7 Amazing Benefits of Creatine You Didn’t Know About

by | 7 Nov 2023 | Nutritional supplements for health and fitness

So you are not a gym bro and not interested in becoming a beefcake? Fine. But did you know that creatine has MANY other potential benefits that go way beyond building muscle mass and improving physical strength? 

And some of them are quite mind-blowing!

Quick intro – what is creatine and how does it work?

Creatine is a natural compound found in foods like red meat, pork, and fish, and it’s also produced by our bodies in the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Additionally, you can obtain creatine through taking a creatine dietary supplement.

While creatine is traditionally associated with athletic performance and muscle-building, it’s becoming clear that its potential benefits extend far beyond sports.

For example creatine supplementation has shown great promise for increasing energy levels in the brain and improving mental health – including symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, cognition, focus and memory, as well as help with recovery after brain injury. It is even being explored in ageing, post-menopause management, neurodegenerative conditions and diabetes.

Creatine isn’t just about improving energy metabolism either – it also possesses robust antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This has led to exploration of its effects in reducing symptoms in a wide range of health conditions, ranging from epilepsy to inflammatory bowel disorder.

Below we dive into 7 of those lesser-known creatine benefits, plus added bonus sections on two of the most frequently asked questions in the creatine universe: What does creatine do for women? and Is creatine good for weight loss?

1.Creatine for brain function – improving cognition, memory & focus

Creatine has emerged as a potential tool for improving brain function and enhancing memory. One primary mechanism through which creatine is thought to boost cognitive function is by providing an additional source of energy to the brain.

The brain is an energy-intensive organ, and fluctuations in energy levels can affect cognitive processes, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving. Creatine’s capacity to enhance energy production in the cells may help maintain steady energy levels in the brain, potentially leading to improved focus and memory.

Moreover, creatine’s influence on neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine has sparked interest too. These neurotransmitters play essential roles in mood and cognitive function. Some research suggests that creatine might modulate the availability of those neurotransmitters, potentially improving brain function in this way.

Creatine reduces mental fatigue

Creatine holds the potential to reduce mental fatigue and boost cognitive performance in various taxing situations, including for example demanding study sessions or situations characterised by stress on the brain, like sleep deprivation or oxygen deprivation.

Mental fatigue can impact individuals in various scenarios, from students grappling with intensive study sessions to professionals tackling complex tasks. Creatine’s role in sustaining steady energy levels within the brain may help to enhance focus, concentration, and decision-making, making it beneficial for optimising cognitive performance and mental clarity during demanding circumstances.

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Creatine for ADHD – improving focus and impulse control

Emerging research has started to explore the potential benefits of creatine in managing symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which is characterised by symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

One primary mechanism through which creatine may be beneficial for reducing symptoms of ADHD is, once again, related to its role in brain energy metabolism. By stabilising and enhancing energy supplies in the brain it can support cognitive processes like attention and impulse control, which are often impaired in individuals with ADHD.

In addition, an increase in neurotransmitters such as dopamine by creatine (see previous section) might enhance the brain functions that are required for sustained attention and control of impulsive behaviour.

Creatine for managing epilepsy and seizures

Some studies have suggested that creatine supplementation could lead to a reduction in the frequency and severity of seizures in some individuals, including children.

The brain is highly energy-dependent, and imbalances in energy supply can trigger, or worsen, seizure activity. One way creatine may benefit individuals who experience seizures is by enhancing the production of energy in the brain. 

Additionally, creatine’s anti-oxidant properties may contribute to seizure reduction and protect the brain from negative consequences of seizures. Epileptic seizures can lead to cellular damage and oxidative stress in the brain. Creatine, as an antioxidant, has the potential to counteract these harmful effects by reducing oxidative damage, which may, in turn, help mitigate some of the triggers for seizures.

Creatine for gaming speed – could creatine enhance gaming performance? Benefits of regular or pre-gaming creatine supplementation

The use of creatine to enhance gaming performance has gained popularity as competitive gaming, also known as esports. While creatine is typically associated with physical sports and exercise, its effects on cognition and mental acuity have piqued the interest of gamers seeking a competitive edge.

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Creatine’s potential benefits for gaming performance revolve around its impact on energy levels in the brain. This could translate to better focus, quicker decision-making, and improved reaction times during gameplay. In essence, creatine might offer gamers the mental stamina and sharpness needed to excel in high-pressure gaming environments.

There are two possible approaches to creatine supplementation in the context of gaming. Regular creatine supplementation, taken over an extended period, could potentially help maintain consistent cognitive benefits. Alternatively, some gamers opt for pre-gaming creatine supplementation, taking a creatine supplement shortly before their gaming sessions to experience an acute boost in cognitive function.

2.Creatine for mood disorders – mental health benefits of creatine

Mood disorders are mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are the leading contributors to disability around the world. Recent estimates suggest that roughly 5 to 6% of the world’s population experiences symptoms of such disorders at any one time in their lives.

Research has shown that low levels of creatine in some parts of the brain, in particular the part of the brain called prefrontal cortex, may be linked to mood disorders. People with lower levels of creatine in their prefrontal cortex and other parts of the brain appear to have a higher chance of experiencing PTSD, depression, and anxiety. The findings of these studies suggested that taking creatine monohydrate supplements might help ease the symptoms and improve mental health.

Creatine for anxiety disorders – can creatine reduce anxiety?

Anxiety disorders, which are characterised by excessive worry, fear, and nervousness, have a significant impact on daily life. One potential way that creatine may be helpful is by optimising energy levels in the brain. The brain requires a lot of energy, and changes in energy levels can influence mood and anxiety.

By enhancing the production of energy within brain cells, creatine may help stabilise brain function and reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Additionally, anxiety disorders are often associated with oxidative stress and inflammation, and creatine can help to reduce damage caused by oxidative stress and potentially counteract the neurobiological processes associated with anxiety, promoting a calmer state of mind.

Individuals who experience high levels of anxiety in social situations tend to have lower levels of creatine in a specific area of their brain, the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is thought to be linked to states of anxiousness and worry.

With these findings in mind, increasing creatine levels in the prefrontal cortex and possibly other regions of the brain may aid in alleviating symptoms anxiety. For instance, one study showed that daily supplementation with creatine monohydrate (20 g per day) for four consecutive weeks led to an 8.7% increase in total brain creatine levels. This could be a promising approach for reducing anxiety symptoms.

Creatine for depression – can creatine treat symptoms of depression?

The potential role of creatine in the management of depression has gained interest in recent years. While creatine is not a standalone treatment for clinical depression, there is emerging research suggesting that it may offer additive benefits in improving depressive symptoms and outcomes of treatments.

Depression is a complex mental health condition that is associated with reduced brain energy levels and impaired cellular energy metabolism. Creatine plays a pivotal role in cellular energy production and may help address some of the energy deficits observed in individuals with depression. By enhancing brain energy levels, creatine could contribute to improved mood regulation.

Some studies have suggested that creatine supplementation, when used in combination with conventional antidepressant medications, can lead to better treatment responses. This combination may prove particularly valuable for individuals who do not fully respond to standard antidepressant treatments alone.

“While future research is needed to fully understand this relationship, these results provide support for previous findings, which indicate that increasing creatine concentrations in the prefrontal cortex may improve mood and well-being. (Faulkner, Paul et al. ‘Relationship between depression, prefrontal creatine and grey matter volume’)

Creatine for stress and PTSD – can creatine reduce stress levels?

While research in this area is still evolving, the preliminary evidence suggests that creatine may have a role in stress management.

Stress, whether due to everyday life challenges or triggered by traumatic experiences, can have profound physical and psychological impacts. One potential way creatine may aid in stress management is by supporting brain energy levels. Stress can deplete energy resources, impacting cognitive and emotional functions. As creatine helps to maintain stable energy levels in the brain, it can potentially help reduce the cognitive and emotional consequences of stress.

Additionally, creatine’s role as an antioxidant may be relevant in the context of stress. Oxidative stress and inflammation often accompany stress-related conditions. Creatine, with its antioxidant properties, can help mitigate oxidative damage and reduce the potential neurobiological effects of stress, contributing to an improved mental state.

3.Creatine for recovery from head injury or stroke

Traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) include sudden blows or jolts to the head as well as trauma to the head that happens following birth complications. Such brain traumas can lead to various cognitive and neurological impairments. Creatine’s neuroprotective and neuroregenerative properties make it a promising avenue for improving outcomes in TBI recovery.

Several studies have shown that creatine supplementation before or after birth complications or other TBI events is neuroprotective – in other words supplementing creatine before or after brain injury can improve outcomes and minimise the extent of cognitive and motor impairments.

One of the primary ways in which creatine may aid brain recovery from injury is through its ability to act as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Creatine can help to neutralise the so called ‘free radicals’ and other molecules that get formed AFTER the traumatic event and that contribute to further injury. By mitigating this later damage, creatine may enhance the brain’s ability to recover and repair damaged cells. 

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Creatine’s role in energy metabolism is another key aspect of its potential benefits in TBI recovery. The brain is highly energy-demanding, and ATP (adenosine triphosphate) molecule is essential for its proper function and recovery after injury. Creatine aids in the regeneration of ATP, providing the brain with an increased energy supply, which may help support repair and regeneration of brain tissue. This enhanced energy supply can be vital in promoting neural plasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt and rewire itself, which is crucial for rehabilitation following a TBI.

Although at present the evidence is still limited, use of high dose creatine supplementation for the management and protection of neonatal brain damage, concussion and TBI appears very promising.

Creatine and stroke recovery

After a stroke, the brain experiences damage due to reduced blood flow and oxygen supply, leading to various impairments. Creatine’s neuroprotective qualities and its role in cellular energy metabolism make it a compelling candidate for aiding in stroke recovery.

Similar to Traumatic Brain Injury (see section above) one of the key ways in which creatine may benefit stroke recovery is by acting as an antioxidant and reducing the damage to the brain induced by the so called ‘free radicals’. These are the molecules that can exacerbate brain injury following a stroke. By mitigating this secondary damage creatine may support the survival of brain cells in the affected area and potentially reduce the extent of neurological deficits.

Moreover, creatine’s role in cellular energy production can be vital in stroke recovery. It contributes to the regeneration of ATP (see previous section for explanation). This increased energy supply may help brain cells function more efficiently, promote their repair and recovery, and enhance the neural plasticity required for post-stroke rehabilitation and functional improvement.

4.Creatine benefits for metabolic syndrome and diabetes

Creatine for metabolic syndrome

Creatine is increasingly being studied for its potential therapeutic benefits in managing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health conditions that include high blood pressure, obesity, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol levels. These conditions often occur together and significantly increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Here, we explore the potential advantages of creatine in addressing metabolic syndrome.

One of the key ways in which creatine may benefit individuals with metabolic syndrome is by improving body composition. Metabolic syndrome often leads to excess body fat and a decrease in lean muscle mass. Creatine has shown potential in promoting muscle preservation and, in some cases, fat loss. By helping to shift the body composition towards more muscle and less fat, creatine may contribute to improved metabolic health.

Creatine’s impact on glucose metabolism is another area of interest. Studies have suggested that creatine supplementation may enhance insulin sensitivity, a critical factor in metabolic syndrome. Improved insulin sensitivity enables cells to more efficiently respond to insulin’s signals, leading to better control of blood sugar levels and reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a common complication of metabolic syndrome.

Additionally, creatine’s role in cellular energy metabolism may offer benefits. It supports mitochondrial function, the cellular energy powerhouses, and helps to enhance overall energy supply. This boost in energy can be particularly valuable for individuals with metabolic syndrome, as it can aid in reducing fatigue and promoting physical activity, which is essential for weight management and overall metabolic health.

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Potential benefits of creatine in type 2 diabetes

One of the key ways in which creatine may benefit individuals with diabetes and insulin resistance is by improving glucose and glycogen metabolism.

Studies have indicated that creatine supplementation can enhance the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which is a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. Enhanced insulin sensitivity allows cells to better utilise glucose for energy, reducing the risk of high blood sugar levels that are characteristic of diabetes and insulin resistance.

Furthermore, creatine’s potential to support mitochondrial function may also play a role in its beneficial effects. Mitochondria are the energy powerhouses within cells, and when they function optimally, it can contribute to improved energy metabolism. Creatine helps maintain mitochondrial health, possibly leading to improved glucose uptake and utilisation.

While more research is needed to fully establish creatine’s potential in managing metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, the current evidence suggests that it may provide a natural and promising approach to improve body composition, enhance glucose metabolism, and support overall metabolic health.

5. Creatine for ageing – benefits of supplementing creatine in old age

Creatine reduces age-related muscle loss and weakness

Creatine supplementation has garnered attention as a potential tool to combat age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, a condition known as sarcopenia. As people age, they often experience a decline in muscle mass and muscle function, which can have a significant impact on their overall quality of life. Creatine’s ability to address this issue is promising.

One of the primary mechanisms by which creatine combats age-related muscle loss is through enhanced muscle protein synthesis. Creatine facilitates the regeneration and repair of muscle tissue by increasing the availability of energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This additional energy supply can improve the muscle’s ability to recover and adapt to resistance training, helping to counteract muscle atrophy and weakness associated with ageing.

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Several studies have demonstrated that creatine supplementation, when combined with resistance training, can lead to significant improvements in muscle mass and strength in older individuals, compared to just exercise alone. This has important implications for maintaining functional independence and preventing frailty in the elderly.

Furthermore, accumulation of fat and obesity is a common occurrence as people age, often leading them to embark on diets aimed at shedding excess weight. Regrettably, attempts to lose weight often result in the unwanted consequence of muscle mass and strength reduction. This outcome is counterproductive at any age, but especially so for older individuals who might not be able to regain the lost muscle.

“Daily consumption of Creatine may improve the effect of resistance training on muscle strength in adults over 55 years of age” (European Food Safety Authority EFSA and the European Commission)

Utilising creatine supplementation in combination with a low calorie diet may present an effective approach for preserving muscle mass, facilitating fat loss, and addressing adult-onset obesity. A large study exploring the impact of creatine on body composition revealed that creatine supplementation not only supports the maintenance of muscle mass but also improves reduction of fat.

Benefits of creatine for older women – should older women supplement creatine to relieve symptoms of menopause, increase strength and prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures?

Creatine supplementation offers a range of potential benefits for older women, addressing several health concerns that become more prevalent with age. Firstly, creatine may provide relief from some of the bothersome symptoms associated with menopause, such as muscle weakness and fatigue. As women enter menopause, hormonal changes can lead to muscle mass loss and decreased energy levels. Creatine’s ability to enhance muscle strength and energy production can be particularly valuable during this phase, helping women maintain their physical vitality and quality of life.

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Secondly, creatine may play a role in mitigating the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures in older women. Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by weakened and brittle bones, which can lead to fractures and significant health complications. While creatine is not a direct treatment for osteoporosis, its impact on muscle strength and overall physical function can indirectly contribute to bone health. Strengthened muscles provide better support to bones and may reduce the risk of falls and fractures. Additionally, engaging in resistance training exercises, often more feasible with creatine supplementation, can further support bone density and mitigate the effects of age-related bone loss, thereby promoting healthier ageing in older women.

In summary, creatine supplementation holds potential as a valuable tool for older women seeking to alleviate the symptoms of menopause, increase muscle strength, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures.

6. The effects of creatine on the immune system

One of the more novel potential uses of creatine is its influence on the immune system. A number of experimental studies done on lab mice indicate that creatine has immunomodulatory effects. In this regard, several studies have reported that creatine supplementation may alter production of molecules that are involved in recognising and fighting infections.

One of the key mechanisms through which creatine exerts its anti-inflammatory effects is by modulating the body’s inflammatory response. Inflammation is a natural defence mechanism against injury and infection, but chronic or excessive inflammation can contribute to various health conditions. Creatine appears to regulate immune cells, reducing the production of pro-inflammatory molecules like cytokines.

This regulation helps maintain a balanced and controlled immune response, reducing the risk of chronic inflammation.

In addition to its direct anti-inflammatory action, creatine plays a role in enhancing the body’s internal antioxidant defence system. This includes increasing the levels of important antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismutase. By reinforcing this defence system, creatine can provide further protection against oxidative stress and inflammation.

Additional research is needed to understand creatine’s anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating effects, but it is clear that creatine can affect these pathways. 

7. Creatine for gastrointestinal inflammation and gut disorders

Emerging research suggests that creatine can positively impact the health of the gastrointestinal tract.

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Creatine has been shown to support the energy needs of the cells in the gut lining. The gut is a highly metabolically active organ, and adequate energy supply is crucial for its proper functioning and maintaining the integrity of the intestinal barrier.

Creatine’s role in supplying energy to cells, particularly during periods of stress or injury, may help enhance the gut’s ability to repair and regenerate.

Additionally, creatine has been found to modulate immune responses, possibly influencing the gut’s immune system. By regulating immune cell activities, creatine may help control excessive immune reactions that can lead to chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract and to chronic disorders such as colitis.

Bonus section 1: WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF Creatine for women?

So, what does creatine do for women? What are the potential benefits of creatine for women?

While often associated with athletic performance and muscle gain, creatine may help women by increasing overall physical energy, improving muscle strength and endurance, and supporting weight management.

Creatine can also play a role in enhancing cognitive function, potentially aiding in memory, focus, and reducing mental fatigue, which can be particularly beneficial for busy women managing multiple tasks. Additionally, creatine’s antioxidant properties may help in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, contributing to overall well-being.

Furthermore, some emerging research suggests creatine may alleviate specific health issues like menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis – weakening of bones often experienced by women, and mental health issues that affect women such as stress and anxiety (see sections above on the benefits of creatine for reducing anxiety and stress).

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Bonus section 2: Is creatine good for weight loss?

Creatine itself is NOT a typical weight loss supplement, but it can indirectly support weight management and fat loss through several mechanisms. Here’s how:

  • Increased Metabolism: Creatine supplementation can enhance muscle growth and strength, which, in turn, can boost your resting metabolic rate. A higher metabolic rate means your body burns more calories even when at rest.
  • Improved Exercise Performance: Creatine helps improve exercise performance, enabling you to engage in more intense workouts. This can lead to increased calorie expenditure during exercise and, over time, contribute to weight loss.
  • Muscle Preservation: When losing weight, it’s common to lose both fat and muscle. Creatine may help preserve lean muscle mass while reducing fat, ensuring that more of the weight lost comes from fat stores.
  • Enhanced High-Intensity Workouts: Creatine can help you push harder during high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or weightlifting, which is effective for burning calories and promoting fat loss.
  • Reduced Fatigue: Creatine may reduce exercise-related fatigue, allowing you to maintain longer workouts, potentially resulting in more calories burned.
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