. ↩
- Arazi H et al. Effects of short term creatine supplementation and resistance exercises on resting hormonal and cardiovascular responses. Science & SportsVolume 30, Issue 2, April 2015, Pages 105–109. ↩
- Eijnde BO, Hespel P. Short-term creatine supplementation does not alter the hormonal response to resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Mar;33(3):449-53. ↩