Being skeptical about weight loss and muscle building products is perfectly reasonable to do so. The huge amount of exaggerated promotional claims support a billion-dollar-per-year business, often without any credible scientific proof. In addition, if you closely examine the ingredients of these supplements, they are sometimes questionably safe to take as well. For instance, a lot of mass gainer shakes are full of added sugar, which will definitely help you gain weight, but not necessarily how you want it.
No magic pills and powders will substitute a good diet and work out routine, that’s for sure. However, creatine stands out with both a strong evidence record and safety profile to be a tool that can actually support your fitness goals. Furthermore, researchers suggest that it can help you boost your mental performance as well. Let’s see why!
What is creatine?
A molecule, the so called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) functions as the energy currency of cells and your body utilizes it during muscle contraction. An intense workout will make your cells use ATP, and this is when creatine can boost your performance, since it functions as an energy reserve and it produces new ATP. As a result, without any further oxygen or glucose, your ATP supply remains continuous. In conclusion, increasing your creatine intake will result in bigger cellular energy stores in your muscles. Consequently, it enables you to restore energy more effectively. (3)
Gaining muscle mass, enhancing strength and boosting athletic performance are the most common reasons why the supplementation of this substance became extremely popular among athletes and bodybuilders. However, the potential benefits don’t end up here. (1)
Creatine and your brain performance
Your body stores approximately 95% of your total creatine levels in your muscles and the remaining 5% in your brain, kidneys and liver. Since adequate amount of ATP is crucial for your brain to function properly as well, this substance is also extremely important for your mind. During any kind of mentally stimulating endeavours your creatine level decreases in order to assist the energetic requirements of the brain. That being the case, higher levels of creatine can result in better memory performance. (4) (5)
The most powerful dietary sources of this substance are red meat and fish. Because of this, researchers conducted a study with vegetarian participants to examine the difference in their mental performance after the regular usage of a creatine supplement. Not surprisingly, during the initial phase of the study the creatine level in their blood was very low. After that, they received 20 g creatine supplements for five days. The researchers tested their recall before and after the nutritional supplementation, and according to the results creatine boosted their memory. With regards to a very similar study with vegetarians, the partakers only received 5 grams per day for six weeks. As a result, it was enough to decrease their mental fatigue and improve their processing speed and working memory. (6) (7)
But people who don’t consume fish and red meat regularly are not the only ones who can benefit from additional creatine. As you age, your body’s ability to produce creatine can decrease significantly. Consequently, providing your brain with a steady supply will become challenging and you need to rely more on external sources. Researchers also proved it with a study of elderly omnivores, which showed that creatine supplementation indeed enhanced cognitive functions. (8)
The correlation with Alzheimer’s disease
Beside the brain performance related advantages, we can’t neglect the potential health benefits either.
Your body can create its own creatine, that’s very much true. However, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t rely on external sources at all, since this process generates stress on the system. This kind of stress can increase the level of an amino acid called homocysteine, which is a risk marker for Alzheimer’s. (9)
In addition, researchers found that carriers of the Alzheimer’s risk gene (ApoE4 allele) have lower levels of creatine in their brains. These people, or any other individuals who are already struggling with cognitive issues, can benefit from the energy-sustaining and neuro-protective properties of this substance. (10)
Finally, a 2016 animal study also concluded that creatine supplements may be beneficial against Alzheimer’s. (11)
Other potential benefits of creatine
In addition to boosting your brain performance and supporting your fitness endeavours, researches also suggest that it can:
- Combat fatty liver disease (12)
- Lower blood sugar (13)
- Help muscle function in older adults (14)
- Support heart health (15)
- Improve bone health (16)
Is it completely safe for everyone?
As I’ve already mentioned, creatine has a very strong safety profile. The result of several decades in examining the effects of it suggests that, it is one of the safest supplements. During one of the studies, participants used creatine supplement for months and nobody showed any kind of side effects. Better yet, doctors even use creatine to treat various health problems. (17) (18) (19) (20) (21)
All of the frequent claims about the potential side effects are proved wrong by researches:
- It doesn’t cause dehydration or cramps. (22)
- It can cause weight gain indeed, however not because of increased body fat, but muscle mass. (23)
- There are no liver or kidney related side effects. (24)
Nevertheless, there are two real possible side effects. In case you don’t follow the recommended dosage, it can cause digestive issues. In addition, combining creatine with certain medications that affect blood sugar can cause problems as well. Finally, as a general rule of thumb you should consult with your doctor if you want to take creatine supplement and you are pregnant or have a serious medical condition, like heart disease or cancer.
Beside these exemptions, more than 500 studies support its safeness. As a result, we can conclude that it’s not risky to take creatine for most of the people.
Due to the popularity of the supplement, you can find several different available versions. However, there is only one well-researced form of it, the so called creatine monohydrate. With regards to both the positive effects and the safeness, only this type is supported by a large body of scientific evidence from credible sources. In addition, it’s usually the cheapest choice too. (26)
A couple of dietary supplement companies claim that the newer forms of creatine are superior, but currently we don’t have enough trustworthy proofs to be sure about that. (27)
In case you want to try a creatine monohydrate supplement, the best seller and Amazon’s Choice winner MuscleTech Platinum Creatine Monohydrate Powder can be a good option for you. Compared to the similar premium quality products, it has a very favorable price. In addition, unlike several other alternatives, it contains pure creatine without fillers or sugars.
Creatine is one of the safest and most effective supplements that you can take to boost both your physical and mental performance. People have been using it for centuries, and more than 500 studies support the positive effects and safeness. Based on the scientific evidence, the best dietary supplement form of it is creatine monohydrate.
Have you ever tried a creatine supplement? Have you experienced the positive effects of it? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.