Can one magic supplement do everything?
First, let’s define supplement. Supplements are needed when you need to maximize your health and improve daily living but your diet is lacking something that is needed to do so. This supplement, however, is a little bit different. It is called “creatine monohydrate” and even if we get it in our diet, supplementing can be hugely beneficial for so many reasons. It’s one of the most studied supplements for its effectiveness, especially for athletes. But more and more research now shows that it can help with cognitive function, improving blood glucose (insulin) sensitivity, improving body composition and improving the immune system. Additional benefits include helping with type 2 diabetes, sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss), osteoporosis (bone loss), cardiovascular health, injury recovery, and rehabilitation. And all of this comes with almost no side effects. Yet despite all of these benefits, and being so widely researched, it still has some misconceptions.
First, what is creatine and how do we get it in our diet and/or supplement it? Creatine is a type of amino acid that is stored in the body, mostly in muscles and the brain. It is a naturally occurring compound that is found in small amounts in foods such as meat and fish. The pancreas and kidneys can also make about one gram of creatine each day. Almost 95% of the creatine that is in the body is stored in the skeletal muscles and used during activity. It plays a crucial role in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the primary energy source for muscle contractions. It especially provides energy when there is a lack of oxygen availability, such as during a stroke and ischemic heart disease. This is also one of the reasons that creatine enhances performance for athletes as well, as it plays a key role in energy metabolism.
However, we also lose about 2 grams per day of creatine via urination when it is non-enzymatically degraded to creatinine.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Proteins help improve muscle mass with resistance training and help strengthen bones and repair damaged tissues, among many other things. Creatine is a natural energy source, however even when you consume creatine-containing food sources (animal products) as we get older the rate of absorption decreases. Most people are not getting enough protein to meet their requirements either. Creatine supplementation, even at a low dose, can increase high-intensity exercise capacity that leads to increases in performance and muscle mass during training. Researchers are working on a wide range of potential applications for creatine, and continuously new studies are coming up that examine the role of creatine in reproductive health, rehabilitation, pregnancy, children and women’s health, aging, sarcopenia, osteoporosis, brain health and neuroprotection, glucose management, immunity, cancer protection, cardiovascular health, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic dialysis patients, and chronic and post-viral fatigue. Numerous studies have demonstrated creatine’s efficacy in improving athletic performance, increasing muscle mass, and enhancing overall health.
Some of the key benefits of creatine supplementation include:
Enhanced athletic performance: Creatine supplementation has been shown to increase power output, speed, and strength during high-intensity exercise. It is particularly effective for activities that require short bursts of intense effort, such as sprinting, weightlifting, and jumping.
Increased muscle mass: Creatine supplementation can increase muscle mass and promote muscle growth by stimulating protein synthesis and increasing the water content of muscle cells.
Improved cognitive function: Some studies have suggested that creatine supplementation may enhance cognitive function, particularly in tasks that require short-term memory and attention.
Potential health benefits: There is evidence to suggest that creatine supplementation may have a range of potential health benefits, including improving glucose tolerance, reducing inflammation, and reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
You may think this is too good to be true and supplementing is relatively cheap, especially considering how many positive benefits you may get. In Part 2 I will explain the potential side effects, how much and when to take it, what form to take, and what you need to be aware of before purchasing.
“Creatine Supplementation for Health and Clinical Diseases”; https://creatineforhealth.com/book-and-papers/
“Creatine supplementation for older adults: Focus on sarcopenia, osteoporosis, frailty and Cachexia”; https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S8756328222001442
“Is Creatine Safe for Older Adults?”; https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/is-creatine-safe-for-older-adults
“Effectiveness of Creatine Supplementation on Aging Muscle and Bone: Focus on Falls Prevention and Inflammation”; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6518405/
“Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: what does the scientific evidence really show?”; https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/s12970-021-00412-w
“Chronic Dialysis Patients Are Depleted of Creatine: Review and Rationale for Intradialytic Creatine Supplementation”; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8400647/
“Creatine Supplementation for Health and Clinical Disease”; Prof. Richard B. Kreider and Prof. Jeffery R. Stout