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Learn about the lesser-known, powerful cognitive benefits of Creatine supplementation.
When you think of creatine, your first thought may be of the stereotypical athletic guy with pumped up muscles doing curls at the gym. The sports supplement industry has entirely focused the discussion on creatine's benefits for athletic performance.
However, you'll probably be surprised to hear then that it’s actually been over a decade now since scientists demonstrated that supplementing creatine can significantly enhance cognition and delay mental fatigue.
Since 2003, the evidence for these effects have been dramatically growing every year. As more and more people become aware of facts about how creatine boosts cognition, there’s no doubt that soon you’ll be as likely to find people discussing the supplement in the office, library and college dormitories as much as in the weight room.
This article explains why and how creatine is crucial for high-functioning cognition.
Creatine Supplementation Enhances Brain Power
Creatine is a naturally occurring organic compound and it’s found in relatively high concentrations in red meat - as such if you don’t eat much meat you’re very likely to be deficient.
In fact the effects of creatine on the brain are so potent that when vegetarians were given 5g of creatine/day for 6 weeks, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that working memory and intelligence (as measured by Raven’s advanced progressive matrices) were significantly improved compared to the placebo subjects .
But whether you’re a vegetarian or not adding creatine to your supplement regiment still provides a powerful cognitive boost. One 2009 study showed that creatine is capable of increasing I.Q, attention span and working memory in non-vegetarians too .
So even if you’re regularly throwing juicy grass-fed steaks onto the grill like I do and Natural Stacks recommends, it seems that you still have a lot to gain from creatine supplementation.
Creatine is also very effective at preventing cognitive fatigue after strenuous mental activity, just as it delays physical fatigue after strenuous exercise. This was proven by one placebo-controlled study where young, healthy volunteers were made to take the ‘Uchida-Kraepelin test’.
This is an unpleasant test that accurately assesses mental fatigue by getting participants to perform repeated, mental, mathematical calculations.
The study found that the participants taking creatine did much better on the test and showed significantly less signs of fatigue than the placebo group!
As the weight of the evidence grows, scientists are becoming convinced of the benefits to the brain from taking creatine.
There’s now a lot of research into the use of it as a possible therapy for various neuro-degenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease [4,5].
The evidence all really does come towards the same conclusion: creatine has exciting and powerful effects on enhancing and maintaining cognitive function.
How Does Creatine Impact The Brain?
Creatine works on the brain in a very similar fashion to the way it does on muscle. Creatine, stored as creatine phosphate in the body, is taken up by myocytes (muscle cells) and neurons (brain cells) alike.
More creatine in a cell means more phosphate is stored in there too, which is essential for synthesis of adenosine-tri-phosphate (ATP - illustrated above).
Both myocytes and neurons are highly active cells and consume vast amounts of energy in the form of ATP, and how active these cells can be depends heavily on how fast they can recycle used phosphate to build more ATP.
This explains why creatine, which increases the amount of phosphate available, provides increased energy stores for the brain.
A Prediction For The Future
Creatine, the naturally occurring compound that revolutionized the sports supplements industry, is now undoubtedly set to do the same for the world of cognitive enhancement.
Backed up by over a decade of high-quality studies with consistent results, the excitement over creatine from within the self-improvement world seems more than justified and I have no doubt that creatine use will spill into the mainstream soon, as business executives and college students across the world share their tactics.
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