When I say creatine what do you think of?
If you’re like most folks you’re probably picturing huge, muscle-bound jocks pumping iron to get even bigger. Either that or “energy-drink” guzzling teens trying to find out exactly how long a human being can actually stay awake.
But you may have also begun to hear a bit of buzz about creatine’s potential to help memory and mental focus. And if so, you might be wondering, “But is creatine safe?”
Well this is one time when the hype could turn out to be on the right track.
I’ll have more on creatine and its exciting connection to memory in just a few moments, but first let’s take a quick look at what creatine is and what else it can do.
Creatine helps produce the energy for life
What most people don’t realize is creatine is actually a natural nutrient that plays a very important role in our survival.
You see this special protein helps to produce the energy molecule Adenosine triphosphate (let’s call it ATP for short) that every single cell in your body uses for fuel to survive.
In other words, creatine literally helps fuel the very fuel of life!
Creatine’s critical role in ATP-production explains why the protein is so often linked to energy, power and performance.
Creatine’s connection to power and strength
So let’s get back to those jocks you were picturing earlier. There’s a very good reason that the super fit among us often turn to creatine when they’re trying to improve their performance.
And that is, very simply, it works.
If you’re hoping to improve your lean muscle, power and strength for any reason—whether that’s to get better at a sport or simply fight off some of the frailty that can creep in as we age—creatine could make a significant difference.
Increasing the amount of creatine in your body is a lot like increasing the horsepower in your car’s engine. It provides that extra boost that allows you to do a bit more and gain more benefits.
In fact, supplementing with creatine has been proven to increase your maximum strength by anywhere between 5 percent and 15 percent!1
Need more proof?
In another study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, creatine supplements were able to increase both the sprint performance as well as endurance over several sprints among a group of well-condition runners.2
For an athlete this could translate into better marathon times, speed trials or performances. For a typical middle age adult it might help you power through your day without feeling burned out halfway through. And for older folks it could mean helping to recapture some of the vim and vigor of your youth as you strengthen and rebuild some of the lean muscle we naturally lose as we age.
In fact, creatine has been proven to add 2-4 pounds of lean muscle in just 4 to 12 weeks of training,3 a fact which should please both athlete and average guy alike.
What’s the deal with creatine supplements?
Hands down the best food sources of creatine are meats including grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, free-range poultry, wild-game meats.
That means if you’ve been following my advice on Paleo eating and getting lots of good animal proteins in your diet you’re already getting some creatine. So you may be wondering why you’d ever need to take a supplement to get more.
We’ll the truth is not everyone does. But taking a supplement will allow your body to store away above normal levels providing an extra ATP source for your muscles and brain to pull from. And that added oomph could help give you the extra edge in both body AND brain power.
And speaking of brain power let’s take a look at how creatine may be able to help with memory, focus and more.
Give your brain a boost with creatine
So now you know how creatine could help boost your physical performance. But this energy-linked protein might be able to help give you an edge in mental performance too.
It turns out creatine could help “energize” your brain too, helping to improve working memory, cognitive function and even intelligence!
In a 6-week Australian study researchers examined the effects of 5 grams a day of creatine on memory and intelligence. Astoundingly, the folks receiving the creatine watched their mental fatigue shrink and their working memory and intelligence grow.6
In other words, they weren’t just both better focused and able to remember, they literally scored higher on measurements for intelligence!
So doc is creatine safe?
But I bet you’re still wondering the million dollar question, and that—of course—is, “Is creatine safe?”
Well if you were to take the hysterical reports we’ve seen in the media at face value it might not seem so. News reporters have shared panic-stricken anecdotal reports of dehydration, tummy troubles, cramps, muscle and skeletal issues and even kidney damage.
But the truth is the research just doesn’t back these claims up. No studies have revealed any such side effects. In fact, research on people taking supplements anywhere from 10 months to 5 years found ZERO negative effects on kidney function.5
On the other hand, creatine has ironically been linked with improvements in muscular dystrophy, brain and spinal cord injuries, high cholesterol and diabetes.
So the answer is yes, creatine has been proven safe and effective.
Giving creatine supplements a try
So you’ve decided to give creatinine supplements a try. I typically recommend powdered creatine monohydrate to my own clients. You simply add some water and drink it. It’s the easiest on your wallet, and it’s the one that’s been used in all the studies.
A few things to keep in mind:
- make sure it’s a formula with no added sugar
- always take with a meal to help with absorption
- men start with 5 grams a day, women 3 grams
- take for 8-12 weeks and if satisfied with results you can stop
- if you wish to continue research shows a 6-12 month period is fine, but 2-3 week tapers every 3 months are usually recommended
There are capsules available too, which are fine to take but require you to swallow a LOT of pills.
Creatine could be the key to improving your physical and mental performance. But don’t forget no single supplement is a magic bullet. You need to keep eating a healthy—preferably Paleo—diet, exercising and getting quality sleep.
Because junk food and a junk lifestyle will leave your body and brain in tatters regardless if you are taking creatine or not.
1. “Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations,” Mol Cell Biochem. 2003 Feb;244(1-2):89-94.
2. “Creatine supplementation improves sprint performance in male sprinters,” Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2001 Apr;11(2):96-102.
3. “Effects of in-season (5 weeks) creatine and pyruvate supplementation on anaerobic performance and body composition in American football players,” Int J Sport Nutr. 1999 Jun;9(2):146-65.
4. “Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial,” Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Oct 22;270(1529):2147-50.
5. “Effect of short-term creatine supplementation on renal responses in men,” European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology, October 1997, Volume 76, Issue 6, pp 566-567.
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