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Creatine


creatine molecule

Overview

Creatine is perhaps the most studied sports supplement in the world. It’s a non-essential substance that the liver makes, which is stored in muscle and brain tissue to support energy demands.

Creatine stores can be increased with supplementation, which subsequently increases a tissue’s ability to make energy under demanding circumstances. Creatine increases strength and power in athletes and also supports cognitive function, particularly in vegetarians and the elderly.

Additionally, limited evidence suggests creatine may offset some of the fatigue of sleep deprivation.

Given the fantastic safety profile of creatine and that it’s something we endogenously produce, creatine is typically something we recommend supplementing.

Essential Information

Dosing Creatine

3-5g Daily should be sufficient to raise creatine stores to their maximums after 6-8 weeks, after which 3-5g can be used as a maintenance dose.

Optionally a load phase of 20g for 5 days in 4 doses of 5g per day, followed by a 3-5g maintainence dose will raise stores more quickly.

Which Form To Choose?

Creatine monohydrate is the most inexpensive and best studied form of creatine. While many expensive alternatives have come onto the market, they fail to prove themselves superior, as creatine monohydrate raises tissue creatine stores to the maximum. If looking to go the extra mile, consider Creapure, which is a German manufactured creatine monohydrate that is scrupulously tests for heavy metals and contaminants.

Creatine In A Nootropic Stack

Creatine could realistically fit into any nootropic stack as it’s got a unique mechanism of action, which other nootropics don’t cover. Creatine is cheap, safe, something we endogenously produce. 3-5g of creatine monohydrate daily will ensure optimal body stores. If you’re vegetarian, elderly or eating a low meat diet, consider creatine a priority before other nootropics.

Editors note: In short, take 3-5g of pure creatine monohydrate. Don’t waste your money on expensive alternatives. Creatine should be considered for all nootropic stacks.

Relevant Articles 

1. Enhanced ATP Synthesis and Cognition with Creatine
2. Start Easy – Go For The Low Hanging Fruit

Creatine Structure and Stores

creatine molecule

Creatine is classed as non-essential, as the liver can form creatine from arginine, glycine and methionine [1].  However maximal stores are achieved through dietary intake, such as meat or creatine supplements, evidenced by the fact that vegetarians have lower creatine stores than omnivores.

Creatine is stored in tissues that have high energy demands, due to its supporting role in ATP synthesis. Around 95% of creatine stores are located within muscle [2] with 0.5% of muscle tissue by weight comprising of creatine. The brain also contains large stores of creatine with approximately 0.14% of brain weight comprising of creatine.

Absorption and Sources

Creatine is very well absorbed after oral ingestion, with around 90-100% bioavailability. [3]

Creatine is found in various animal based foods, with muscle meat having the highest concentrations.  Beef contains around 4-5g creatine per uncooked kilo [4] while chicken and rabbit contains 3.4g per kilo [5]

Creatine Benefits

Muscular Power and Strength

A meta-analysis of 16 creatine studies sought to answer if creatine increases maximal strength. Increases of 5-8% strength in bench press and 3.3-16% in squats were noted. [6] This on average, translated to a 6.85KG bench and 9.76KG squat improvement.

Similar strength increases have been found in other studies. [7][8]. As has an increase in jumping performance [9][10] and swimming performance [11]

Cognitive Function

5g / day creatine for 6 weeks increases vegetarian’s cognitive function, as measured by ravens advanced progressives matrices (a standard measure of non-verbal IQ) and backward digit span test.  [12].  Similar research showed an improvement of memory after a 5 day loading phase of 20g / day, however omnivores saw no benefits save for reaction time.[13]

Editors note: Creative reliably increases muscle phosphocreatine content and thus supports ATP synthesis and energy demands, the same principle be extended to brain tissue and meeting the brains energy demands. Vegetarians will typically see larger increases than omnivores due to lower creatine stores in tissues.

A supplement of 8/g day for 5 days reduced fatigue during a mathematical task. Researchers noted increased cerebral oxygenation, which would suggest increased energy turnover.  [14]

In the elderly, creatine was found to improve spatial recall, forward and backward digit span and long term memory. This was following a load phase of 20g/day creatine for 5 days.  [15]

Fatigue From Sleep Deprivation

To date, two studies have been conducted with creatine and the effects of sleep deprivation.  A small study involving 20 young males, “loaded” 20g of creatine for 6 days prior to sleep deprivation. The creatine group performed better than placebo, but only after 36 hours of sleep deprivation. No significant changes in behaviour or hormones were noted. [16]

A similar study also found creatine supplementing subjects to be superior to placebo with mood, reaction time and balance. No differences were noted in cortisol or adrenaline between the creatine and placebo groups.  [17]

Editors note: Creatine would appear to support cognition in healthy non-vegetarians, but only when there’s some form of deficit, such as sleep deprivation.

Creatine’s Mechanism Of Action

Increasing Cellular Phosphocreatine

Oral creatine consumption reliable increases muscle phosphocreatine content following either a load phase of 20g for 5-7 days [18][19][20] or a more prolonged consumption of 3-5g [21][22][23].

Increased ATP Synthesis

The body has a number of ways of generating energy, including glycolysis, lipolysis and the ATP-PC (creatine) system. Each of these systems has an optimal times where they are strongest.

energy systems

From fastest to slowest; Immediate ATP stored in tissue, followed by ATP replenished by creatine, (ATP-PCr system), followed by the glycolytic “carbohydrate” system, and finally followed by the aerobic system.

 

Creatine supplementation essentially increases the phosphocreatine reserves of high-energy tissues, such as muscle and brain tissue and literally lends a hand at energy production when ATP stores have been depleted.

Editors note: Creatine is most relevant for short term bursts of energy. Which is why supplementation is more relevant in power and weightlifting than in aerobic dominant endurance events, such as marathon running.

Creatine’s Safety and Side Effect Profile

Creatine is perhaps the most studied sports supplement with literally hundreds of papers published on its efficacy.  Creatine has been extensively studied and has been found to be safe and devoid of side effects.  The EFSA have issued a statement that 3 grams / day of creatine is unlikely to pose any risk.[24]

Research into patients with ALS showed 10 grams / day of creatine had low side effects. [25] with the main noted effects being GI related.

Research involving college football players found no long term detrimental effects on liver or kidney function. [26] A short term study with football placers looked at missed practices, muscle cramping and injury rates and found no detrimental effects of creatine [27]

References Used

[1] http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/ConditionsAZ.aspx?ChunkID=21706

[2] http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient-creatine.html

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17997838

[4] http://examine.com/supplements/Creatine/#ref5

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9160426

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12485548

[7] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21744011

[8] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22080314

[9] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21941005

[10] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18545204

[11] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19706374

[12] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1691485/pdf/14561278.pdf

[13] http://img2.timg.co.il/forums/1_161120651.pdf

[14] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11985880

[15] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17828627

[16] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17046034

[17] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16416332

[18] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21744011

[19] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18156666

[20] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15673098

[21] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14967873

[22] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14600563

[23] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14507259

[24] http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/doc/36.pdf

[25] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15795816

[26] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12500988

[27] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12701814