Notebook with sign Creatine monohydrate and scoop with white powder.

by Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

Creatine is a highly touted supplement for building muscle mass rapidly with resistance exercising. You may have heard about it or noticed this if you’ve glanced at bodybuilder magazines or looked over the shelves of certain supplement stores that tend to cater more to athletes and bodybuilders.

But not all of us are bodybuilders or high-performance athletes that rely on short intense bursts of energy output. Those among us who do casual resistance training could benefit from creatine supplementation, which has proven itself in studies, as covered by this meta-analysis.

But it’s wise to also explore some other non-athletic, less promoted applications of creatine that are beginning to show up in journal studies as creatine has the ability to protect against neurodegenerative diseases.

Other Creatine Benefits Beyond Physical Strength and Athletic Performance

Creatine is involved as a pH buffer in tissues to maintain slight alkalinity at a pH reading slightly above 7. Tissues with pH below 7 are acidic. The more acidic an organ or any part of the body’s internal terrain becomes the more probable it is diseased or will be soon. Acidity indicates a compromised immune system and is a precursor to cancer. 

Creatine is a key compound offering protection against neurodegenerative diseases by creating more phosphocreatine. It’s been observed in animal (in-vivo) studies that low or diminishing brain levels of phosphocreatine promote neurodegenerative diseases. 

Supplementing creatine boosts the recycling dynamic of ATP to ADP with its release of energy then back to ATP to start all over again. Supplementing creatine will increase ATP levels in the brain cells’ mitochondria to facilitate metabolic energy production and expedite energy transmissions among brain and central nervous system cells. 

Creatine also increases the brain’s dopamine content, which is a monoamine neurotransmitter found in the brain and essential for a normal functioning central nervous system and physical coordination. It creates a sense of well being that is useful for depressed and bipolar patients. 

Consider the brain a muscle, as some do, to see how it relates to creatine’s increased skeletal muscle mass and energy. These energy factors are micro-dynamic activities within cells, but the sum total of these micro-dynamics increase bulk muscle performance as well as enhance one’s more subtle central nervous system’s neurological activities. 

There is Plenty of Science-Based Evidence Supporting Creatine Health Claims

The fact that natural food sources for creatine are red meat and fish led to experimenting with creatine supplementation for vegetarians. This was done in 2003 with a six-week study of supplementing 45 young adult vegetarians creatine monohydrate titled Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial.

At the end of six weeks, test scores given were compared with base test scores from before creatine supplementation. From the study abstract:

Creatine plays a pivotal role in brain energy homeostasis, being a temporal and spatial buffer for cytosolic and mitochondrial pools of the cellular energy currency, adenosine triphosphate and its regulator, adenosine diphosphate. 

Creatine supplementation had a significant positive effect on both working memory (backward digit span) and intelligence (Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices), both tasks that require speed of processing. These findings underline a dynamic and significant role in brain energy capacity in influencing brain performance. (Study- full text)

Another study published in 2007, Creatine supplementation and cognitive performance in elderly individuals, performed a double-blind placebo trial with creatine tested on 32 elderly folks divided into placebo and creatine groups. From the abstract:

Results showed a significant effect of creatine supplementation on all tasks except backward number recall. It was concluded that creatine supplementation aids cognition in the elderly. (Source)

Several animal studies, accessed via embedded links in each of the following disease names, covered the neuroprotective aspects supplementing creatine orally for potentially ameliorating symptoms of ALS, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and ischemic stroke recovery.  

Another creatine supplement study had success with pre-diabetes individuals with results that suggest that supplementing creatine while engaging in aerobic training can improve glucose tolerance without affecting insulin sensitivity. 

One of the most challenging studies dealt with 39 traumatic brain-injured children with ages ranging from one year of age to 18. It followed them for six months. Those who supplemented reduced dizziness 50 percent less than what those who didn’t supplement creatine.

More impressively, 10 percent of the patients in the supplement group suffered from fatigue while 80 percent of the non-creatine consuming control group continued to experience fatigue. This study was published in 2008 as Prevention of traumatic headache, dizziness and fatigue with creatine administration. A pilot study. (Abstract)

Creatine’s Many Faceted Functions

Creatine is normally created among vertebrates internally from synthesizing three amino acids: L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine. Natural sources of creatine are grass-fed sources of red meat and wild (not farmed) fish. 

It is a nitrogenous organic acid. Its main role is to facilitate recycling of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of cells’ mitochondria primarily in muscle and brain tissue. ATP is the stored energy in each cell’s mitochondria containing three phosphate molecules. 

This energy is vital to meet the demands of most metabolic functions as well as outward physical functions. ATP is vital for tissue repair and level and nervous system functions, which will be covered later in this article. 

When its energy is used, it loses a phosphate molecule and becomes adenosine diphosphate (ADP). Within the mitochondria, the phosphocreatine system adds a newly formed phosphate molecule to ADP to create ATP as needed. This is the recycling process of ATP. 

Using all three amino acids mentioned above as supplemental precursors without appropriate supervision is not recommended, because excess L-methionine does pose some problems. Augmenting creatine levels can best be safely achieved orally with either creatine monohydrate or creatine nitrate.

Creatine monohydrate is one creatine molecule bound to one molecule of water. It’s been around for a while with a lot of success. Those who might experience bloating, diarrhea, or dehydration issues are recommended to switch to creatine nitrate, which binds one creatine molecule with a nitrate molecule. 

Creatine nitrate is a newer formulation for creatine, so it’s safety and efficacy is not as well known as the monohydrate combination. It’s claimed to be more readily absorbed into tissue cells than creatine monohydrate, and nitrates alone also support ergogenic functions. 

Creatine nitrate is usually a component of a sports energy formula and rarely appears alone like creatine monohydrate powders usually do. (Source) 

It’s apparent that many of us can benefit from creatine supplements beyond strictly physical performance and strength for which they are commonly promoted. 

It is safe enough to consider for reducing stress, maintaining mental clarity when sleep deprived, protecting against several neurodegenerative diseases, and/or reversing many of their symptoms.