You may have heard of creatine before.
It’s probably the supplement athletes and bodybuilders utilize the most to enhance their athletic performance.
Creatine is also arguably the most extensively researched sports supplement of all time with decades of positive data backing up its efficacy.
However, more recent research is showing that this muscle building favorite also packs a multitude of cognitive enhancing benefits.
Benefits that could help stave off damaging effects of aging such as memory loss and mental fatigue.
Boost Your Body's Energy Currency With Creatine
Creatine is a naturally occurring, organic amino acid found in abundance in the skeletal muscle tissue of humans and animals.
When digested, creatine turns into creatine phosphate, which can be used by the body to produce adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, at a fast rate.
ATP, also known as the body’s “energy currency,” is responsible for delivering energy made by your mitochondria to all cells in the body.
Every cellular process throughout your body depends on creatine to supply needed energy.
Whether it’s in the boardroom or the gym, more energy means higher performance.
With this in mind, you can quickly begin to see why creatine’s benefits extend far beyond just the physical ones.
Creatine and Your Brain
Creatine works in the brain in a very similar way to muscle.
As creatine converts in the body to creatine phosphate when digested, it is taken up by your neurons (brain cells) in the same way it is taken by your myocytes (muscle cells).
The muscles in our body actively use myocytes in the same way our brain’s neurons are constantly sending billions of electrical signals every second.
How effectively these processes operate depends on how fast they can recycle creatine phosphate to build more ATP.
Therefore, the body can use energy more efficiently when the brain has more phosphate available (increased by creatine).
Cognitive Benefits of Creatine
Everyone, especially as we age, can use more energy. Meaning, everyone can use more creatine in their diet!
Creatine has been shown to:
• Boost brain power
• Increase mental energy
• Improve working memory and long-term memory
• Be neuroprotective
• Slow the aging process
In a double-blind placebo-controlled study involving 45 young adults, the University of Sydney in Australia administered a dosage of 5g of creatine per day for 6 weeks (a standard dose commonly used for boosting athletic performance).
Subjects participated in a working memory test and a Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices I.Q. test before and after supplementation.
Dr. Caroline Rae, lead researcher, concluded that:
“Both of these tests require fast brain power and the Raven’s task was conducted under time pressure. The results were clear with both our experimental groups and in both test scenarios: creatine supplementation gave a significant measurable boost to brain power.”
In 2009 at the UK’s University of Sunderland, a study was done on healthy, young individuals to find the effects of creatine supplementation.
Research made the subjects take the Uchida-Kraepelin test, a very difficult test that accurately assesses mental fatigue as participants perform repeated, mental and mathematical calculations.
The study found that participants taking creatine did much better on the test and showed significantly less signs of fatigue than the placebo group.
Another research review titled Creatine and Aging looked at hundreds of studies performed on creatine and concluded:
“Creatine depletion has been shown to lead to phenotypes of motor and cognitive impairments, and motor and cognitive dysfunctions are hallmarks of the aging process.
Overall, these studies suggest that supplementation with creatine has the potential to reverse functional declines associated with aging.”
Long Term Safety Of Creatine
There are no clinically significant side-effects of creatine supplementation in healthy adults.
A dose of 5g daily has strong evidence for not causing any adverse side effects. And 10g used daily for 310 days by older adults resulted in no significant differences from placebos.