Creatine was first discovered in the 1800's as an organic pre-protein compound found in meat. The scientific name for it is methyl guanidine-acetic acid. Synthesis of creatine takes place in the liver and kidneys by amino acids. It is then transported by the blood to other parts of the body for use by muscles. It is believed that our bodies are able to store up to 95 percent of the synthesized creatine in muscle tissue. In the 1900's creatine gained popularity as a natural aid to improve athletic performance and enhance muscle mass. Experts also believe that creatine plays a role in maintaining energy production in the brain. Creatine can be found in dietary sources such as meat products and dietary supplements.
For years creatine has been the favored ergogenic aid of sportsmen for enhancing sports performance. However, results from a recent study show creatine may not only be useful for beefing up muscle prowess; it may also be used to boost memory and general intelligence. The results from this new study hold promising news for businessmen, housewives, the elderly, and university students looking for boosted memory performance just before exams.
According to study results published in the British Journal of Nutrition, vegetarians showed marked improvements in memory after taking creatine supplement for five days. This indicates that people with lower muscle levels of creatine, typically vegetarians and vegans, may benefit the most from creatine supplements.1
The trial study recruited 121 young women, a mixed batch of vegetarians and omnivores. They were randomly given either a placebo or a creatine supplement (20 grams a day of creatine monohydrate) for five days. A battery of cognitive tests was performed both before and after the trial. Creatine supplements gave a quantifiable boost to memory power. The results showed that creatine supplements improved cognitive functions in vegetarian women by 40 percent, when compared to the placebo group. In both vegetarians and omnivores, creatine supplementation reduced the variability of the women in their responses to a choice reaction-time task.
Previous studies have also suggested the role of creatine in cognitive performance. Dr. Caroline Rae, who led a study on creatine supplements in 2003, believes that creatine increases the amount of energy available to the brain for computational tasks, thus improving general mental ability. In the study conducted on 45 young adults who were vegetarians, creatine supplementation showed a significant positive effect on both working memory and intelligence-tasks that require speed of processing. The findings underlined the dynamic role creatine plays in influencing brain performance.2
Phosphocreatine is a compound that acts as a reservoir of high-energy phosphate and may serve a role in neurotransmission. Levels of phosphocreatine are regulated by the enzyme, creatine phosphokinase, concentrated in the synaptic regions of the brain. High concentrations of phosphocreatine are found in the hippocampus, often referred to as the seat of learning and memory in the brain. Because of the uneven distribution of creatine phosphokinase, researchers believe that creatine does not work in a general way to improve brain functions. It may be able to improve certain aspects of cognitive functions and not others.
Other functions of creatine
Creatine is believed to:
- Help create energy in the body
- Help increase muscle mass, possibly due to its ability to draw water into muscle tissue, thus expanding its size.
- Creatine may have anabolic benefits. In this state, protein synthesis may occur at a greater level, maximizing benefits to muscle.
- Creatine is used to alleviate muscle soreness.
Creatine formulations include
- Creatine Monohydrate
- Creatine Ester Ethyl
- Creatine Citrate
- Ester Creatine, or Creatine Ester Ethyl Hydrochloride
Creatine delivery forms
Popular delivery forms include micronized creatine powders that dissolve quickly and completely in a liquid drink. Creatine supplements are found in liquid delivery forms as well. Creatine chews and creatine energy bars are also popular for loading and maintaining creatine levels in the body.
1. "The influence of creatine supplementation on the cognitive functioning of vegetarians and omnivores." British Journal of Nutrition, December 1, 2010; doi:10.1017/S0007114510004733.
2. Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial, Proc Biol Sci. 2003 October 22; 270(1529): 2147â€“215