What is creatine?

Creatine is a molecule that is produced in the body from amino acids. When we eat proteins, our body digest it and what is left are amino acids. There are 20 different types of amino acids, and they make up 75% of the body. They are involved in almost every body function. 

Creatine is made by 3 of the 20 amino acids in the liver, kidneys and pancreas. It is required to produce energy. Our brain is a very greedy organ when it comes to energy consumption. It consumes more than 20% of our total energy expenditure. Hence, the brain is found to have one of the highest concentrations of creatine. 

Our demand of creatine increases especially in the following conditions:

In cardiac surgery, high intensity exercises and vegetarian diets. 

Creatine can be found in some foods, mainly in meat and fish. Athletes commonly take it as a supplement to enhance their performance.

What are creatine’s benefits?

There is a real stigma in creatine supplementation. It is generally associated with bodybuilders and athletes. Most research is based on sports performance, and creatine undoubtedly improves strength and training capacity. Lesser known is creatine’s role in regulating energy in the brain. 

Creatine supplementation may be a safe and effective add-on treatment for brain-related disorders, such as Huntington’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease. Some studies suggest that creatine may reduce L-Dopa (a type of Parkinson medication) induced dyskinesia. Dyskinesia is a group of involuntary muscle movement disorders. This could range from a slight hand tremor to uncontrollable movement of the body’s extremities. 

Some other preliminary research includes:

  • A reduction in mental fatigue in demanding mental activity, sleep deprivation, and traumatic brain injury.
  • Mental disorders, such as psychological stress, schizophrenia, mood, PTSD and anxiety disorders. 

The role of creatine in cognition and mental illness is still in its infancy, but it is promising. The mode of action seems to be creatine’s ability to alter the brain energy production pathway. 

What are creatine’s side effects?

Stomach cramping, but this is easily avoided by drinking enough water with creatine. When taken too much, diarrhoea and nausea may occur. The typical recommended dose for a woman, is about 3g/day and 5g/day for man. 

Is creatine safe?

Most of the supposed dangers of creatine are unfounded. Caution should be exercised for people with reduced kidney function and must be avoided in renal failure and renal disorder.