Health & Habits
Creatine + The Brain: Why Creatine is a MUST HAVE
Posted November 30, 2022
Commonly used by gym rats and fitness fanatics, creatine is undoubtedly the king of all nutritional supplements, and for the right reasons. It’s well-researched to support the body’s energy needs safely and effectively and has an extraordinary ability to help us exercise longer and harder while increasing our muscle gains. Additionally, as scientists continue to expand the research horizons, another noticeable effect of creatine has recently surfaced: cognitive support. As we add this to the list of benefits creatine provides, it can be very helpful to understand its precise effects on the brain.
Commonly available as liquid or powder, creatine is an amino acid primarily involved in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is an energy-carrying molecule that stores the energy from the breakdown of food and releases it to fuel other chemical processes. To extract energy, our body has to break down ATP into another compound called adenosine diphosphate (ADP). For this ADP molecule to reenter the energy cycle, and become ATP, a phosphate molecule is required which is donated by creatine. Once the transfer is complete, ADP converts into ATP once again and is ready to supply energy. In other words, creatine quickly replenishes the body’s ATP stores to provide a quick burst of energy that can manifest as added strength and improved performance.
Not surprisingly, the brain ranks second on the list of the highest energy consumers in the body, just after our muscles. The difference between the two is that while our muscles get sufficient time to rest, the brain is running 24/7. Despite taking up only 2% of our body weight, it routinely consumes up to 20% of our calorie intake, and just like the muscles, it’s prone to both performance issues and recovery problems when we overuse it without providing adequate nutrients and energy.
Knowing this, scientists have been in search of an optimal supplement to boost brain performance, especially in situations with heavy cognitive load. Studies show that supplemental creatine monohydrate over 2-4 weeks increases the concentration of creatine in the brain by 5-15%. Although studying creatine’s impact on the brain is more complex than muscle-based studies, one group that has made it easier to identify significant benefits are vegans and vegetarians. Creatine isn’t present in diets that eliminate animal products, but luckily our liver, pancreas and kidneys can make about 1 gram of creatine per day. Those following a plant-based diet tend to have a smaller creatine pool than the average population, so supplementation can have noticeable impacts. In one study, healthy vegan and vegetarian participants supplemented with creatine and performed better than placebo groups on a series of cognitive challenges, including word recall, repeating numbers backward, pattern recognition, and reaction time.
Some factors that can negatively impact the brain’s functionality are sleep deprivation, mental fatigue, and low oxygen environments. They can alter the brain’s energy demands as well as its energy reserves. Sleep deprivation likely increases the energy needs of brain cells, while mental fatigue - a state of impaired performance induced by prolonged exertion - is theorized to be caused by depleted cellular energy reserves. Simply put, without enough oxygen, our brain cells can’t produce enough ATP. Creatine supplementation could prevent the effects of these stressful states by increasing the brain’s cellular energy stores, which may offer better cognitive capabilities. Creatine may also have potential neuroprotective abilities as well by increasing brain energy, reducing oxidative stress, and mitigating mitochondrial damage. More empirical evidence is needed.
Creatine is considered a staple in the bodybuilding community, but not all are created equal. Given the varied options on the market today, a special formula in VEDGE™ Creatine+ offers not only the highest grade creatine monohydrate available, but also Peak02® - a trademarked ingredient with proven studies shown to increase strength, energy, and performance. Creatine monohydrate has been the most widely studied form of creatine and is referred to as the “gold standard”, so pairing these two ingredients can help us power both our brains and bodies efficiently to reach new heights.
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