Is Creatine an Underrated Supplement?
Creatine as Superfood - Physical, Cognitive and Mental Health benefits; Safety Profile; Dosage Recommendation
First, an index:
(So you’re not scared by the length of the post :D It’s, in fact, a short post + announcements)
Doug and Molly discuss the benefits of Creatine and its safety profile
Personal pro-tip on supplementing with creatine
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Update on Part 3 of the Aging: the what, the why, the fix series
Next, on to the fun sciencey stuff!
Doug: Hey Molly, did you see Chris Hemsworth’s body transformation?
Molly: Who’s that?
Doug: Oh Molly, you’re so far removed from popular culture. Anyway, if you’ve seen Thor or Avenger, he was the actor in those movies. He had this major body transformation last year when he went from being lean to very muscular and now he’s training to act as Hulk Hogan in his upcoming movie!
Molly: And you too want to look like Hulk Hogan, Doug?
Doug: Why, you don’t think I can do it, huh?
Molly: Hmm, all I’m saying is you might want to stick to being the lean investing nerd, you know. (The brain takes up a lot of energy.)
Doug: You’re saying I can’t be a muscular nerd? (Like Nassim Taleb1) Look, I know you’re doubting me Molly but I think I can do it, so hear me out! As I was doing my research, I came across this Reddit post that read “Chris Hemsworth is on a lot of creatine.” I’ve only anecdotally heard about creatine and it being taken by bodybuilders. Do you happen to know anything about it?
Molly: Creatine, aha! Yes indeed I do know something about it and am quite excited by its benefits! The short of it is that creatine benefits exercise performance, muscle recovery and even cognition. And it has proven to be quite safe and effective.2
Doug: Wow, you seem enthralled by it. It benefits exercise performance and cognition? Sounds like I can be a muscular double nerd!
Molly: That’s quite right! Let me tell you all about it..
Doug: Hold up, stupid question Molly, but uhh what exactly is creatine?
Molly: Ah, that’s actually a great question Doug! Creatine is a naturally occurring compound produced in the body by amino acids and plays a major role in energy production. It is found mostly in meat and fish, hence vegetarians especially tend to benefit a lot from supplementing with creatine.
Doug: I see..okay let’s just jump to how it will help me..
Molly: I knew it! First, for the purpose you’re thinking about - for people performing heavy resistance training or high-intensity training, creatine helps with improvement in lean mass and endurance strength. In fact, combining creatine with resistance training slows age-related loss in muscle mass, which is quite incredible since losing muscle is common with aging. And, it gets even better - creatine can help with muscle recovery post training too! So it’s this superfood that gives you more power during workouts and helps in post workout recovery.
Doug: That truly is a power-food! And you mentioned it has cognitive benefits too, right?
Molly: Oh yeah, how I could forget, I guess I may need to supplement with some creatine to improve my memory! Creatine may improve working memory, though likely only for those with below-average creatine levels such as vegetarians and the elderly. There are some studies that show how creatine helps with reduction in mental fatigue in cases such as demanding mental activity or sleep deprivation. However, there are also some studies that point to how creatine supplementation in healthy adults has no effect on cognition. Clearly, more research needs to be done on creatine’s impact on cognitive performance.
Doug: Woah, alright I’m convinced, do you have any recommendations on dosage when it comes to supplementation?
Molly: Wait Doug, there are some more potential benefits! I’m most excited by the fact that there is some research that indicates how creatine can help those suffering from depression. Some studies point to how it has potential neuroprotective effects against diseases such as Parkinson’s or ALS, and could be used as a treatment for traumatic brain injury as well.
Doug: That is remarkable. You know Molly, the more you teach me about nutrition science, the more I marvel at how much of an impact the foods we eat makes on our mental and physical health. It’s sad that we aren’t taught much about proper nutrition when food is such a core part of our lives.
Molly: I agree with you! There should be a good nutrition school that teaches us about our body’s need for micronutrients and how the food we eat impact’s our hormones and aging process. But it’s never too late - this is an area I hope to help people with! :)
Doug: You certainly are helping me, Molly! I already feel like I have a lot more energy thanks to you.
Molly: Aww Doug, these compliments are the reason I’m still with you :P
Doug: If that does it, so be it! Going back to supplementing with creatine, I know some people are worried that there may be side effects such as kidney damage and hair loss. Is there any research in that area?
Molly: Creatine dosage is actually very safe and well-researched. The biggest side effect to watch out for might be some weight gain and bloating which is most likely simply a result of increased water retention and gain in muscle - nothing to be worried about.
Also, not taking creatine with enough water may lead to stomach cramping, so that is something to watch out for. When it comes to people claiming it causes kidney damage, hair loss or gastrointestinal issues, all of the evidence is anecdotal and well-controlled clinical studies do not support the claims.
Doug: Got it, my worries are indeed abated. And now going back to the golden question: Ms. Molly, do you have any recommendations on how to supplement with creatine?
Molly: Creatine Monohydrate is widely available, cheap and effective. There are other forms of creatine which are safe too, however. A lot of people like to follow a loading protocol when it comes to dosage. What this means is that you initially load your body with 0.3gm per kg of body weight for the first week or so and thereafter supplement with 2.5g-5g daily.3
Doug: Wohoo, I can’t wait to have more power during my workouts and possibly feel mentally sharper! Molly, there is a Chris Hemsworth waiting to be unleashed in me!
Molly: Can’t wait for it, Doug!
Personal Pro Tip: I try to supplement with creatine daily, ideally before my workouts to get that extra zing when lifting or running. I’m not so sure it helps my cognition, but hey, that’s only an added bonus anyway!
I will sometimes add a bit to my protein shake post workout too (as I said, it helps with muscle recovery). However, if my workout tends to be later in the evening than I’d like and if I take creatine close to my bedtime, I notice that it sometimes dehydrates me and makes me wake up in the middle of the night to use the restroom. If I were you, I’d experiment with how your body reacts to creatine, but give it some time to get used to it. And my personal experience would suggest that maybe try not to take it at night.
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Looking for more such posts related to nutrition science or longevity foods that can have an impact on slowing aging?
Check out the following posts:
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Upcoming posts sneak-peak:
I had initially planned on continuing my Aging: the what, the why, the fix series and release Part 3 on Epigenetic clocks (a way to measure your biological age and time till death) this week, but I started my travels in Europe and didn’t find time to edit the post. Until then, if you haven’t already, it might be helpful to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the series. Part 3 should hopefully be out next week!
That’s it for now - be safe, healthy, and live longer world! :)