You’ve probably heard of creatine, but what is it?
Creatine is an amino acid that is naturally found in various parts of the body. However, if you’re looking to add muscle or boost energy, you’re going to need a lot more than what your body produces on its own.
Dietary creatine can be found in red meat and fish, but the most efficient way to get creatine into your system is through supplementation.
3 Proven Benefits of Creatine
Creatine is arguably the most researched, tested, and proven supplement in the world. Since 1832, nearly 500 research projects on this amino acid have been performed by entities ranging from major institutions like Harvard and the Mayo Clinic to individual scientists with last names like Kreider and Kleiner.
Below, you’ll find 3 of the benefits which this rich body of research most strongly supports.
When you exercise, your body uses more energy than normal. In response, it burns fuel, like a train engineer throwing coal into the furnace. But your body can’t burn fuel that it doesn’t already have stored up.
Carbohydrates are the most common form of fuel your body uses. That’s why you’ve probably heard so much about “carbo loading” before intense physical activity. But if carbs are coal, creatine is gasoline. It burns faster and hotter, giving your body a powerful, fast energy boost.
Nearly 95% of the body’s creatine is stored in skeletal muscle, just waiting to be used. During high intensity exercise, your body draws on these stores in order to make ATP. This is the only energy producing process in the body which acts fast enough to fuel short, rapid bursts of energy like lifting weights and sprints.
Improves High-Intensity Exercise Performance
Creatine has been tested and proven time and time again to improve the performance of high-intensity interval training (HIIT). The next time you go to the gym and see people mixing powder in their shaker cup, it is a good bet that their pre-workout contains creatine.
A study published in 2009 involving a group of 43 active young men (average age: 22.6) tested the efficacy of creatine in HIIT training. After a period of four weeks, results showed that higher doses of creatine were correlated with longer, more consistent performance.
Speeds Muscle Growth
If gains are the goal, then creatine is your best friend.
Hundreds of peer-reviewed research studies show that supplementing your workout with creatine significantly improves your muscle mass. The average gain in mass associated with supplementing with creatine among these studies was 10-15%.
3 Other Possible Benefits of Creatine
New, lesser-known research has shown that creatine potentially has medicinal benefits for innate bodily infirmities. Though this research is still largely experimental, it suggests that creatine may also be useful for purposes other than improving exercise performance.
Improves Brain Function
It is theorized that creatine is able to aid brain function by improving and increasing your energy supply and adding an extra layer of protection to your neurons.
Studies appear to suggest that creatine can improve many facets of brain function including short-term memory, long-term memory, intelligence/reasoning, attention span, and word fluency.
However, it should be noted that conflicts and biases have been found in many studies aimed at exploring these effects, drawing their conclusions into question.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
In a 12-week study, researchers found that participants who used creatine, combined with exercise, exhibited better blood sugar levels than those who only exercised.
More research performed on humans is needed to definitively make the claim that creatine helps control your blood sugar level, but what we've seen so far is certainly promising.
A 6-month study of patients with traumatic brain injuries showed that those who supplemented with creatine had a 50% reduction in dizziness. In that 50% group of patients that did take creatine, only 10% experienced fatigue.
This suggests that creatine may be useful in helping people who are recovering from a recent brain injury.
Creatine is one of the most popular nutritional supplements on the market today. Its ability to improve athlete performance is irrefutable and its potential for aiding in improving ailments including neurodegenerative diseases is promising but still requires more research to confirm.