The Power of Creatine
If you’ve ever been around a gym, you’ve probably heard of creatine. Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in the human body that has gained significant popularity as a dietary supplement in recent years. Athletes, bodybuilders, and fitness enthusiasts have turned to creatine to enhance their physical performance and build muscle. But creatine isn’t only beneficial for working out. Let’s take a deeper look into this popular supplement.
Natural Sources of Creatine
Creatine is synthesized in the human body primarily in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas from the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. While it’s also available through supplements, it can be found in smaller quantities from natural sources, such as red meat, pork, and fish.
The body stores creatine primarily in the muscles in the form of phosphocreatine. The compound plays a crucial role in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the primary energy currency of cells, including muscle and brain cells.
Positives of Creatine Supplementation
The role of creatine in athletic performance and muscle health is well established. Creatine supplementation can increase the storage of glycogen . Glycogen is essentially stored energy from food. When the body requires it, like during prolonged endurance exercise, glycogen can be broken down into ATP.
Creatine is famous for its ability to enhance short-term, high-intensity activities like weightlifting, sprinting, and jumping . It can help athletes increase their strength, power, and overall performance . It also promotes muscle protein synthesis, leading to muscle growth.
Recent research has shown promise in creatine’s ability to decrease fat mass during resistance training . It has also been shown to play a role in glucose management and diabetes, particularly when combined with exercise [5,6] .
Other exciting discoveries about the compound relate to brain health. Just like in muscle cells, ATP acts as the primary energy source for cells in the brain. Because creatine increases ATP production, this enhances energy metabolism in brain cells, which is believed to improve cognitive performance, including memory and mental clarity .
Creatine has shown potential as a neuroprotective agent in some animal and cell culture studies. It may help protect neurons (brain cells) from oxidative stress, excitotoxicity (a condition that can lead to neuronal cell death), and other forms of damage. This neuroprotective effect could have implications for conditions involving neurodegeneration or brain injury . It also makes creatine supplementation of particular promise for treating various neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease .
Research suggests that creatine supplementation may have cognitive-enhancing effects, particularly in tasks that require short-term memory, working memory, and mental processing speed [10,11]. It has been shown to improve traumatic brain injury recovery in children and has even been linked to reduction of symptoms in depression and anxiety .
Creatine is generally considered safe when used as directed. It has been extensively studied, and no serious adverse effects have been reported in healthy individuals . While there are clear benefits to creatine supplementation, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider.
- Kidney and Liver Concerns: In spite of studies showing its safety, researchers recommend that individuals with pre-existing kidney conditions or potential liver or kidney dysfunction consult with their healthcare provider before supplementing .
- Gastrointestinal Distress: Some individuals may experience mild gastrointestinal discomfort, such as bloating or diarrhea, when taking creatine. This can often be mitigated by taking a half-dose twice a day or taking it with food .
- Water Retention: Creatine may lead to water retention, causing temporary weight gain. This side-effect primarily concerns athletes in a “loading phase” or those taking high doses of the supplement, and it typically resolves within a few weeks .
Creatine is a versatile and well-researched supplement that offers numerous benefits to both the body and brain. If you’re looking to incorporate this popular supplement into your lifestyle, look for clean sources of creatine monohydrate, the safest and most studied form of creatine.
This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.