While doing research for another article, I realized that there’s a significant amount of people that creatine doesn’t work for. Creatine works great for most people, so I wondered, and I did some research. So, why does creatine not work for some people?
While creatine is effective for most people, there are a few cases where it’s not. The main causes for ineffectiveness are the person having already filled their creatine reserves, or the person being a creatine non-responder.
Unfortunately, this answer isn’t very clear-cut, because both of those reasons have multiple different causes. Below, I’ll go over those causes, as well as what you can do if you fall into any of these categories.
Creatine Advice That I Won’t Give
First off, here’s what I’m not going to do. When I was researching non-responders, I found multiple different articles filled with stupid advice like “you’re not lifting enough weight” or “go to the gym more often”.
For the sake of actually giving you good information, I’m going to skip all of this and get to real tips and advice that will actually help you if you find that creatine isn’t working right for you.
What to Do if Creatine Doesn’t Work for You
If you find that creatine isn’t working for you, the first thing you have to do is figure out why. As I already mentioned, the most common reasons for it not working are that your reserves are already full, or you’re a non-responder.
If you’re person #1 and your reserves are just full already, there’s not anything you need to do! What this means is that you either produce enough naturally or you get enough creatine through your diet, that taking a supplement can’t add any more to your system.
Basically, you’re getting all the same benefits as someone taking the supplement, you just do it naturally! This isn’t easy to do, and you shouldn’t try to achieve this, but it is possible.
Next, if you’re a creatine non-responder, you’re in a tougher situation. If this is you, it means that for some reason, your body is unable to reap the benefits of ingesting creatine. I’ll go more in-depth on this in a little bit. For now, just know that people in this situation are pretty much out of luck.
You can either work harder in the gym or take some other supplements to compensate for the lack of creatine supplementation. It’s up to you! Plenty of lifters never use creatine, so it’s not the end of the world.
How Your Creatine Reserves Can Be Filled
Inside your muscles and muscle cells, there is creatine, and your muscle cells have the ability to store creatine and keep it around until it’s needed. These are your creatine reserves, and it’s what you try to fill up when you take creatine.
As I talked about before, there are a few major ways that you can fill your creatine reserves up to the max. I’ll go over each way now!
Filling creatine reserves through your diet
Almost every type of meat that you consume contains creatine. Think about it, in your body, creatine is stored almost exclusively in muscle cells, so it’s the same in nature. This means that meat and fish that you eat are all boosting your creatine levels. If you’re interested in this, check out my article on natural creatine sources.
Every time you eat meat, you’re adding a little bit to your creatine reserves. If you eat a lot of meat, there’s a good chance that taking creatine might not have a huge effect on you, because you get so much through your diet.
A long-time vegan on the other hand, who takes creatine for the first time, will see huge results. It all depends on your body and your diet!
Natural creatine production in the body
Other than through your diet, our bodies naturally produce a decent amount of creatine all on our own! This even happens for vegans.
If your body happens to be able to produce more creatine than the average, you might just be filling your creatine reserves on your own without even trying. If this is the case, it’d make sense why taking creatine doesn’t work for you, because you’re already at capacity!
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to measure your creatine production and find out if this is happening to you.
Filling the gap with supplements
This one is pretty obvious, but if doing the above two things doesn’t fill your creatine reserves, this is when you take a creatine supplement!
But, as I mentioned before, if doing these two things does fill your creatine reserves, then taking creatine won’t work for you, and the extra creatine will just be expelled from your body. No harm done, but a waste of time and energy!
What Causes Creatine Non-Responders?
A study from the NSCA found that:
Only 30% of people can be considered true responders to creatine, and also that 30% of people can be considered non-responders.
This is all a fancier way of saying that about 1/3 of people respond very well to creatine, another 1/3 respond a medium amount, and the last 1/3 don’t experience effects from taking creatine at all.
What this means to you, is that a lot of people who take creatine probably aren’t actually seeing any results. Even I didn’t know this number was that high until doing this research!
Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of research into what causes people to not respond to creatine. As far as I could tell, this study didn’t account for the things that I mentioned earlier, because the study wasn’t about causes, so they could all be real reasons for this too.
Another possible reason is that for some reason, some people have smaller creatine reserves than others. This is quite possible, but is just an idea, and needs further studies to be done.
For the time being, we don’t know for sure what causes creatine non-responders!
How to Make Creatine More Effective
As I mentioned before, creatine only works if you do the work yourself. I know this isn’t some glamorous tip, but it’s probably the #1 way to make sure that creatine actually works.
With that said, it’s been found that taking creatine with carbs and protein can boost its absorption into your muscle cells. This isn’t a deal breaker, but having your creatine with a meal or mixing it into a protein shake with milk may help it be more effective than just with a standalone glass of water.
Creatine Alternatives That Will Get the Job Done
Okay, most of these aren’t actually alternative supplements. Other than caffeine, creatine, and vitamins, I really don’t recommend any other supplements. With that out of the way, here are a few things you can do that could give you the same effects as creatine.
More Work in the Gym
The simplest, but not the easiest way to emulate creatine is to do more work in the gym. At the end of the day, what creatine does is make it harder for your muscles to get tired, or basically lets you complete a few more reps in the gym.
If you want to achieve this same effect, work out some more and get stronger. As I said at the beginning of this article, this isn’t an explanation of why creatine might not be working for you, but it is a valid way to adapt if creatine really doesn’t work for you.
Take Some Caffeine Before Your Workout
Caffeine is one of the best pre-workouts. It gives you all of the energy benefits of any other pre-workout, but it’s been studied enough to know that it’s not dangerous. Creatine and caffeine definitely work in very different ways. This being said, when you take caffeine and it gives you energy to lift more, it’s accomplishing the exact same thing that creatine would.
Most people have vitamin deficiencies. If you’re one of those people, these deficiencies can cause you to have sub-optimal results in the gym. Even if you’re not having problems with creatine, you should probably be taking some type of multi-vitamin.