Creatine monohydrate has been a very popular sports nutrition supplement since the 1990s for good reason. The benefits of using creatine to increase strength and performance are undeniable and have been experienced by millions of users all over the world. However, the perks of creatine are vast and go far beyond just improving fitness performance. Below are seven impressive assets of consuming creatine that many are not aware of.
1. Creatine lowers inflammation from intense exercise
Chances are if you’re a fan of my work then you love engaging in intense training. While intense exercise has numerous benefits it also can increase inflammation greatly which has many negative ramifications. In addition to improving training performance, creatine supplementation has also been shown to attenuate exercise-induced inflammation.
One study looked at markers of exercise-induced inflammation after a 30-kilometer race. One group took twenty grams of creatine and fifteen grams of maltodextrin daily for five days. The Control group had a huge increase in lactate dehydrogenase, a sixfold increase in prostaglandin E2, and levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha doubled. In the Creatine group, “supplementation attenuated the exercise-induced changes observed for creatine kinase by 19%, for prostaglandin E2 by 61%, and for tumor necrosis factor-alpha by 34%, while entirely negating the increase in lactate dehydrogenase plasma concentration observed in the control group. The researchers concluded, “These results indicate that creatine supplementation reduced cell damage and inflammation after an exhaustive, intense race.” Link to study
2. Improves Brain health
A six-week study involving adult vegetarians showed that five grams of creatine taken daily for six weeks improved the participant’s scores on a variety of tests assessing intelligence and working memory. Researchers theorize that creatine’s positive effects on cognition may be due to its ability to ramp up cellular energy in the brain. Researchers also stated that while creatine supplementation may have a less dramatic effect in meat eaters who derive some creatine from their diet, it is likely still very beneficial for meat eaters as well. Especially those that don’t consume large amounts of red meat which is the most abundant source of dietary creatine.
3. Lowers Myostatin
Myostatin is a regulator of muscle mass. People with very low levels of myostatin put on muscle very easily while those with very high levels of myostatin have a very difficult time increasing muscle mass. In a study from 2010 two groups engaged in a resistance training regimen. One consumed creatine and the other did not. Both groups experienced a decrease in myostatin (intense training lowers myostatin). However, the group consuming creatine experienced a greater decrease in myostatin levels. Thus, if you have a hard time putting on muscle, creatine supplementation is something you should consider seriously. Link to study
4. May help those with Parkinsons disease
People with Parkinson’s experience a big drop in the neurotransmitter dopamine which in turn has a very negative impact on cognition and motor skills. Dopamine is a very important neurotransmitter that is crucial for mood, sex drive, and ambition. Those with higher levels of dopamine are more goal driven and industrious.
One study revealed that creatine may help impede the big drop in dopamine that those with Parkinson’s experience. In addition “oral supplementation with creatine or cyclocreatine, which are substrates for creatine kinase, may increase phosphocreatine (PCr) or cyclophosphocreatine (PCCr) and buffer against ATP depletion and thereby exert neuroprotective effects.” Link to study
5. Fights of neurological diseases and improves cognition in the elderly
Creatine supplementation increases phosphocreatine and it has been theorized that neurological decline is in part due to a significant drop in phosphocreatine levels. Also, “Several studies have demonstrated that in older adults, short-term high-dose creatine supplementation, independent of exercise training, increases body mass, enhances fatigue resistance, increases muscle strength, and improves the performance of activities of daily living.” Thus in addition to improving cognitive abilities in older populations, creatine also helps with energy and activities involved with daily living.
6. Improves blood sugar levels
Creatine lowers blood levels of glucose by taking sugar into the muscles. Thus, creatine helps with glucose disposal and in turn may be very beneficial for those with insulin resistance or anyone that wants to avoid insulin resistance. Insulin is a master control hormone and keeping insulin sensitive is imperative for overall hormone optimization. Insulin is the most anabolic hormone around and keeping it functioning optimally is a must for not just optimal health but muscle-building and physique composition goals.
7. Increases DHT
In a study with rugby players, loading up with creatine for 7 days at 25 grams per day with 25 grams of glucose experienced a 56% increase in Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) levels! Link to study
DHT is several times more powerful than testosterone and is crucial for optimal male sex drive and function. See the article I wrote on DHT at DHT article
Regarding the connection between DHT and hair loss, in my opinion, it is only a problem if you have a genetic predisposition to hair loss. In other words, you can have high DHT levels and not experience hair loss if you don’t have a genetic predisposition. I have high DHT levels and at age 44 my hairline still begins in the middle of my forehead like Eddie Munster.
If you have a genetic predisposition for hair loss then blocking DHT receptors in the scalp but not elsewhere may help protect against hair loss. A good DHT-blocking shampoo is DHT-blocking shampoo
What you don’t want to do is take any systemic DHT blocker unless you don’t mind being a eunuch with no sex drive and function and a terrible mood as a bonus.
How should I use Creatine?
Make sure to use a high-quality option such as Creapure. It is 100% pharmaceutical grade free of contaminants. Vitacost has a good option for Creapure at Creapure purchasing option
You don’t need to do a loading phase and can simply start taking five grams a day and continue to do so indefinitely. The loading phase may be useful if you have never taken creatine before or haven’t taken it in a while and want to restore creatine levels as quickly as possible or to increase levels rapidly.
There does not seem to be any benefit of cycling creatine but taking a break from time to time is never a bad idea. I have been taking creatine on and off since 1994 and I think it is amazing stuff. In addition, those who don’t eat large portions of red meat which is the highest source of creatine are likely low in creatine and can benefit immensely. Even if you do consume red meat you would have to take in copious amounts to get the benefits of taking five grams from supplementation.
Five grams a day mixed in hot water or tea is the best way to consume creatine for maximum absorption and to avoid any GI distress. The latter is generally due to consuming poor quality creatine supplements but can still happen even with high-quality options such as Creapure. Mixing Creapure in hot water or tea will ensure it is completely dissolved and more amenable for maximum absorption.
The loading phase may be useful if you have never taken creatine before or haven’t taken it in a while and want to restore creatine levels as quickly as possible or to increase levels rapidly.
Finally, creatine is useful for both men and women.