Most of us, when we hear the word "creatine", immediately think of increasing muscle mass. While this is absolutely true creatine also plays an important role in brain activity. Here's what you need to know!
Perhaps one of the most researched and most widely used supplements in the world, creatine is often known for its ability to increase performance in sports. Many of us use creatine in the hope that it will increase our "maximum" (maximum weight that we can lift once) or add 2-3 kilograms of lean muscle mass. However, did you know that creatine also has a strong effect on brain function?
While you may be more interested in how creatine affects muscle growth and overall muscle development, the importance of creatine function in the brain should not be diminished. Better brain energy means faster processing and better brain performance in general. Therefore, unless you want to confirm the stereotype of a "smart bodybuilder", pay attention!
CREATINE AND ENERGY IN CELLS
Energy is stored in the body and exchanged by reactions that make and break phosphate bonds. For example, adenosine diphosphate (ADP) contains two phosphate groups. It is relatively stable and low energy. In a metabolic reaction, a third phosphate is incorporated into the ADP molecule to form the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecule. The ATP molecule is less stable and has more energy since it contains excess energy in the third phosphate bond. When this bond is broken, the released energy can be used inside the cell to perform other cellular functions, such as muscle contraction.
As ADP, creatine can also form an energy-rich bond with the phosphate group, forming phosphocreatine (PCr) .
PCr can join its phosphate group to ADP to create ATP and play an important role in tissues that need high, fluid energy such as muscles and the brain.
If PCr transporters were not in function, every ATP molecule rich in energy would have to be transported all the way to the cell in order to transport that energy to where it should be used. Once the phosphate is removed, ADP would have to travel through our body all the way to where the energy was produced to “recharge” again and convert to ATP. This is a waste of time and slows down our entire system.
The PCr molecule can speed up this process by giving up its phosphate group and converting its energy into a new ATP molecule. By performing this rapid transfer of energy, ADP and ATP molecules remain where we need them most, thus allowing the entire system to produce, transport and use energy more efficiently.
LEVEL OF CREATINE AND BRAIN FUNCTION
More energy-seeking cells, such as neurons, rely heavily on the role of creatine / phosphocreatine in energy transport. The system has also been adapted to perform energy tasks of different types of brain cells. Therefore, the creatine / phosphocreatine system exists in the brain. Recent research confirms that the creatine / phosphocreatine system is physically important for the adult brain in terms of optimal functioning. They also found that moderate levels of creatine and phosphocreatine in the brain contribute significantly as factors of brain performance. In other words, the more creatine you have in your brain, the better your brain will function.
Wondering if creatine supplementation increases the amount of creatine in your brain? That's what scientists have asked.
The American Journal of Physiology has published a study on creatine levels in the human brain after taking oral supplements.Subjects in the study used 5 grams of creatine monohydrate four times a day for four weeks. The results showed that creatine intake caused a statistically significant increase in creatine concentration in the brain. The level of creatine in the brain is increased after the amount of creatine consumed is increased. After only one dose of creatine, the average level found in the subjects showed a significant increase in gray matter, white matter, and thalamus. The effect was even greater after 3-4 weeks of creatine use.
Researchers have also found that these changes in the brain regarding creatine levels are reversible. Subjects had their creatine levels measured again after three months without creatine supplementation. Brain creatine levels dropped to levels found in subjects before creatine use.
Some subjects have shown greater benefits of creatine use than others. The two largest subjects with the highest body weight showed the smallest increase in creatine concentrated in the brain, indicating that the average dose was related to the individual weight of the subject.
SELECTING YOUR SOURCE
Sources of creatine are lean red meat and some fish, especially herring, salmon and tuna. People who do not get enough of these creatine sources during their diet - vegans, vegetarians, people who eat less red meat or people who in any way consume fewer calories, are predestined to have lower creatine levels. These individuals have shown the greatest benefits during creatine supplementation.
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- Andres, R. H., Ducray, A. D., Schlattner, U., Wallimann, T., & Widmer, H. R. (2008). Functions and effects of creatine in the central nervous system. Brain Research Bulletin, 76 (4), 329-343.
- Hemmer, W., & Wallimann, T. (1993). Functional aspects of creatine kinase in the brain. Developmental Neuroscience, 15 (3-5), 249-260.
- Dechent, P., Pouwels, P. J., Wilken, B., Hanefeld, F., & Frahm, J. (1999). Increase of total creatine in human brain after oral supplementation of creatine monohydrate. American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, 277 (3), R698-R704.
- (2013, May 7). Retrieved July 2, 2015, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/creatine
- Rae, C., Digney, A. L., McEwan, S. R., & Bates, T. C. (2003). Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 270 (1529), 2147-2150.
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