What do you think of when you hear the word creatine? First you might try and remember exactly what it is. And if you're somewhat familiar with it you might conjure up an image of a bulked out body builder, muscles flexing and veins popping out.
Yes, creatine is known as a supplement to enhance the process of body building, but there's a lot more to it. First of all, let's define creatine. To quote from wikipedia:
"Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that occurs naturally in vertebrates and helps to supply energy to all cells in the body, primarily muscle. This is achieved by increasing the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP)."
ATP is important stuff. It transports chemical energy within cells. ATP makes it possible for us to have quick bursts of energy, should we want to run up a set of stairs, or chase after a toddler. We naturally create creatine in our bodies, and if you're a meat eater, you're already ingesting the creatine from the muscle of the animal you're consuming.
Aside from assisting in the production of ATP, clinical trials studying creatine have shown convincing evidence of creatine boosting neurological function. Everyone wants a healthy brain! There are several benefits we derive from creatine, but these are my top five:
#1 Cellular Energy & Repair
Phosphocreatine (creatine that has been attached to a phosphoryl group) supplies large muscle groups with quick energy. It does this by resupplying ATP with phosphate molecules. Here’s a quick video on how that happens.
Without cellular energy, we die. Plain and simple. Cellular energy is what moves us, but it’s also what keeps our body regenerating and healing. Providing your body the nutrients it needs to create ample energy will keep everything in good repair, and will literally move you to, well, move! If you have a good supply of energy in your cells, you won’t want sit still for long.
#2 Neurological Health
Cellular damage and lack of energy for your brain is bad news. This can lead to dreaded degenerative neurological diseases, or afflictions like depression, anxiety, and other disorders. Studies have shown that increased creatine through supplementation can result in increased brain function. There may be other protective factors at play as well…
#3 Protection Against Pesticides
In a partnered study in Cairo, Egypt, it was determined that creatine provided neurological and hepatic (liver) protection in rats injected with malathion, the most commonly used pesticide in the US. Malathion has been found to inhibit nerve impulses, and throw important enzymes out of balance, resulting in disease. Administration of creatine to the rats resulted in protection against the adverse neuro and hepatic affects of the pesticide, it is thought by up-regulating the antioxidant defense system of the rat.
Creatine provides anti-aging benefits both on the inside, and out. The skin is our largest organ, requiring a lot of maintenance and cell turnover, as it’s constantly exposed to outside elements. Going back to cellular energy, creatine provides the needed energy for cell turnover, and regeneration of connective tissue elements like collagen and elastin. Creatine also helps your cells hold on to water, in effect “plumping” them, which is a good thing for skin appearance.
#5 Better Exercise
Creatine aids in maintaining energy for fast-twitch muscle fibers (the largest muscles), which are typically used in exercises related to strength or quick bursts (like sprinting), allowing these muscles to work longer and build up more strength, and not fatigue too fast. Creatine also increases anaerobic capacity, which is the ability your body has to exercise at its hardest before its energy is tapped out (like how long you can sprint at maximum).
If you’re thinking about supplementing with creatine, the good news is that it’s very affordable. One teaspoon provides 5 grams of creatine, so a little goes a long way. I typically purchase micronized powder that you mix in with water, milk, juice, or a smoothie. I even blend mine into a bulletproof coffee in the morning. It’s pretty tasteless, and mixes well (it can just be a bit gritty). Here are a couple brands I’ve tried and liked:
As per usual, it's good to talk to your health care provider prior to adding a new supplement to your routine, especially if you're on any medications or have any preexisting conditions. But you might just find that creatine gives you more energy in both body and mind!
- Wikipedia - Creatine
- Bodybuilding.com - Creatine: Why Use It? Scientific Support To Back Its Benefits.
- LifeExtension.com - Anti-Aging Benefits of Creatine
- Mark's Daily Apple - What is Creatine?
- JOCPR.com - The protective effect of creatine supplements against malathion-induced neuro and liver toxicity
- Sportsnutrition.about.com - The Neurological Benefits of Creatine
- Science Daily - Boost Your Brain Power: Creatine, A Compound Found In Muscle Tissue, Found To Improve Working Memory And General Intelligence
- Aminoacid-studies.com - Amino acids and their significance for Anti-aging