Does Creatine Help With Soreness & Recovery? Studies Say: No

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Medical Disclaimer: The material presented in this article aims to offer informational insights. It should not be perceived as medical guidance. The views and writings are not designed for diagnosing, preventing, or treating health issues. Always consult with your physician prior to starting any new dietary or supplement routine.

Key Takeaways

  • Studies have shown that creatine supplementation coupled with resistance training has a limited impact on muscle soreness.
  • Research on creatine’s impact on muscle soreness is inconclusive, as there are many inconsistencies in dosing strategies, demographics, and exercise protocols.
  • Others Supplements, such as protein powder and branched chained amino acids (BCAAs), have been proven to aid in recovery and mitigate muscle soreness.

How Does Creatine Work Within The Muscle Cells?

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition:

Creatine gives your muscles extra energy to perform better.

Whether obtained through your diet or produced by the body, most creatine goes to your muscles, where it gets stored as phosphocreatine. 

This stored form of creatine helps your body generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP, the energy currency for cells) more quickly, which is helpful for high-intensity, short-duration activities like weightlifting. 

Phosphocreatine is a limiting factor for high-intensity exercise because when creatine stores are depleted, you become fatigued and switch to a different energy system that produces more slowly. 

By topping up your creatine stores through supplementation, you’re providing your body with more fast-acting fuel, allowing you to train at higher intensities for longer before becoming fatigued.

What Science Says About Creatine & Muscle Soreness

Creatine is one of the most widely studied supplements for increasing strength, power, and muscle mass, but what does the research say about its effect on muscle soreness?

Study 1

In this systematic review of nearly 500 subjects aged 13-33, 10% of whom were females, scientists discovered that creatine supplementation effectively minimized muscle damage following a single strenuous exercise session. 

However, the benefits weren’t as clear when it came to multiple weeks of training.

Study 2

In another systematic review of 278 people (235 males and 43 females) aged 20-60, researchers found that creatine supplementation did not accelerate recovery after muscle-damaging exercises.

Researchers found no significant differences in muscle strength, soreness, flexibility, or inflammation at various follow-up times (less than 30 minutes, 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours) after exercise between those supplemented with creatine and the control group.

Study 3

A study of 27 untrained male and female subjects (aged 18-25) showed that creatine supplementation did not alter the recovery rate or muscle soreness after completing upper body arm exercises.

Researchers stated that:

Athletes may not benefit from creatine supplementation in order to diminish effects of overtraining on upper arm muscle function”.

Study 4

Another study involving 22 weight-trained men (19-27 years old) showed that short-term (5 days) creatine supplementation did not reduce muscle damage or enhance recovery following a resistance exercise in oxygen-reduced air (which they call “hypoxic”). 

The creatine and placebo groups experienced decreased strength and flexibility, along with increased muscle soreness, suggesting that creatine may not protect muscles in this scenario.

How To Interpret These Studies? 

While some robust evidence (systematic reviews) suggests creatine may mitigate muscle damage after a single intense workout, a large body of evidence suggests creatine supplementation does not impact muscle soreness. Moreover, its long-term impact on muscle soreness appears uncertain.

How Conclusive Is Creatine Research?  Are There Gaps?

The current research on the link between creatine, muscle soreness, and recovery is inconclusive, as there are gaps in the research.

Some limitations noted in current research include how people take creatine, which varies widely, with different doses and durations (‘loading’ vs. daily ‘maintenance’ dosing strategies). 

These inconsistencies make it challenging to pinpoint the exact effects of exercise-induced muscle soreness.

Another limitation is that many studies have focused on men only or people with limited training experience and have tried different types and durations of exercise (e.g., squats or upper body exercises). 

The International Society of Sports Nutrition pointed out that: 

 “Creatine kinetics may vary between healthy males and females. Females may have higher intramuscular creatine concentrations possibly due to lower skeletal muscle mass”

These differences make it challenging to figure out how creatine affects everyone.

So, while creatine might show promise, more research is required to truly understand how it can support muscle recovery in the long run. Particularly, longer-term studies on muscle soreness and recovery during consistent training are still needed to paint a clearer picture.

If Creatine Doesn’t Reduce Muscle Soreness, Should You Still Take It?

Although research on creatine and muscle soreness is inconclusive, there is conclusive evidence to support other performance-enhancing benefits, which is why it’s one of the best supplements on the market.

Here are the benefits of creatine supplementation, as highlighted in this research article from the International Society of Sports Nutrition:

Benefit #1: Improved Strength Training Performance and Muscle Mass Changes

When paired with resistance training, creatine enhances muscle and strength gains. It boosts high-intensity exercise capacity, leading to more significant changes in muscle mass and improved strength.

Benefit #2: Improved Mental & Bone Health In Healthy and Diseased Populations

Creatine supplementation, especially with resistance training, has been reported to provide benefits to aging muscles and bone health in older adults and mental health (reduces depression) in females.

Benefit #3: Improved Exercise In Hot Environments

Creatine aids in hyper-hydration, potentially improving tolerance to exercise in hot environments. It might mitigate the risk of heat-related illnesses during training in high temperatures.

Benefit #4: Support for Recovery and Injury Prevention in Endurance Sports

Creatine may help athletes recover faster during intensified training, reducing injuries and muscle atrophy (loss of muscle tissue). Evidence in athletes using creatine experienced accelerated recovery and fewer injuries.

What Other Supplements Can Help With Muscle Soreness?

Ensuring a diverse diet with sufficient energy (calories) and protein facilitates quicker recovery by accelerating glycogen resynthesis (energy replenishment) and muscle protein synthesis (muscle recovery). 

Many studies in recent years have also emphasized the importance of post-workout supplementation to enhance recovery and training adaptations.

Protein and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are among the most well-researched supplements supporting recovery after exercise.

Protein Powder

Meeting your protein needs is essential for mitigating muscle damage and speeding up recovery. 

Protein requirements for athletes are 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. For example, someone weighing 150 lbs should aim for 105-150 grams of protein daily.

Meeting your protein needs through whole foods provides the same benefits for muscle recovery, though many turn to protein supplements to help them meet their protein requirements more efficiently.

For example, one serving of Transparent Labs Whey Protein offers 28 grams of protein and only 120 calories.

Combining a scoop of protein with milk, oats, and fruit is an optimal post-workout meal that supplies enough protein and carbs to replenish energy stores and promote recovery. 


A growing body of literature supports BCAAs’ ability to reduce muscle damage. 

Evidence shows that BCAA (branched-chain amino acid) supplementation may decrease exercise-induced protein degradation (breakdown) and muscle enzyme release (indicators of reduced muscle damage) and enhance recovery.

BCAAs are found in protein-rich foods like chicken, eggs, and fish and smaller amounts in legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Therefore, getting adequate BCAAs through diet alone is possible, especially if you meet your daily protein requirements (mentioned above).

However, if you struggle to consume enough protein in your diet, taking a BCAA supplement might help.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it normal to experience increased water retention and muscle stiffness when starting creatine, and can this contribute to soreness?

It is possible to experience water retention when starting creatine.

This water weight gain is most likely part of the initial response to taking creatine, and while it might feel like muscle stiffness, it isn’t the same as muscle soreness.

Will taking creatine before a workout prevent muscle soreness?

Taking creatine before a workout may not necessarily prevent muscle soreness.

While creatine shows promise in enhancing muscle mass and strength when coupled with resistance training, it may not have a consistent positive impact on reducing muscle soreness.

Other Creatine Resources


Kreider RB, Kalman DS, Antonio J, Ziegenfuss TN, Wildman R, Collins R, Candow DG, Kleiner SM, Almada AL, Lopez HL. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 13;14:18. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z. PMID: 28615996; PMCID: PMC5469049.

Antonio, J., Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C. et al. Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 18, 13 (2021).

Doma, K., Ramachandran, A.K., Boullosa, D. et al. The Paradoxical Effect of Creatine Monohydrate on Muscle Damage Markers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med 52, 1623–1645 (2022).

Northeast B, Clifford T. The Effect of Creatine Supplementation on Markers of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Human Intervention Trials. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2021 May 1;31(3):276-291. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2020-0282. Epub 2021 Feb 24. PMID: 33631721.

McKinnon NB, Graham MT, Tiidus PM. Effect of creatine supplementation on muscle damage and repair following eccentrically-induced damage to the elbow flexor muscles. J Sports Sci Med. 2012 Dec 1;11(4):653-9. PMID: 24150075; PMCID: PMC3763311.

Rawson ES, Conti MP, Miles MP. Creatine supplementation does not reduce muscle damage or enhance recovery from resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2007 Nov;21(4):1208-13. doi: 10.1519/R-21076.1. PMID: 18076246.

Kerksick, C.M., Wilborn, C.D., Roberts, M.D. et al. ISSN exercise & sports nutrition review update: research & recommendations. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 15, 38 (2018).

Mark Waldron, Kieran Whelan, Owen Jeffries, Dean Burt, Louis Howe, and Stephen David Patterson. 2017. The effects of acute branched-chain amino acid supplementation on recovery from a single bout of hypertrophy exercise in resistance-trained athletes. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 42(6): 630-636.

About The Author

Giulia Rossetto

Giulia Rossetto is a qualified Dietitian and Nutritionist. She holds a Masters in Human Nutrition (University of Sheffield, UK) and more recently graduated as a Dietitian (University of Malta). Giulia aims to translate evidence-based science to the public through teaching and writing content. She has worked 4+ years in clinical settings and has also published articles in academic journals. She is into running, swimming and weight lifting, and enjoys spending time in the mountains (she has a soft spot for hiking and skiing in the Italian Dolomites).

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