The Science-backed Benefits of Creatine Supplementation
Creatine, a naturally occurring amino acid found in muscle cells, has been a subject of extensive scientific exploration for its role in boosting athletic performance and supporting overall health. This blog post examines the science-backed benefits of creatine supplementation, drawing insights from peer-reviewed research studies.
Performance Enhancement in High-Intensity Exercises
Creatine supplementation is renowned for its potential to enhance performance during high-intensity, short-duration exercises, like weightlifting or sprinting. This is primarily due to its ability to increase phosphocreatine stores in muscles, which is used to produce more ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the primary energy currency of cells during strenuous workouts.
In a comprehensive review of over 100 studies, Branch (2003) found that creatine supplementation could increase maximal power and performance in high-intensity anaerobic repetitive work by approximately 5 to 15% [^1^].
Improved Muscle Strength and Mass
Creatine supplementation is a trusted tool among athletes and bodybuilders for muscle development. This is because creatine enhances the body's capacity to perform high-intensity work, thereby promoting faster growth of lean body mass.
Moreover, creatine supplementation has been found to increase the water content in muscle cells, a process known as cell volumization, which can promote muscle growth. A review of research by Kreider et al. (2017) concluded that creatine supplementation increases lean body mass and improves performance in high-intensity exercise tasks [^2^].
Support in Neurological Diseases
Emerging evidence suggests that creatine supplementation may have neuroprotective benefits. Diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's involve decreased cellular energy production, and as a component of energy production, creatine might help.
In a peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Neurochemistry, Matthews et al. (1999) observed that creatine supplementation significantly delayed the onset of symptoms in mice models of Huntington's disease [^3^]. However, it's worth noting that while these results are promising, more human trials are necessary to confirm the benefits of creatine in neurological diseases.
May Help Control Blood Sugar Levels
Interestingly, creatine may also have a role in regulating blood glucose levels. A 12-week study on type 2 diabetics found that participants who combined creatine, exercise, and a standard diabetic medication, exhibited lower blood sugar levels than those who only took the medication and exercised [^4^].
Positively Modulates Brain Function
In addition to its physical benefits, creatine supplementation also shows promise in boosting cognitive performance. The brain, similar to our muscles, stores phosphocreatine and requires plenty of ATP for optimal function. By increasing phosphocreatine stores, creatine can help fuel our neurons, the working units of the brain.
Several studies support the cognitive benefits of creatine supplementation. A study published in Psychopharmacology (Rae et al., 2003) found that creatine supplementation improved cognitive performance in healthy individuals, particularly in tasks that required quick thinking [^5^].
Creatine also appears to be beneficial in conditions where energy metabolism is compromised, such as sleep deprivation or after heavy mental work. Watanabe et al. (2002) found that creatine supplementation reduced mental fatigue when subjects repeatedly performed simple mathematical calculations [^6^].
Finally, creatine might also help the cognitive function of aging populations. A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology found that creatine supplementation improved brain function in older adults, particularly in areas associated with memory and intelligence [^7^].
To conclude, creatine supplementation, along with its well-known muscle-strengthening benefits, can also act as a neuro-enhancer, improving cognitive performance in healthy and aging populations, as well as in situations of high cognitive demand.
Creatine supplementation is not only for athletes looking to boost their physical performance and muscle mass, but it also exhibits potential benefits in other health aspects like neuroprotection, blood sugar regulation, and positive cognitive function. Most experts recommend a dosage of around 2.5 grams per 100 pounds of body weight per day for creatine supplementation. However, as with any dietary supplement, it's crucial to consult a healthcare provider before beginning creatine supplementation, especially for individuals with kidney issues, as its misuse could lead to potential health complications.
Branch JD. (2003). Effect of creatine supplementation on body composition and performance: a meta-analysis. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 13(2):198-226.
Kreider RB, Kalman DS, Antonio J, et al. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 14:18.
Matthews RT, Ferrante RJ, Klivenyi P, et al. (1999). Creatine and cyclocreatine attenuate MPTP neurotoxicity. Exp Neurol. 157(1):142-149.
Gualano B, de Salles PV, Roschel H, et al. (2011). Creatine supplementation does not impair kidney function in type 2 diabetic patients: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial. Eur J Appl Physiol. 111(5):749-756.
Rae C, Digney AL, McEwan SR, Bates TC. (2003). Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double–blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Psychopharmacology. 169(3):324-329.
Watanabe A, Kato N, Kato T. (2002). Effects of creatine on mental fatigue and cerebral hemoglobin oxygenation. Neuroscience Research. 42(4):279-285.
McMorris T, Mielcarz G, Harris RC, Swain JP, Howard A. (2007). Creatine supplementation and cognitive performance in elderly individuals. Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn. 14(5):517-528.