What The Heck Is Creatine And Should You Be Taking It?

You might know creatine as a white powder that bodybuilders take to bulk up, but not many people know what it is, where it comes from, or even what it does. Creatine is a substance that is naturally found in the muscles cells of the body. It has some surprising health benefits that may help you out even if you don’t want to look like a professional bodybuilder.

What the heck is creatine and should you be taking it

For example, did you know creatine may help fight against neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, lower blood sugar levels, improve muscular dystrophy, and prevent depression and diabetes? Here is everything you need to know about creatine and why you may want to consider taking it.

What Is Creatine?

Creatine is an organic acid that supplies energy to cells throughout the body, especially muscle and skeletal cells. Chemically, creatine is comprised of three different amino acids: l-methionine, glycine, and l-arginine. It accounts for about 1% of total volume of human blood.

Approximately 95% of creatine can be found in human skeletal muscle while 5% is located in the brain. Every day, the body naturally produces around three grams of creatine and stores around 1.5%-2% of it in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. It is converted to energy and transported through the blood to parts of the body with high energy demands, like the brain and skeletal muscle.

The average person requires approximately 1 to 3 grams of creatine daily, and they get about half of it from their diet. The rest is made in the body. Good sources of creatine include red meat and fish. One pound of either provides anywhere from 1 to 2 grams of creatine. Athletes and bodybuilders are notorious for taking creatine in supplement form. If you train hard, your body may need up to 10 grams of creatine a day, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition. In some cases, people with a health condition that prevents them from creating or synthesizing creatine may need to take up to 30 grams a day!

Supplementing with creatine helps you increase the amount of phosphocreatine that is stored in the body. Phosphocreatine is a form of energy that is utilized in your cells. It helps produce an energy molecule called ATP. The more ATP  you have stored in your cells, the better your body performs during exercise. Creatine also assists with several processes in the body that may increase your muscle mass, strength and recovery when it comes to exercise, which is why a lot of athletes take it.

creatine powder

Health Benefits of Creatine

You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or even a fitness enthusiast to reap the benefits of creatine. Research shows that taking creatine may have anti-aging benefits and it can also improve your mood. It works by boosting your workload capacity, raising anabolic hormones, improving cell signaling, increasing cell hydration, preventing the breakdown of protein, and reducing myostatin levels. Here are some of the most impressive health benefits of creatine you probably weren’t aware of.

1. Prevents Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia is the age-related decline in muscle strength, mass, and function. It tends to develop after the age of 40 and starts getting really bad by about age 75. It’s an often overlooked aging disorder that takes a backseat to osteoporosis, which is the loss of bone mass. But the loss of muscle mass that occurs with the natural aging process is also important as it can affect a person’s ability to function correctly, especially in the older generation. It’s also easier to treat earlier in life rather than waiting until it gets worse in a person’s elderly years.

Sarcopenia is more common in adults who don’t exercise much, but that doesn’t mean that people who do exercise cannot develop it. Just like osteoporosis, many factors contribute to sarcopenia, such as lack of protein or calories, inflammation, oxidative stress, loss of motor nerve cells, and decreased hormones such as testosterone, insulin-like growth factor 1, and growth hormone. But research shows that creatine may be able to help prevent sarcopenia in the elderly population by preventing muscle loss.

One study found that when combined with resistance training, older men who supplemented with creatine for seven days increased their muscle performance without adverse side effects, including on functional tests. The study authors concluded that creatine could be used as a therapeutic strategy in older adults to prevent muscle loss and increase performance in practical living tasks. Another study found that adults over the age of 65 who took 5 grams of creatine a day and were put on a resistance training program increased their functional tasks, strength, and muscle fiber area. The key here seems to be taking creatine along with an exercise program for best results.

2. Decreases Inflammation

creatine inflammation

Taking creatine may help reduce inflammation, especially after exercising, which may help assist with the recovery process and eliminate muscle soreness. One study found that runners who supplemented with 20 grams of creatine for five days before a 30-kilometer race decreased their markers of cell injury and inflammation by as much as 61%. They also reportedly had no side effects. The researchers concluded that supplementing with creatine reduced inflammation and cell damage after an exhaustive, intense race.

3. Improves Brain Function

Everyone can benefit from improved brain function. Creatine might be able to do just that. Research shows that creatine may be able to improve brain function in healthy adults. One study investigated the effects of creatine supplementation on vegetarian adults over the course of six weeks. They were given 5 grams of creatine each day. Results showed that after the subjects took the creatine, they had improved scores on intelligence and working memory tests.

One theory behind creatine’s brain enhancing properties is that it provides cellular energy to the brain cells. It may even be able to alleviate depression and protect against neurodegenerative diseases. A 2007 study found that oral supplementation of creatine may modify brain energy metabolism in depressed people. Eight subjects were given between 3 and 5 grams of creatine a day. They were then evaluated at weeks one, two, three and four on Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, Hamilton Anxiety Scale, and Clinical Global Impression tests. Results showed that all scale scores significantly improved and adverse reactions were mild. Another study found that “creatine supplementation improves bioenergetic deficits and may exert neuroprotective effects in Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.”



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