Writer Nick Collias explains why he gives his children creatine, and it’s not for the reasons you might think.

Nick Collias

March 25, 2024

7 Min Read

At a Glance

  • Creatine can reduce the severity and recovery time for concussions and traumatic brain injury.
  • Concussions often go unrecognized and untreated in children.
  • Experts believe creatine is safe for children and can support healthy growth and brain development.

Each morning, my house witnesses a familiar and hectic dance between getting ready for school and making sure everyone is adequately fueled up for the day to come.

My two sons, ages 8 and 12, are each tasked with drinking a full glass of water before leaving the house. They’ll usually eat some fruit and/or granola alongside protein in the form of yogurt or eggs. And with their breakfast, I give each boy half of a small gummy cube, made by the company Create, containing around .75 grams of the supplement creatine monohydrate. This is the only supplement my kids currently take — no vitamin D, multivitamins, omega-3s or protein.  

Creatine might sound like a surprising choice for kids, since it’s best known as a supplement for athletes and lifters looking to add muscle and strength. But here’s the honest truth: Even though my kids are highly active and athletic, the reason I give creatine has nothing to do with sports performance or muscle growth.

It’s for their brains.

Creatine for protecting against childhood concussions

Creatine is currently experiencing an explosion in popularity, both in and out of the weight room. As I reported in the article, “Creatine goes mainstream,” what was once thought to be only a bodybuilding supplement is now widely considered to have immense potential as an anti-aging and overall cognitive health nutrient. There’s even new evidence that it might be an effective treatment for symptoms of long Covid.

All of those are fascinating to me as a fitness and nutrition writer … but not compelling as a parent.

Here’s what won me over: creatine’s potential protective effects against concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI). A number of studies, gathered in a March 2022 narrative review in Nutrients, have concluded that creatine can help shorten the recovery time after a brain injury. Follow-up animal studies have also shown that taking creatine prophylactically can decrease the severity of concussions and TBI and help limit brain damage by half or more. 

“Every cell uses creatine — including in the brain,” said Richard Kreider, Ph.D., who has been performing research on creatine since the mid-1990s. “It’s a basic form of energy in any kind of hypoxic (oxygen-deprived) situation. And when it comes to brain injury, we already know that creatine can help be protective.”

Before I was a parent, this might not have been enough justification to take any supplement. But I’ve seen firsthand how easy it is to suffer a concussion — and how terrifying it can be.

Concussions happen, whether parents realize it or not

Concussions aren’t necessarily more severe for children than for other populations. But they’re thought to be more prevalent because of children’s less-developed brains and muscular systems. And they’re harder to spot. Many if not most concussions in children go unnoticed or unreported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But there’s no doubt when it comes to kids, head impacts happen. Personally, I’ve seen one of my son’s friends have to relearn basic math after falling and hitting his head on a sidewalk. Another didn’t know my name and went home in an ambulance after he took a knock on our local ski hill. And the negative effects of each successive concussion are worse than the last.

My two boys love to ski, diving into the trees and leaping off jumps at all opportunities. They play baseball, including occasionally playing catcher. That position is notorious for concussions.

The risks extend beyond sports.

Kids roughhouse, run around and occasionally simply fall to the ground for no particular reason. And despite my sons’ dreams of becoming pro athletes, they’re far more likely to make a living in the future using their brains than their bodies. It’s my responsibility to help them be prepared for that future.

But is creatine safe for kids?

Creatine definitely has its detractors. Depending on who you ask, you might hear it’s an anabolic steroid (it’s not). Or you’ll hear it’s harmful to the kidneys, a concern Kreider and other researchers insisted to me has long been disproven.

This didn’t stop the state of New York from passing a bill making it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to purchase a wide range of “muscle building” supplements, including creatine. But honestly, this type of ban doesn’t give me pause.

Do I think a bodybuilding pre-workout supplement that contains creatine and other ingredients is a good choice for my kids? I definitely don’t. Do I think low-dose creatine taken on its own, from a reputable producer like Germany-based Alzchem’s Creapure (Kreider’s recommendation, which is also in Create gummies), is safe for my kids? After having the privilege of talking with numerous experts, yes, I do.

Can’t you just get it from meat?

A common follow-up question I get is, “Even if creatine is safe, couldn’t I simply achieve the same effect for my kids through diet?” I don’t think so.

The creatine (.75 to 1 gram) I give my kids daily could require a pound of beef, pork or fish per child. Not only is that very expensive, but I’m not convinced that I can — or should — push my kids to consume that much animal meat each and every day. And Kreider and other researchers with whom I’ve spoken are adamant that to receive the neuroprotective benefits, creatine needs to be taken every day.

“We should absolutely encourage kids to eat foods that have creatine in them,” Kreider said. “But if you can’t afford all that red meat or quality fish, and all you need is a gram or two a day for a growing kid, supplements are the best option.”

Creatine is coming for your children

Kreider predicted that in the coming years, creatine will be added to many baby formulas. He anticipated it will be “the new folate” in prenatal vitamins and recommends it for breastfeeding mothers. Asked for the lowest age to start prioritizing creatine in the diet or through supplementation, he answered, “the third trimester.”

A major push behind this trend, the researcher said, is a June 2021 study that analyzed the creatine intake of over 89,000 men, women and children over a 20-year period, and follow-up research that has connected those trends to other health and development markers.

“They’ve shown that children who have less creatine in their diet don't grow as tall,” Kreider said. “They have poorer strength and coordination. They have all types of mental issues. Girls can have menstrual cycle issues.”

He added, “I think where we’re going to go in the next 10-15 years is that creatine will be listed as a conditionally essential nitrogen-containing compound.”

But as New York’s recent legislation shows, that future definitely isn’t here yet. Kreider spoke to the Massachusetts legislature when it was debating a similar rule to New York’s, and he remarked the experience wasn’t encouraging.

During a hearing, someone said, “We’ve got to do something about concussions. All these kids are getting concussions,” Kreider recalled. “Then it was my turn, and I had my prepared notes, but instead I said, ‘You guys are talking about preventing concussions, but you want to ban one of your best options to reduce concussion incidence and severity. Please get your facts together.’”

The new creatine isn’t for bodybuilders

Dan McCormick, co-founder and CEO of the gummy creatine maker Create Wellness, said even the first 14 months of his company’s life have witnessed a dramatic redefinition of the creatine market.

“For the first 30 years of creatine’s existence, it was very easy to know who creatine was ‘for,’” he noted. “It was for bodybuilders, super-serious athletes and teenage boys. And it got this tough reputation of being almost a quasi-steroid supplement, a dangerous supplement, only for a small percentage of people.”

But since launching in late 2022, Create’s customer base is split evenly between men and women, with a strong influx of people over age 65 who are learning about creatine’s sarcopenia and neuroprotective benefits, according to McCormick. Each group has different needs, making marketing and customer education a challenge, he observed.

But the outreach is working.

“There’s not one group we’re targeting, but mostly, we’re reaching people who have historically been taught that creatine is not for them,” McCormick said. “And actually, it is.”

So, what about pre-teens? “Children are not our intended audience. That’s a sensitive demographic, and frankly, I want to see more longitudinal research on both the risks and benefits of creatine supplementation for children,” McCormick shared.

But he said every creatine authority he has spoken to — with expertise on the ingredient’s benefits and risk profile — gives creatine to their kids. Kreider said his family keeps a bag by the coffee maker. Other experts I consulted do the same or give their children gummies. They’ve convinced me, and I’ve since convinced other parents.

Creatine is not expensive. The most current research concludes it's as safe as any other supplement. And during concussion-prone sports seasons, that makes it a no-brainer for me.

About the Author(s)

Nick Collias

Nick Collias is a writer and editor with over a decade of experience working in the health and fitness industry. From 2016 to 2021, he was the host of the Bodybuilding.com Podcast, interviewing elite athletes and training thought-leaders on a wide range of exercise, nutrition and lifestyle topics. Additionally, he has worked for the last 20 years as a longform print and online journalist, as well as a book author, ghostwriter and editor. 

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the health and nutrition industry.
Join 37,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like