Creatine Monohydrate is one of the most researched supplements out there, and is widely used in the sports and fitness community. Besides the benefits for performance and muscle hypertrophy, there are now many studies showing evidence for the health benefits. Before I go into the health benefits of creatine, let’s talk about what creatine is. Creatine is a molecule that is produced in the body, primarily in the liver, and is stored in the body as phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine is a high energy phosphate group which helps generate ATP, the primary energy carrier in the body. What this means is the body stores phosphocreatine and uses it to help generate energy in the body. When you look at the energy systems, phosphocreatine is used in highly explosive movements and high intense activities such as sprints. You can find creatine naturally in foods such as meat and fish, but you will not find them in produce..As you can see, creatine plays a role in how our body can generate energy, but it can do more than just help you build muscle and perform better.
Lets go ahead and state the obvious benefit of creatine, it can improve strength and performance when it is paired with resistance training and up to 10 seconds of max effort intensity such as sprints. This is why it is so popular in the sport and fitness community, it is well known that creatine can also improve lean body mass, that includes muscle and skeletal tissue. This can be very important for the older population due to the decline of strength and muscle mass. They can benefit greatly by supplementing creatine with resistance training to improve strength and muscle mass, which will help reduce their risk of falling and getting hurt while also improving their health.
Creatine is not just beneficial for the sport and fitness community, there are many benefits of creatine that everyone can benefit from. Creatine Supplementation has shown to aid in lowering cholesterol, triglycerides, and managing blood lipid levels. That alone should be enough reason to take creatine daily. Studies also show us that creatine can have anti-inflammatory properties that work with the immune system. More research is needed to look into this, but anything that can help make your immune system stronger is a win.
Glucose management is another health benefit we can talk about when you supplement with creatine. With diabetes on the rise, this can be very helpful to know and consider in regards to your health. The studies show us that creatine can help increase insulin sensitivity and enhance glucose uptake into the muscles. When you pair creatine supplementation and resistance training, the benefits are greater than doing them separately. When you do exercise, your glucose levels are easier to manage. This can be a big deal, I know many people get super light headed during exercise due to low blood sugar levels. Creatine supplementation can help mitigate these issues during exercise. The reason creatine is helpful is how creatine is absorbed in the body. You see, creatine uptake is influenced by glucose and insulin. When you consume creatine with a carbohydrate the body increases both creatine and glucose levels into the muscle, and even more when protein is added. So when you do take creatine, add 3-5 grams into a protein shake to help increase the absorption of creatine. With all this said, it is not magic and your lifestyle will play a bigger role with how your body manages glucose and insulin. Creatine alone can improve glucose management, but it is not clear how much. If you are worried about glucose levels, look at your lifestyle and make some changes.
These last few benefits of creatine I am about to mention are led by evidence, but needs further research. The reason I am mentioning it is because it was interesting and thought it was worth mentioning. The brain has a small storage for creatine, this we know, so some studies looked into how creatine can be beneficial for the brain and our nervous system. Increasing the brain phosphocreatine levels by 5-15% can enhance the brain’s bioenergetics, which could help improve cognition, memory, and mental fatigue by an increase of oxygen utilization. There also seems to be a neuroprotective quality of creatine by its ability to donate phosphate groups. While we are talking about the brain, it should be mentioned about the potential benefits of creatine on depression. It appears that creatine can improve depressive symptoms, and researchers believe it has something to do with the low bioenergetics of the brain, meaning low energy. They saw notable improvements with patients who have severe depression when they supplemented creatine with their SSRI, anti-depressant. This was just one study, so I want to remind you that more research is needed. With that said, there would be no harm in supplementing with creatine and with mental health on the rise, we could use all the help we can get.
You would be better off taking creatine daily than risk being deficient. There are a wide range of conditions from having a creatine deficiency such as: COPD, congestive heart failure, depression, diabetes, and more. With these conditions, there could be multiple factors in play, creatine just being one of them. The benefits far outweigh the risk of taking creatine on a daily basis and could improve your quality of life. Start with taking just 3 grams per day and see how your stomach reacts. Taking too much can cause some distress, so just start with 3g and if no issues work your way up to 5g daily. Below you can find some resources that I used to get some more information about creatine. They go way more in detail on how and why creatine can influence the body. If interested, take a look.
Kreider, Richard B., and Jeffery R. Stout. “Creatine in Health and Disease.” Nutrients, vol. 13, no. 2, 2021, p. 447. doi:10.3390/nu13020447.
Patel, Kamal. “Creatine — Health Benefits, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com, 24 November 2021, https://examine.com/supplements/creatine/. Accessed 1 December 2021.