Creatine is one of the top supplements on the market when it comes to building strength and muscle. In fact, we would say it is the best supplement you can buy (legally) for increased strength and muscle.
It’s not just good for building muscle though, many people don’t know this but it can also help with brain function and depression.
Creatine is even something you might want to consider taking even if you are not looking to build muscle due to the mental benefits. Let’s take a deeper look into what creatine is and the benefits.
What is Creatine?
This answer can be a bit scientific but basically, creatine is a compound that is made in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. This compound helps us supply energy to our cells, mainly our muscle cells.
The chemical name for it is methylguanido-acetic acid. It is made from the amino acids L-methionine, glycine, and L-arginine. Your body produces much of its own creatine but you can also get it from the food you eat like red meat and fish
Creatine helps the body to regenerate ATP which is the bodies main source of energy. Using a creatine supplement increases your available fuel to power ATP, which can increase muscle size, strength, and power.
Creatine Builds Strength and Muscle
Creatine supplements are popular among athletes and weightlifters for its proven ability to increase strength. It’s not just in one study either, creatine is the most studied supplement on the planet. Why do they study it so much? Because it works.
It’s not just for increased strength though, it has also been proven to help build muscle. Of course, that shouldn’t really be all that surprising since when you increase strength your muscles will grow, I haven’t seen any strongmen that look like Pee Wee Herman. Big strength means big muscles.
If you are looking for the best supplement to increase strength and build muscle then creatine is the best choice you can buy today without question.
Creatine and Depression
While creatine is mostly known as a workout supplement to increase performance in weightlifters and athletes it has other effects that most people don’t know about, especially how taking creatine can help with depression and also mental function.
In this small 10 person study, the participants were given 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate per day for 4 weeks. 8 of the participants had depression and 2 of them had bipolar depression. Their mood was rated on 3 different rating scales before the taking creatine and weekly during the test. The results were that all of the participant’s scores improved significantly and there were no adverse effects from the creatine.
In this larger study, 52 women with major depressive disorder were split into two groups. One group was given an anti-depressant along with 5 grams of creatine and the other group was given the anti-depressant and a placebo. Changes were measured using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale. The results were that the group receiving the creatine ” showed significantly greater improvements” over the group that received the placebo. And they started seeing improvement in as early as 2 weeks.
Women Testing Better Than Men
It should be noted that while most women reported positive results with creatine supplementation the results are a bit more mixed when it comes to men. While many men saw benefits from taking creatine some reported having the reverse effect where the creatine actually worsened the depression and anxiety for them. Further research is needed to find out why this is the case for some men. If you find the creatine worsens your depression you should discontinue use immediately.
Creatine’s Effect on Memory and Intelligence
Not only does creatine have a positive effect on depression but it also helps your brain in terms of memory and intelligence.
In this study done in Australia by the University of Sydney and Macquarie University, 45 volunteers were given either creatine or a placebo over the course of 6 weeks.
They were then given tests on long memory sequences as well as IQ tests. The tests were also time for added pressure and the results were that the creatine performed better under both memory and IQ tests. Further testing needs to be done on this one to see if the mental boost is just a short-term benefit of creatine or if it improves mental performance long term as well.
Is Creatine Safe?
The short answer is yes, creatine is safe and it takes every day by millions of people around the world. There are some myth’s that persist that it is somehow unsafe and damages the kidneys but they are just myths.
One study looked at people taking creatine from 9 months to 5 years and did not find any adverse effects on renal function.
This study also found that long-term creatine use did not result in any kidney damage even when on a high protein diet.
Then there is also this study on the long-term use of creatine that says “data suggest that long-term creatine supplementation does not result in adverse health effect”
These aren’t the only studies either, there are lots of them out that say creatine is perfectly safe, and it is unless your kidneys are not functioning properly.
If you have any kidney issues you should check with your doctor before taking creatine. This is because a by-product of creatine is creatinine which is typically harmless and is flushed out by the kidneys. The problem comes in when the kidneys are not working properly and the creatinine can aggravate these problems. Therefore it may be unwise for someone with any kind of kidney or renal issues to take creatine without first discussing it with their doctor.