Creatine: To Supplement or Not To Supplement
Updated: Jan 7
Written by: Ranier Castillo, MS, RDN, ACSM-CPT
The ever-growing and vast industry of supplements is constantly searching for the next big thing to help people be at their most optimal when it comes to nutrition and physical health. Supplements such as whey and branched chain amino acids (BCAA) have exploded in order to improve muscular performance and physique.
Now, creatine is also taking into the spotlight. Creatine is an organic compound that can be found in meat. Humans are also equipped to make the compound themselves. So if humans can naturally make creatine, some might ask, Why do we need to supplement more? A simple answer to this question is it depends! Some folks would benefit from creatine supplementation and some could use food as a way to increase their creatine intake. This article will discuss the benefits of creatine and determine which form of creatine (supplement vs food) is recommended for you.
Increase of energy to the body
There are two possible sources of creatine: dietary consumption of animal-based proteins and endogenous production. Creatine participates in is the ATP-PCr System, which allows for greater increase of energy to the body and its tissues. This system allows certain muscles in the body to store creatine phosphate to quickly turn to energy which benefits explosive movements such as sprints or any Olympic lifts. Not only does creatine provide benefits to explosive exercises, but it also provides significant effects on other systems of the body, including cognition.
Help with brain function
Yes, that is correct. Creatine helps with your brain function! A decline of creatine levels of the brain is significantly related to an increased risk of dementia. As the human body ages, the pool of creatine might decrease as well. There are known impairments of motor skills and speech that are caused by creatine deficiencies, such as epilepsy. Although it is not fully understood, a high creatine pool will allow the body to initiate the ATP-Cr System and provide that energy for the brain and therefore, improve cognition. Hence, if dementia is a huge concern due to family genes or simply worrying about aging, creatine will be highly beneficial.
Benefits for older adults
When it comes to aiding in physical health, studies have shown creatine supplementation being very successful for older adults. Creatine supplementation can improve muscle integrity and muscle growth within this population. Very few studies have found muscle growth improvements within younger populations and that may be due to already having a high creatine diet and/or high endogenous production. Also, it can depend on the specific exercise. As noted before, creatine has been shown to improve explosive performances.
Who will benefit from creatine?
To summarize, who will benefit from creatine supplementation? Older adults, athletes who do explosive movements, vegetarians/vegans (Due to creatine only being found in animal products), and those who may be at a cognitive disadvantage. Creatine has not been proven to be the most optimal supplementation if you are looking to increase muscle mass compared to whey or other forms of protein.
However, it is important to note that creatine is important to have in your diet, regardless of supplementation or food intake, due to the physiological benefits. The recommended safe amount of creatine is about 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. After three consecutive days of intake, it is recommended to consume about three to five grams per day. That may seem like way too much to calculate. A simple solution is by using Meta Nutrition! You can ensure that you have enough creatine in your diet thanks to the food recommendations that will be provided for you (Vegan/Vegetarian Diets may vary). Check out Meta Nutrition and see if you can feel your cognition and performance improve!
Rae CD, Bröer S. Creatine as a booster for human brain function. How might it work? Neurochemistry International. 2015;89:249-259.
Buford TW, Kreider RB, Stout JR, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007;4:6.
Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016;116(3):501-528.
Kreider R. Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. 2003;244(1):89-94.
Chilibeck PD, Kaviani M, Candow DG, et al. Effect of creatine supplementation during resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscular strength in older adults: a meta-analysis. Open Access J Sports Med. 2017;8:213–226.
Jówko E, Ostaszewski P, Jank M, et al. Creatine and β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB) additively increase lean body mass and muscle strength during a weight-training program. Nutrition. 2001;17(7):558-566.
Sestili P, Martinelli C, Colombo E, et al. Creatine as an antioxidant. Amino Acids. 2011;40(5):1385-96.
Balsom PD, Soderlund K, Sjodin B, et al. Skeletal muscle metabolism during short duration highintensity exercise: influence of creatine supplementation, ActaPhysiologica. Scand.1995,154: 303-10.
Pilatus U, Lais C, Rochmont ADMd, et al. Conversion to dementia in mild cognitive impairment is associated with decline of N-actylaspartate and creatine as revealed by magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging. 2009;173(1):1-7.
Turner CE, Gant N. The Biochemistry of Creatine-Chapter 2.2. In: Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy; 2014:91-103.
Watanabe A, Kato N, Kato T. Effects of creatine on mental fatigue and cerebral hemoglobin oxygenation. Neuroscience Research. 2002;42(4):279-285.