How Creatine Can Improve Your Brain Function
While the benefits of creatine in improving muscle development have been known for a long time, more recently researchers have started to look into how it can influence the way that your brain functions. Interestingly enough, the more that we learn about it the more it seems that the cognitive benefits of creatine might help to improve performance just as much as its effects on your muscles do.
We’ve already talked at length about how how and why creatine supplements help you put on muscle mass and it has a very similar function for brain cells. Just like muscle cells, brain cells have a small store of phosphocreatine that can be resynthesized as adenosine triphosphate. Your muscles use the energy that ATP provides them to contract, but your brain cells use it to generate the electrical signals that communicate information between different parts of the brain.
The brain is an incredibly thirsty organ energywise, burning through 20% of your body’s total use every day. Even when you’re unconscious it still uses up large amounts of ATP for so-called “housekeeping” purposes, maintaining the health of brain cells and keeping the proper ionic balance that allows your neurons to continue to fire.
All of this goes on naturally, every second of every day. Obviously your body has things taken care of, so why do you need creatine supplements to help improve your brain function?
When you’re exercising hard, levels of phosphocreatine in your muscles drop sharply as they try to maintain the amount of ATP available and the same thing can be seen happening in your brain when you’re concentrating. Larger phosphocreatine reserves means more potential energy for your brain to work with, letting it process information and communicate with the rest of your body faster.
Having more fuel to work with also helps put off and prevent mental fatigue, the tiredness and distractedness that comes when your brain is overworked. This is particularly important for athletes as mental fatigue has been shown to decrease physical performance by lowering your tolerance for exercise. When your brain is tired everything seems like it takes a lot more effort and you might feel like you’re fighting to make your muscles move, or that your cardiorespiratory system is having to work harder than usual.
Because the vast majority of our dietary creatine comes from meat, vegetarians and vegans see even bigger benefits from supplementing with creatine than meat eaters do and they are often used for studying the effects of creatine so that the dosage can be controlled more easily. Studies have found that supplementing with between 2 and 5 grams of creatine a day was enough to see significant boosts to brain power, improved scores on IQ tests, and better verbal memory.
If you are planning to start taking creatine supplements you can easily track how your cognitive abilities are improving by using this simple test of your working memory. Take the test again after a few weeks of supplementing with creatine and compare it to how you did before, you’ll be surprised at the results!