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Creatine and Your Brain

One of the most popular and well-researched supplements, creatine, is often associated primarily with building muscle, athletic performance, and high school boys carrying gallon jugs of water. Creatine is a compound naturally produced by the body and plays a crucial role in energy metabolism.


Recently, creatine is increasingly recognized for what it can do for your brain and cognitive function. In this article, we'll dive into the science behind creatine's brain-boosting effects, explore how it works, and what research says about its use.


Spoiler alert: you should be taking creatine.


Understanding Creatine

Creatine is a molecule that is naturally produced in the human body, synthesized from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine in a two-step process. The first step occurs in the kidneys, where glycine and arginine combine to form guanidinoacetate. This molecule then travels to the liver, where it receives a methyl group from methionine to become creatine.


Once formed, creatine is transported through the bloodstream to the body's tissues, and stored predominantly in skeletal muscles. Your body also stores a significant amount in the brain, heart, and other tissues with high energy demands.


Creatine plays a crucial role in energy metabolism. It's involved in the creation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy currency of cells. ATP is used to power a variety of cellular processes, from muscle contraction to nerve impulse propagation.


When ATP is used for energy, it loses one of the 3 (tri) phosphate groups, becoming adenosine diphosphate (di = double, or two). Creatine phosphate can donate its phosphate group to the ADP to quickly regenerate ATP (in other words, go back from 2 phosphate to 3 phosphate) becoming available for more consumable energy.


While the body can produce enough creatine to meet its basic needs, dietary intake of creatine from meat and fish, as well as supplementation, can increase the body's creatine stores, particularly in the muscles. This is why creatine supplements are popular among athletes and bodybuilders.


Creatine and Brain Energy Metabolism

The brain is an energy-intensive organ. It constitutes about 2% of body weight but consumes approximately 20% of the body's total energy. This energy is essential for maintaining brain cell function, including neurotransmission, ion transport, and maintaining cell health.

Creatine enhances brain energy capacity by increasing the availability of ATP. This is particularly important during periods of high brain activity or stress, where the demand for ATP increases. By providing a readily available source of energy, creatine can help maintain optimal brain function.


Creatine and Brain Energy Metabolism

The brain is an energy-intensive organ. It constitutes about 2% of body weight but consumes up to 25% of the body's total energy (I'm sure you have friends and family who are closer to 5% but that's for another time). This energy is essential for maintaining brain cell function, including neurotransmission, ion transport, and maintaining cell health.


Creatine enhances brain energy capacity by increasing the availability of ATP. This is particularly important during periods of high brain activity or stress, where the demand for ATP increases. By providing a readily available source of energy, creatine can help maintain optimal brain function.


Creatine and Cognitive Function

Several studies have shown that creatine supplementation can improve cognitive function. A study published in Psychopharmacology found that creatine supplementation improved performance on tasks requiring speed of processing and working memory in healthy young adults. Another study in Neuropsychology found that creatine supplementation improved cognitive performance in the elderly, particularly in tasks that required a higher cognitive demand.


These cognitive enhancements are likely due to creatine's role in energy metabolism. By increasing the availability of ATP, creatine can support the high energy demands of cognitive processes, leading to improved mental performance.


Creatine and Brain Health

Beyond its cognitive benefits, creatine also has neuroprotective properties. It can help maintain brain health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, factors that can contribute to neurodegenerative diseases.


A study in the Journal of Neurochemistry found that creatine supplementation reduced neuronal cell death by 50% in a mouse model of Huntington's disease. Another study in the Annals of Neurology found that creatine supplementation slowed the progression of Parkinson's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the death of dopamine-producing neurons.


The Synergistic Effects of Exercise and Creatine

While creatine alone can enhance brain health and cognitive function, its effects can be amplified when combined with regular exercise. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, delivering more oxygen and nutrients necessary for optimal brain function. It also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and the formation of new connections between brain cells, enhancing cognitive function and memory.


Conclusion

Creatine is a powerful supplement for brain health and cognitive function. It enhances brain energy metabolism, supports cognitive performance, and has neuroprotective properties. While it's naturally produced in the body, supplementation can provide additional benefits, particularly in individuals with lower creatine levels, such as vegetarians and the elderly.


You can grab some from here, or visit our friends at Healthspot in Fishers, Greenwood, or Avon.


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