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Is creatine good for the brain?

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

Can you use creatine for the brain?


Sure, creatine can help you get stronger and fitter. It is one of the most effective sports supplements available, well known for boosting performance and building muscle mass. But is creatine good for the brain too? Over the past few years, there’s been growing interest in the benefits of creatine for brain function. It turns out there’s some interesting science behind creatine and its effects on mental performance. Curious to know more? Here, we’ll take a deep dive into the research on creatine for the brain.


Creatine - the basics


Creatine plays a key role in energy metabolism. It helps to replenish our muscles’ energy stores by assisting with production of ATP, which is the main energy source for cells. Creatine naturally occurs in our bodies, and can come from dietary sources like meat and fish. It’s used all over the world as a sports supplement to help build lean muscle mass and enhance performance. The most widely used form of creatine as a supplement is creatine monohydrate, whereas CreGAAtine is an enhanced version that elevates levels of creatine even more in both muscles and the brain.





How can creatine help mental performance?


Creatine is mainly found in our muscles, but there are also small amounts in the brain. Your brain burns a lot of energy, more than you’d think! In fact, it uses around 20% of our metabolic energy, even while we rest our mind.


There’s an upper limit on how much information we can process at once, due to a constant but limited energy supply to the brain. But what if there was a way to increase this energy supply? It might sound like science fiction, but research shows that’s exactly what creatine does.


Creatine can help your brain with:

  • Short-term memory

  • Faster thinking

  • Depression

  • Mental fatigue

  • Insomnia

  • Age-related memory changes

  • Traumatic brain injury


Pretty impressive! How can creatine have such a wide range of benefits for the brain? The answer is energy. Creatine can increase energy availability in the brain. In the same way that creatine restores energy levels faster in the muscles, it can do this in the brain too. Let’s go through the science of this for some of these examples.


Please note: this content is not intended as medical advice. Before starting any new supplement regime, it’s a good idea to speak to a healthcare professional.


Short term memory, faster thinking and mental fatigue


Short term memory burns a lot of energy, and there’s a few reasons for this. Firstly, we have to pay attention to encode information into our working memory. This means activating neurons in the brain, which uses energy. These neurons then need to keep firing to keep the information ready for use, using more energy. When we think, we need to retrieve that information and use it, burning yet more energy. No wonder it’s so tiring to stay focused!


Replenish your energy levels and this memory process becomes a lot easier. It’s like continuously topping your car up with fuel as it starts to run low. The car (your brain) can keep going longer towards its destination before needing a break, so it gets there faster.




Depression


When answering the question, 'is creatine good for the brain', there's no looking past the link between creatine and depression.


Research around creatine and depression is fascinating. There are a few different ways that creatine has been shown to fight depression, including major depressive episodes. The first pathway is dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in regulating motivation, reward and pleasure. Low levels of dopamine have been associated with depression. More energy for the brain means dopamine can be created and released faster, boosting overall dopamine levels. A win for the brain!


Another way that creatine can help is by increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is key for the growth and survival of neurons. People with depression often have low levels of BDNF, and some studies have shown that creatine supplementation can increase levels of BDNF in the brain.


Research also suggests that creatine has anti-inflammatory effects. High levels of inflammation are linked to depression, and studies show that creatine can reduce inflammation markers in the body.


Age-related memory changes


As we get older, our bodies become less efficient at producing ATP (the main energy source for cells). This can have negative impacts on cognitive function, including memory. Creatine can boost ATP levels in the brain, reducing some of the forgetfulness that can come with age.


Mitochondria are the “powerhouses” of cells, and their function declines with age too. This can lead to decreased energy levels and cognitive decline. There’s evidence that supplementing with creatine can improve the function of mitochondria.


Neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and dopamine are essential for memory and cognitive function. As we age, these neurotransmitters can become less available, leading to poor memory and slower thinking. Creatine can increase levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, which could help to support memory and cognitive function in the elderly.


creagaatine pack around plants

Experience the benefits of creatine with CreGAAtine


CreGAAtine is a high-performance supplement, proven by science to enhance athletic performance, build lean muscle mass and speed up recovery. New research also suggests it could help you think faster, remember better and stay sharp as you get older. Want to learn more?



References:

  • Bruckmaier, M., Tachtsidis, I., Phan, P., & Lavie, N. (2020). Attention and capacity limits in perception: A cellular metabolism account. Journal of Neuroscience, 40(35), 6801-6811. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2368-19.2020

  • Roitman, S., Green, T., Osher, Y., Karni, N., and Levine, J. (2007). Creatine monohydrate in resistant depression: a preliminary study. Bipolar Disorders 9, 754–758.

  • Harris, R. C., Lowe, J. A., Warnes, K., & Orme, C. E. (1997). The concentration of creatine in meat, offal and commercial dog food. Research in veterinary science, 62(1), 58-62. doi: 10.1016/s0034-5288(97)90068-6.

  • Forbes, S. C., Cordingley, D. M., Cornish, S. M., Gualano, B., Roschel, H., Ostojic, S. M., ... & Candow, D. G. (2022). Effects of creatine supplementation on brain function and health. Nutrients, 13(5), 1713. doi: 10.3390/nu13051713.

  • Goldman-Rakic, P. S. (1995). Cellular basis of working memory. Neuron, 14(3), 477-485. doi: 10.1016/0896-6273(95)90304-6.

  • Kim, S., Hong, K. B., Kim, S., Suh, H. J., & Jo, K. (2020). Creatine and taurine mixtures alleviate depressive-like behaviour in Drosophila melanogaster and mice via regulating Akt and ERK/BDNF pathways. Scientific reports, 9(1), 1-13. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-39554-9.

  • Miller, A.H. & Raison, C.L. (2016). The role of inflammation in depression: from evolutionary imperative to modern treatment target. Nature Reviews Immunology, 16, 22-34. doi: 10.1038/nri.2015.5

  • Du, H., Guo, L., Fang, F., Chen, D., & Sosunov, A. A. (2009). Amyloid-β and mitochondria in aging and Alzheimer's disease: implications for synaptic damage and cognitive decline. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 16(4), 903-921. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2009-1020


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