Universally, if you ask anyone about creatine, you’ll likely hear about its muscle building and performance enhancing uses. What you won’t hear, surprisingly, is the numerous brain boosting and cognitive benefits of supplementing with creatine. Though creatine rose to popularity due to its ability to raise ATP, our bodies energy source for quick activity, creatine can also be stored in the brain.
While creatine is found in trace amounts in red meats, the majority of that creatine never makes it into muscle tissue which is why creatine supplements are a smart idea. By using a creatine monohydrate powder, our body stores the creatine so that when it needs to produce ATP for an explosive rep or when you dive into the pool, we can create that quick energy more efficiently.
Knowing that our brain can also store creatine and requires a lot of energy, we see that this “marriage” makes sense. Our brain is a muscle too and we should feed it appropriately. EVERYTHING we do during the day from working out to looking at business reports to reading requires our brain to burn calories. (1)
Studies even show that our brain creatine levels decline as we age. Are you starting to see why we need creatine supplementation? In fact, one study compared younger individuals without creatine to older individuals supplementing with creatine, both groups had nearly identical scores. Big plus for creatine. (2)
One study has shown that when individuals become fatigued, creatine supplementation delays that fatigue state. A separate study on creatine and brain fog has increased oxygen delivery to the brain in the creatine group.
What about creatine for mental health? A recent 2012 study on creatine and psychiatric disorders concluded the following
“The ability of dietary creatine to alter brain energetics, promote neurogenesis, and improve brain function safely and effectively is opening up the exciting possibility for creatine monohydrate to provide a novel, natural strategy for the treatment of psychiatric disorders”
Let’s look at that closer.
Brain energetics is larger what we’ve been talking about this entire article. Getting the brain the work more efficiently with creatine supplementation.
The exciting thing, to me at least, in the above statement is that creatine may promote brain “neurogenesis” that is the growth of new brain cells which would allow us to learn more, stay mentally “sharp” and increase overall production as we get older.
All in all, creatine monohydrate is the only proven and effective form of creatine. Dosage studies show that 5 grams per day, about a teaspoon, to be the upper limit but I’m not entirely convinced that there is not some additional benefits for individuals looking to optimize brain health or larger, more muscular athletes.
1) Dechent P, Pouwels P, Wilken B, et al. Increase of total creatine in human brain after oral supplementation of creatine-monohydrate. Am J Physiol 1999;277(3):R698-R70
2) Rae C, Digney A, McEwan S, Bates T. Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proc Biol Sci 2003;270(1529):2147-2150.