Creatine: What is This Best Selling Supplement Used For?

Creatine is one of the most popular energy supplements on the  market, used to boost energy in working muscles and is a supplement that has become a growing consideration for brain power.

Type: Energy Supplement
Used For: Athletic Performance, Muscle Strength, Exercise Tolerance, Age-Related Muscle Loss, Energy, Brain Health, Focus, Anti-Aging, Arthritis, Parkinson’s disease
Typical Dosage: 2 grams-5 grams per day
Drug Interactions: NSAIDs including Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, Nuprin and others), Indocin, Naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox and others) and other Nephrotoxic Drugs
Possible Supplement Interactions: Caffeine

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a popular supplement among bodybuilders and most commonly used to help enhance strength, exercise performance and boost muscle mass but it has also gained a lot of interest among individuals looking to help boost cognition and reduce mental fatigue.

Creatine Uses, Benefits, Side Effects & Dosage GuidelinesIt is a molecular structure composed of amino acids, arginine, glycine and methionine the body naturally produces in small amounts in the liver, kidneys and pancreas. Creatine can also be obtained by supplementation or food sources, particularly red meat and fish.

Creatine is mostly found in skeletal muscle, in the brain and other tissues. This nitrogenous organic acid converts into phosphocreatine which can then lead to converting into the body’s primary energy currency, ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

In simpler terms, Creatine is used by the cells to facilitate energy metabolism. All cells in the body run on the energy supplied by ATP, especially muscles and brain cells.

It is a notoriously popular supplement among athletes, used to enhance muscle strength, power output and performance due to the increase in demand for this nutrient by the muscles.

Many people consider Creatine as one the most effective ergogenic nutritional supplement available, or those intended to enhance physical performance, in terms of improving lean body mass and high-intensity exercise capacity during training.

In addition, Creatine is used to promote enhanced mental performance, boost resilience to stress and reduce mental fatigue by improving the energy supply to brain cells and boosting metabolic production of ATP which may lead to positively influencing brain performance and better neuronal health.

It is one of the most widely researched natural supplements with hundreds of research studies evaluating its effects, particularly in the form of Creatine Monohydrate which is also the most commonly used form with an estimated $44 million dollars of annual sales in the US alone.

In this article, we will take a closer look at how Creatine works in the body, what it is used for, potential benefits and the associated side effects and dosage guidelines.

How Does Creatine Work?

Creatine, N-(aminoiminomethyl)-N-methyl glycine, is a compound the body naturally produces in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys (1-2 grams daily) that is composed of the actions of three different amino acids, arginine, glycine, and methionine. We can also get it from food sources, especially lean red meat and fish or it can be supplemented.

Once Creatine is produced, 95% of it is stored in the body’s muscles in the form of phosphocreatine (creatine phosphate) while the other 5% can be found in the brain and other organs.

These stores of phosphocreatine further convert into the molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate) referred to as “the energy currency of life” or the body’s natural fuel source supplying energy for cellular activity. Both brain cells and muscle cells are extremely active and use large amounts of energy in the form of ATP.

For example, working muscles use ATP to power movement of contractions. As each ATP molecule is used, it hydrolyzes into ADP (adenosine diphosphate) which in turn begins to lower the supply of ATP that is used up quickly during muscle activity, creating the need for ATP to be regenerated.

Creatine phosphate then offers ADP a phosphate molecule, converting it back into ATP and the waste that is produced in this process (creatinine) is filtered by the kidneys and expelled through urination.

Since Creatine is a precursor to ATP, it is hypothesized that increasing its level may facilitate the faster renewal of spent ATP. In terms of physical performance, this theory has been positively validated in research during short bursts of intense physical activity (10-20 seconds) which also means that exercise is needed to produce this effect.

In addition, more phosphate availability can lead to boosting energy supply to brain cells and metabolic production of ATP in these cells. These actions may not only offer potential benefits for cognitive performance but also for improvement to basic neuronal health.

In order for Creatine supplements to be beneficial, there must be an increase in phosphocreatine stores. Research indicates that vegetarians have lower than average stores in their bodies (consumed creatine is only found in animal products) while on the flip side, people that already have sufficient or high levels may see minimal to no benefit to taking Creatine since excess will be expelled.

Creatine and Athletic Performance

The use of Creatine as an ergogenic aid to help energize muscles and boost athletic performance capacity during high-intensity physical activity is the primary and most sought-after benefit of taking this supplement.

Studies have consistently suggested that Creatine Monohydrate supplements increase muscle levels of Creatine and phosphocreatine concentrations by approximately 15%-40%, allowing for greater production of renewed ATP energy to fuel working muscles.

The effect is the ability for maximum work capacity before the onset of muscular failure kicks in or the point where the neuromuscular system can no longer provide enough force during a repetition of the same exercise. This effect has a natural tendency to lead to greater gains in muscle growth and strength.

In addition, this may allow athletes to train harder and for longer periods of time but the beneficial effects are not limited to strength trainers. Taking Creatine may allow muscle cells to get that extra energy-boost needed during all types of high-intensity exercise such as cycling, running and rowing, especially those related to quick and intense movements.

Studies have demonstrated that competitive rowers given 20 grams of Creatine for 5 days showed significant improvement in aerobic and anaerobic performance, faster rowing times and longer times before fatigue set in compared to placebo.

In young male soccer players, research has shown that taking 30 grams of Creatine daily (10 grams, three times per day) for seven days enhanced performance on dribbling speed tests. In female soccer players, research suggests 20 grams daily (5 grams, four times a day) for a week in conjunction with plyometric training, increased body mass index, jump and power performance and repeated sprint performance compared to training with placebo.

It is important to note that using this supplement does not appear to increase endurance performance or performance in physical activities where repetition is non-existent. Most studies on the effects of Creatine for athletic performance have been studied in laboratories and some have shown mixed results.

While Creatine supplementation is extremely popular among bodybuilders, strength trainers and athletes alike to help boost power, strength and even muscle mass, more clinical research is required to solidify the efficacy of the effects and long-term safety of this supplement.

Cognitive Benefits of Creatine

While the associated benefits of Creatine supplements for enhancing athletic performance has been the main focus, most people may not be aware of the surprising Nootropic benefits that have been linked to this supplement relating to cognitive function and brain power.

Creatine is used by both muscle tissue and brain cells due to its involvement in recharging ATP (adenosine triphosphate) or the primary source of cellular energy. In a similar way to muscle cells, Creatine may help “revitalize” brain cells by potentially refilling ATP supply so that your brain continues to optimally perform longer.

On a daily basis, the brain is using 20% of the body’s total haul of energy, making it the most energy consuming organ we own. The more the brain is being used, the faster ATP reserves get drained.

While research is still being conducted on the capacity of Creatine to increase brain ATP, there has been some evidence suggesting that it may be effective at reducing mental fatigue after mentally demanding tasks, enhancing working memory and intelligence/reasoning in healthy adults, especially in vegetarians or those who are highly stressed.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in 2002, participants were tested by repeatedly performing simple math calculations to examine the effects of supplemental Creatine on mental fatigue. The subjects that took 8 grams of Creatine daily for 5 days, exhibited significantly less mental fatigue than those who were not given Creatine.

In another placebo-controlled study, vegetarians were given 5 grams of oral Creatine supplementation daily for 6 weeks. Participants in the study showed significant improvements in working memory and intelligence scores (measured by Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices) or tasks requiring processing speed compared to those that were not given Creatine.

A review from a compilation of six studies (281 healthy individuals) suggests that Creatine supplementation may be particularly beneficial for the elderly and stressed individuals to help boost short-term memory and reasoning, however, research is needed to determine the capability of these effects in patients with cognitive impairments.

Finally, it appears that Creatine may have neuroprotective properties. Increased ATP stores in the brain help to boost membrane integrity and protect neurons from damage caused by toxins. Some researchers hypothesize that Creatine may be helpful in conditions like Parkinson’s disease but research is still ongoing.

Creatine is not an approved drug by the FDA to ameliorate, treat or prevent any conditions at this time. It is regulated as a dietary supplement only in the United States.

Creatine Side Effects

In general, Creatine is considered safe and a well-tolerated supplement when taken orally and appropriately. However, people under the age of 18 (or even 25) should avoid this supplement since bones are still growing up to this age.

This nutrient is already naturally produced in the body in the kidneys and liver. Excessive consumption of this supplement may cause these organs to have to work harder and/or cause inhibited natural production of Creatine.

If you currently have issues related to kidneys or liver or taking medications that affect the kidneys, it is important to consult with your doctor first before supplementing with Creatine. Taking common NSAID’s such as Aleve or Advil in combination with Creatine may raise the risk of renal damage.

While the majority of studies to date have found oral use of Creatine at the proper doses (up to 5 grams per day) to have minimal to no associated side effects and most users find it well-tolerated, there are a few potential side effects that can occur which include diarrhea and other stomach issues, water weight gain, increased urination, headaches, muscle cramping, dehydration, reduced appetite and heat intolerance.

There is insufficient available data on the safety of Creatine for pregnant or nursing women. Stay on the safe side and avoid this supplement.

If you are currently taking prescription medications or dealing with a health issue, speak to your doctor first before taking this supplement to ensure it is appropriate for you based on your personal medical history.

Creatine Supplements and Common Dosages

Typically, the suggested daily dosage of Creatine Monohydrate, the studied and most common form, seems to be between 2 grams-5 grams but this range can vary.

Some individuals using this supplement as a Nootropic may find dosages as low as 200 mg a day sufficient for their goals or needs while others such as athletes or bodybuilders using Creatine to boost performance report taking up to 20 grams per day during a loading and maintenance phase recommended on the product.

Typically this can be 5 grams, taken up to four times per day for the first 5-7 days to saturate the muscles and then 2-5 grams per day thereafter for maintenance.

The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database says that there are over 3,300 available dietary supplements that contain Creatine. It is sold most popularly in powder form but is also available in liquid and capsules. It can also be found in drink mixes, energy bars or others.

Creatine Monohydrate (CM) in powder form is the most commonly used and the least expensive. In some cases, it will be promoted as “micronized” which means the powder has been broken down to extremely small particles, for greater solubility.

It is recommended to take this supplement it in conjunction with regular exercise and in combination with a carbohydrate source such as fruit or starches for best absorption, which has been demonstrated in studies.

Another highly touted form is CEE or Creatine ethyl ester which is creatine monohydrate with an ester attached for greater absorption. This form has not yet been scientifically studied but anecdotal reports suggest far superior absorption rates with smaller dosages needed but this theory has yet to be proven.

For best results, follow the recommended dosing instructions on the bottle or consult with your doctor first to determine the proper dosage for your personal needs.

Creatine Review

Creatine is an effective and popularly used supplement among people involved in weight training and other forms of high-intensity physical exercise. This supplement may be particularly beneficial for vegetarians who do not eat meat as a powerful contributor to preferred Nootropic stacks.

Although this supplement is most commonly used for its energy powering effects on physical performance, Creatine is also known to enhance the energy supply to brain cells and augment the metabolic production of ATP which may lead to reducing mental fatigue and boosting mental performance when brain fuel is in high demand.

While taking Creatine alone is not considered a powerful Nootropic compared to others, if you are looking for that optimum cognitive effect you may want to consider stacking it with Racetams or simply adding this supplement to your own daily regimen to encourage optimal brain power.

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