Creatine supplement: Uses, benefits, and side effects

Creatine: The Ultimate Energy Supplement

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Creatine is an important amino acid that is produced in the body
  • It is critical for fuelling ATP and providing energy to the cells in the body.
  • Creatine is essential for the optimal brain funtion.
  • Creatine monohydrate is the most commonly used form of creatine.
  • The AIWO recommended dosage is 5 grams per day
  • Vegetarians have lower levels of creatine compared to meat-eaters.

OVERVIEW

What is Creatine?

Creatine is an amino acid that is synthesised in the kidneys, liver and pancreas and produced from the amino acids methionine, glycine and arginine.

It is stored in your body as creatine phosphate or phosphocreatine, and is critical for fuelling ATP or 

Adenosine Triphosphate in the mitochondria of the cells, including brain cells. 

It has been shown to boost cognition and prevent mental fatigue.

What are the main functions of creatine?

1) Acts as brain fuel

2) Helps neurotransmitters

3) Acts as a neuroprotectant

4) Acts as an antioxidant

How it Works

ATP is the primary energy molecule used as an energy source in cells. 

ATP is the body’s natural source of fuel. It is broken down to produce biochemical energy in the body.

During this biochemical process, ATP loses one of its phosphate molecules to mitochondria and converts into Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP). 

This is where creatine steps in. As we know, creatine is stored in the body as creatine phosphate. 

It recharges ADP by donating a phosphate molecule to ADP, which produces more ATP that can be used to make more energy. 

Without creatine to recharge ATP, the brain cells are starved for energy.

So, how does creatine work in the brain?

Creatine boosts brain health and function in many ways. 

However, two of the most significant functions are: 

1. Optimal memory ability and retention

Studies have shown that children with the highest levels of creatine in their brain had a better working memory. 

2. Impact on mental fatigue

According to research, adults who took 8 grams of creatinine daily for 5 days showed significantly less mental fatigue while performing math than those who took no creatine. 

Quick Fact: Creatine helps to increase oxygen utilisation in the brain.

TYPES

What are the different types of creatine?

The two different types of creatine are,

  1. Creatine monohydrate
  2. Buffered creatine
  3. Creatine ethyl ester

Quick Fact: Creatine is one of the most well-researched supplements in the world.

Creatine monohydrate is the form that is used in most clinical studies on creatine. It is the gold standard of creatine.

Buffered creatine is marketed as being able to outperform creatine monohydrate because of its higher pH level. However, sufficient research is still required to back this claim. 

Creatine Ethyl Ester is another format creatine that is supposed to convert back to usable creatine once inside your body. It is marketed as having better absorption than creatine monohydrate. 

However, the research shows that it is actually less effective than the latter because once inside your body, it is converted into in inactive form called as ‘creatinine’.

Quick Fact: Creatine monohydrate is still the least expensive and the most effective of all forms of creatinine available today.

SOURCES

What are the Natural Sources of Creatinine?

  1. Red meat
  2. Beef
  3. Salmon
  4. Eggs
  5. Chicken
  6. Pork
  7. Tuna
  8. Venison
  9. Cod

Natural sources of creatinine include red meat, which is the best source of creatinine. 1 pound of beef or salmon can give you 1-2 gms of creatinine.

Other sources include eggs and other types of meats such as chicken, pork, tuna, venison, cod etc.

Why take creatine supplements?

Although creatinine is available in plenty of natural sources, it can prove insufficient for two kinds of individuals:

  1. If your are vegan or vegetarian
  2. For elite sportsperson.

Quick Fact: Creatine is a popular supplement for athletes because it boosts physical performance by going directly to the muscle that needs fuel. 

Since it provides energy on demand, creatine is referred to as the ultimate nootropic, that is, it improves cognition, memory, creativity and provides energy in healthy individuals. 

Quick Fact: Vegetarians and vegans typically have lower levels of creatinine in the body as compared to the meat eaters. 

USES AND BENEFITS

What are the benefits of creatine?

  1. Creatine boosts working memory and intelligence.
  2. Increases attention span.
  3. Repairs brain cells.
  4. Creatinine helps muscles produce more energy
  5. Improves performance during high-intensity exercises
  6. Enhances muscle growth
  7. Helps fight mental degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
  8. Improves brain function- memory and cognition.
  9. Improves muscle strength in older adults.
  10. Improves athletic performance

Creatine Boosts Working Memory & Intelligence

In a double-blinded study, to the placebo-controlled trial they gave some of the young adults 5 grams of creatine once a day for 6 weeks. Then, they were tested for intelligence and working memory performance.

The researchers found that creatine supplementation had a significant positive effect on both working memory and intelligence. 

Increases Attention Span

A double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 34 healthy non-vegetarian men and women with a mean age of 21 years concluded that the group that took creatine fared better in memory and I.Q tests and showed less mental fatigue than the placebo group. 

Creatine Repairs Brain Cells

Optimal levels of ATP are crucial for maintaining healthy brain cells, and creatine is critical in maintaining cellular energy levels.

Creatine supplements have been proven for neuroprotection in a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and epilepsy.

Genetic disorders that interrupt brain creatine metabolism can cause significant neurological defects. 

What does deficiency of creatine lead to?

A deficiency of creatinine can result in the following:

  1. Low cognition, memory, recall, reaction time and mood diminish
  2. Brain cell membranes degenerate
  3. Neurotransmitter levels decline
  4. Mental health, language and fine motor skills may decline

Quick Fact: Creatine deficiency, caused by a genetic defect can result in developmental delay, mental retardation, speech disabilities and muscle weakness.

DOSAGE 

The dosage recommendation of creatine varies widely based on personal preference and physical demand. It can range between 200 to 250 mg. 

The recommended dosage of creative for its nootropic benefits is 5 grams per day.

Quick Fact: Studies have shown that creatine consumed with carbohydrates improves its absorption. 

Creatine to builds gradually in the system. Hence for faster benefits, start with 20 grams per day for a week, and then pull back for a maintenance dose of 5 grams everyday.

The AIWO Recommendation is 5 grams per day.

SAFETY AND SIDE EFFECTS

Since creatine is naturally produced in the body, it is considered to be safe and well-tolerated

However, indiscreet usage can be hard on the kidneys and the liver. These organs are factories of creatine and too much of it can overwork them. 

Quick Fact: Individuals dealing with a liver or kidney problem, are recommended to speak to a doctor before taking any creatine supplement.

What are the side effects of taking creatine supplements?

  1. Mild diarrhoea
  2. Gas
  3. Upset stomach
  4. Stomach cramps
  5. Muscle cramps
  6. Increased urination
  7. Headaches
  8. Reduced appetite
  9. Water weight gain

These symptoms are usually only observed when too much creatine has been consumed or during the ‘loading’ phase of creatine supplementation. 

Since creatine causes an energy boost, one must avoid taking a creatine supplement during the evening hours to prevent difficulty in falling asleep.

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