Here's why creatine sales are surging this past year

Creatine is experiencing an unexpected sales renaissance. Explore the go-to old-school muscle-building nutrient's surging popularity and wide-ranging health benefits.

Denis Faye

February 21, 2024

5 Min Read

At a Glance

  • Out of the gym and into daily routines everywhere.
  • H/t to tennis superstar Noval Djokovic for crying, "Creatine!" on court.
  • Research and marketing elegantly come together.

[Editor’s note: This feature is part of the Natural Products Insider digital magazine on high-intensity sports, “Get Swole!” Download the free digital magazine by clicking here.] 

For years, creatine was the province of young gym rats looking to get swole, even before the term “get swole” existed. Perception has shifted lately, with consumers now looking to this proven supplement for healthy aging, better cognition, women’s issues and points beyond. 

“Creatine is no longer just people looking to add a few plates to their bench,” claimed Scott Dicker, director of market insights at SPINS. “The biggest trend is taking it out of the gym and bringing it into daily routines everywhere.” 

The numbers attest to this. According to SPINS’ “The State of Supplements in 2023report, creatine sales in 2022 experienced a 120% increase compared to 2021, from $16 million to $36 million. 

Could this surge in sales possibly be due to excessive love from influencers like tennis superstar Novak Djokovic, whose desperate cry for “Creatina!” during the Cincinnati Masters final in August 2023 went viral? While this sort of PR certainly doesn’t hurt sales, more substantial reasons are likely behind creatine’s renaissance. 

A creatine refresher 

Creatine occurs in the body as phosphocreatine and plays an important role in energy metabolism. Cells use adenosine triphosphate (ATP) for energy. Any “fuel” consumed eventually becomes ATP. The muscles usually generate ATP with help from oxygen, but during extra-challenging efforts when a person can’t get enough oxygen, the body switches pathways, using phosphocreatine to make ATP. 

Related:Get swole! High-intensity sports – digital magazine

This high-intensity pathway can only work for a few seconds, as the body stores a limited amount of phosphocreatine. Once it runs out, access to ATP is diminished. “Creatine is involved in every cell in the body in every living organism,” explained Richard Kreider, Ph.D., director of Texas A&M’s Exercise & Sport Nutrition Laboratory. “It’s kind of the foundation for energy. So, when you provide adequate energy to a cell, it can function more optimally.” 

Robert Alber, VP of human nutrition at AlzChem — makers of go-to creatine monohydrate ingredient Creapure — put it this way: “We sell electricity.” 

The liver, kidneys, pancreas and parts of the brain can generate around 1-2 grams of creatine daily. Creatine can also be obtained from meat and fish, which contain about 1-2 grams per pound. Considering active individuals require around 2-4 grams of creatine daily to maintain their stores, that would require a lot of pork chops. 

Related:Creatine sales on Amazon spike 65%

This all speaks to the benefits of supplementing creatine monohydrate, the most proven form of creatine. Specifically, .03 grams per kilogram of bodyweight or about 3-5 grams daily is believed to help assure maximum stores. 

Creatine’s long research history 

As previously noted, pinning creatine’s rising popularity on one inciting incident such as the Djokovic clip would be impossible. Rather, a series of interrelated factors is likely at work. 

Research certainly played a role, but much of it already existed. The 67,000 results found when searching creatine on PubMed didn’t all pop up overnight. “It’s not brand new,” Kreider concurred, “The research has been accumulating over the last 30 years.” 

However, the consistent success of all this creatine research begat more investigation. In the world of supplement science, research is often inconclusive. According to Kreider, “When we do studies, 95% don’t work as well as we thought they might.” 

Studies focused on supplementing creatine, though, often hit paydirt. “When they work like creatine, we start saying, ‘If it works in a healthy person with fitness, what about in a rehab setting? What about in an older person? What about in a heart patient?’ That's where we’re at with creatine now. The focus is on, how can we optimize creatine availability throughout the life span.” 

Related:Amazon’s top supplement brands

This scientific flywheel has translated into an ever-growing body of research with positive results. Creatine may benefit women’s health, including issues related to menopause. It’s been linked to favorable effects on aging muscle, bone and fat mass in healthy older adults. And it’s shown potential to improve cognitive function, especially when a brain creatine deficit has been brought on by acute stressors like sleep deprivation or chronic conditions such as mild traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease or depression. 

From there, the research goes in dozens of directions, ranging from chronic fatigue to immune response (See related sidebar). 

That said, the fitness market is still creatine’s sweet spot. “Active nutrition is the category that’s driving sales and creatine is a staple of that space,” Dicker confirmed. “It makes sense that one of the staple ingredients is going to do well — but it’s growing much faster than the overall category.” 

He suggested interest in the newer findings could be playing a role. “When you layer these new use cases and expanding demographics on top of the core category, it’s really a great situation for creatine.” 

To continue reading this feature — including the Covid connection, the marketing factor, the best (and only) form of creatine to use in formulations, plus 3 exciting areas of new creatine research that’s opening up new markets — download the free Natural Products Insider digital magazine, “Get Swole!” The issue also contains a set’s worth of other features on the topic of high-intensity sports formulations.  

About the Author(s)

Denis Faye

Denis Faye, MS, is a nutrition communications consultant and committed competitive athlete who splits his time between writing, riding, running and raising his family. Occasionally, he sleeps.

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