- Creatine is an amino acid widely known to improve high-intensity athletic performance.
- A few small studies suggest it might also boost testosterone levels, but the research is iffy—many more studies suggest the benefit is unproven.
- Creatine use may be linked to other health benefits including the potential to improve cardiovascular health, strengthen bones, and even increase brain activity.
Creatine has always been popular among bodybuilders but lately, it seems like everyone’s taking the supplement. The demand is so high that the first U.S. creatine production facility just opened. And the buyers aren’t just guys looking to get swole. A swath of TikTokkers and redditors are interested in creatine because they’re heard it can increase testosterone.
Getting jacked and spiking testosterone production at the same time? Appealing. Also, unlikely.
So far, research doesn’t suggest that taking creatine boosts T. “The evidence is not concrete,” says Vandana Sheth, R.D., a registered dietitian, nutritionist, and healthy eating consultant based in the Los Angeles area.
That said, there are good reasons to consider taking a creatine supplement beyond boosting gym gains.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid. Your body produces it primarily in the liver, with an assist from your pancreas and kidneys. About 95% of your body’s synthesized creatine is stored in your muscles, with the remaining amount stored in tissues such as the brain, heart, and testes, according to the National Institutes of Health.
You also get creatine when you eat animal-based protein, such as red meat, seafood and poultry.
What does creatine do?
Put simply, when your body needs energy for explosive exercises like HIIT or strength training, it uses adenosine triphosphate ATP, an energy-storing molecule that powers your cells, triggers muscle contractions and more.
Your muscles’ limited ATP supply is used quickly during these activities. One way the body regenerates the ATP to give you bursts of energy is through the creatine stored in your body as phosphocreatine.
While your body keeps a healthy stockpile of creatine on hand, your “tank” can need topped up. That’s where creatine supplements may come in. Extreme athlete (and Chris Hemsworth pal) Ross Edgely said that he adds creatine to his stack to help replenish his ATP system.
In a review of clinical trials published in 2022, researchers concluded that when subjects in resistance training programs topped up creatine reserves with a supplement they increased lean body mass. (1).
Some research has even found that taking creatine may help build and maintain muscle, even if you never set foot in a gym or touch a dumbbell (2).
In addition to helping to increase energy levels for your cells, several studies found creatine combined with heavy resistance training may have encouraged muscle growth by stimulating production of muscle insulin-like growth hormone 1(IGF-1) (3, 4).
Does Creatine Increase Testosterone?
Nope. Like testosterone, IGF-1 is an anabolic hormone that may encourage muscle growth. That led some researchers to speculate: If creatine increases IGF-1, could it also increase testosterone levels?
But so far, no large-scale studies support the theory. Several studies have investigated the link (5, 6, 7), but all of them came to a similar conclusion: creatine is not actually useful for increasing testosterone production. Sorry, fellas.
So where did the ‘creatine as T-booster’ myth come from?
A few small studies have suggested a link. One found that while taking a creatine supplement didn’t increase the subjects’ T levels, it did elevate their levels of DHT or dihydrotestosterone, a potent sex hormone created from testosterone (8).
Two additional studies—one that combined resistance training with the supplement; the other included sprint swimming—also noted a link between creatine use and increases in testosterone (9, 10).
But the increases in T were small—between about 0.6 ng/mL 1.5 ng/mL—and the subjects’ T levels were ultimately still well within normal ranges.
Other Health Benefits of Creatine
While creatine ain’t gonna boost your T, that doesn’t mean you should turn your back on the supplement. In addition to helping to fuel workouts and promoting muscle growth, the supp does have a number of other potential perks:
Better brain function
Neuroscientist Andrew Huberman says he takes creatine for this perk. Some studies have found that creatine supplements may improve some cognitive functions. In a review of studies by Greek researchers, they found that participants who took creatine had improved performance on short-term memory and overall intelligence and reasoning tasks. (11)
Creatine is thought to help increase energy production in brain cells. It may also have anti-inflammatory effects.
Some researchers are studying creatine to discover whether it may one day be used to help treat or prevent age-related and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, though more research is needed (12, 13).
Improved cardiovascular health
In some research, creatine has been linked to heart health due to its potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects (14, 15, 16). Preliminary studies suggest taking creatine may also help lower triglyceride levels, say experts at Mount Sinai.
Creatine may also help lower levels of homocysteine. Elevated homocysteine levels have been linked to vitamin deficiencies and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Finally, promising research into people suffering from heart failure—and who quickly become fatigued as a result—suggests that these individuals may be able to work out longer and more effectively (increasing their overall muscle strength) following supplemental use of creation compared to those taking a placebo.(17) Meaning, creatine use may help to keep your heart stronger both now, and as you get older and potential health problems develop, but more research is required.
Research is mixed as to whether creatine supports improvements in bone density.
In one of the first big studies on the subject, researchers found distinct improvements in bone mineral strength and density in animals that were given creatine supplements compared to those given a placebo (18).
More recently, a group of international researchers analyzed a group of human studies tracking creatine’s impact on bone density. They found that while creatine does appear to improve bone density, but only when combined with resistance training, the effect may be dose dependent: In studies where individuals were given less than 5 g/day of the stuff, little happened. However, in trials where larger doses were given, marked improvements in bone density occurred (19).
But since some recent research has failed to find increases in bone density with creatine supplementation, further research is required.
Smarter Options for Building T
Despite the social media buzz to the contrary, the sad fact is that creatine isn’t going to magically boost testosterone levels. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to get your level of the hormone back up where it belongs.
Diet and exercise
Testosterone levels rise after exercise. Studies show that men who participate in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and resistance exercises that involve more muscle groups and that’s done at moderate to high-intensity levels, tend to boost T most effectively. (Here’s our favorite testosterone-boosting workout plan, btw.)
“Improvement in diet and increasing exercise have demonstrated improvements in serum testosterone levels,” says R. Charles Welliver Jr., M.D., a board-certified urologist in Albany, New York. “Studies looking at these lifestyle changes have noted statistically and clinically significant improvements often in the range of 100ng/dL. Making these lifestyle changes has other obvious health benefits also.”
As for nutrition, add T-boosting foods (we’ve got a list of 13 of them here) while improving your diet by cutting out unnecessary fat, calories, and sugar.
Men with clinically low testosterone levels may not be able to increase testosterone enough to mitigate symptoms of low T through diet and exercise alone. There are effective FDA-approved medications for men with low testosterone, including testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) and Clomid.
If you suspect low T, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. You can also assess your T levels at home with Hone’s at-home testosterone test. If it reveals that you have low T, our physicians can discuss treatment options that can be sent right to your door.
Hone’s at-home testosterone assessment is the simplest way to uncover whether your levels are low. If you qualify for treatment, TRT can be sent right to your door.
The Bottom Line
Creatine is unlikely to impact testosterone levels. But the supplement can improve athletic performance and fuel muscle growth. Further research may show that creatine can help improve brain, bone, and cardiovascular health. If you suspect low T, diet and lifestyle changes can increase testosterone levels, or you can explore TRT with a physician.