Article At A Glance:
Creatine is one of the most widely used supplements in the sporting industry, and when it comes to scientific literature, one of the most researched too.
Well known for its ability to improve physical performance and increase muscle mass, and less known for its role in improving mood states and aiding cognitive performance.
These less known observations have opened the door toward a better understanding of brain energetics, and how brain levels of creatine impact the role of addiction.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a molecule that’s produced by the body through various amino acids and serves a primary role in energy production.
Creatine stores high-energy molecules known as phosphate groups, which are used to generate Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), one of the body’s most essential energy molecules.
Every action, movement or metabolic action requires ATP, and when we experience intense physical activity or increased mental demand, we generally benefit by having more.
Key Benefits of Creatine
While I can’t list them all, some key benefits of creatine are below. If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend visiting this page.
Due to the very high amount of research behind creatine in terms of power improvement, creatine is actually used as the reference compound.
Literature shows that creatine monohydrate is able to increase strength and power output between 12% to 26%, which is absolutely staggering (Rawson & Volek, 2003).
Creatine has been shown to assist the muscle in maintaining energy balance during long bouts of intense endurance exercise.
The use of creatine at around 8g daily for 5 days has been shown in individuals to reduce mental fatigue and increase brain oxygenation (Watanabe et al., 2002).
This is an interesting one, as we start to see the transition of creatine’s role in brain energetics, relevant to the topic at hand.
There’s a lot of promising research on creatine’s use in treating major depressive disorder, with most studies showing creatine to enhance selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant therapy (Lyoo et al., 2012).
Observations also tie into brain energetics for this one, which leads us on to the next topic of discussion.
Creatine and Addiction
A lot of the new research coming out now has started to underscore creatine’s role in brain health.
Our brain contains very metabolically active tissue, and according to the literature accounts for up to 20% of the body’s energy consumption (Roschel et al., 2021).
As we know now that creatine is a big deal when it comes to energy production, and energy deficits have started to show a link to brain creatine deficits or altered brain energetics.
Common populations who have altered brain energetics, according to the literature, are individuals with major depressive disorder, SSRI-resistant depression, and drug-exposed individuals (D’Anci et al., 2011).
Although the literature still isn’t very clear on the understanding of brain energetics and addiction, the evidence behind its supporting role in treating depression is strong (Lyoo et al., 2012).
Furthermore, the prevalence of depression in individuals with substance abuse is high, suggesting that creatine may serve as an important tool in the toolkit for someone battling alcohol or drug addiction (Conner et al., 2009).
Supplementing Creatine (and FAQs)
The most common, effective and affordable dose for most people is 5g daily.
For individuals with higher amounts of muscle mass and activity levels, 10g daily may also be beneficial.
I’ve heard it’s good to load creatine first.
There is a lot of literature on loading creatine, and although it may be beneficial, it is generally not required – read more here.
What is the best form of creatine?
Some of the most common forms of creatine include:
Creatine monohydrate is the most common and widely used form in most studies and is most recommended due to its fairly good safety profile and absorption rate.
Creatine HCl claims to be better due to its lower dosage ability, but studies don’t seem entirely clear on this one.
Creatine malate is bound to malic acid, which may have some evidence on its own as it relates to energy production (Wu et al., 2007), and due to this factor, may fall in second place behind monohydrate.
Creatine nitrate is bound to a nitrate (NO3) molecule, although it doesn’t appear to be more beneficial than creatine monohydrate (Galvan et al., 2016).
Buffered creatine (Kre-Alkylyn) claims to enhance the effects of creatine due to its “buffered” high pH level. Studies have shown it to be no more beneficial than creatine monohydrate (Jagim et al., 2012).
Creatine is extensively researched for its positive benefits in increasing exercise strength, and performance and assisting in cognitive function.
Newer research has started to suggest creatine’s important role in brain health, and more particularly, brain energetics.
Brain energy deficit states have been shown in individuals prone to addiction, underscoring creatine as a potential tool for people struggling with drug or alcohol abuse.
Clarity is here to help, so please use the resources we offer, and if you have any questions, do reach out.
- Conner, K. R., Pinquart, M., & Gamble, S. A. (2009). Meta-analysis of depression and substance use among individuals with alcohol use disorders. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 37(2), 127–137. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsat.2008.11.007
- D’Anci, K. E., Allen, P. J., & Kanarek, R. B. (2011). A potential role for creatine in drug abuse? Molecular Neurobiology, 44(2), 136–141. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12035-011-8176-2
- Dabidi Roshan, V., Babaei, H., Hosseinzadeh, M., & Arendt-Nielsen, L. (2013). The effect of creatine supplementation on muscle fatigue and physiological indices following intermittent swimming bouts. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 53(3), 232–239. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23715246/
- Galvan, E., Walker, D. K., Simbo, S. Y., Dalton, R., Levers, K., O’Connor, A., Goodenough, C., Barringer, N. D., Greenwood, M., Rasmussen, C., Smith, S. B., Riechman, S. E., Fluckey, J. D., Murano, P. S., Earnest, C. P., & Kreider, R. B. (2016). Acute and chronic safety and efficacy of dose dependent creatine nitrate supplementation and exercise performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13, 12. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-016-0124-0
- Jagim, A. R., Oliver, J. M., Sanchez, A., Galvan, E., Fluckey, J., Riechman, S., Greenwood, M., Kelly, K., Meininger, C., Rasmussen, C., & Kreider, R. B. (2012). A buffered form of creatine does not promote greater changes in muscle creatine content, body composition, or training adaptations than creatine monohydrate. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 43. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-9-43
- Lyoo, I. K., Yoon, S., Kim, T.-S., Hwang, J., Kim, J. E., Won, W., Bae, S., & Renshaw, P. F. (2012). A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Trial of Oral Creatine Monohydrate Augmentation for Enhanced Response to a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor in Women With Major Depressive Disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 169(9), 937–945. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2012.12010009
- McConell, G. K., Shinewell, J., Stephens, T. J., Stathis, C. G., Canny, B. J., & Snow, R. J. (2005). Creatine Supplementation Reduces Muscle Inosine Monophosphate during Endurance Exercise in Humans. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 37(12), 2054–2061. https://doi.org/10.1249/01.mss.0000179096.03129.a4
- Rawson, E. S., & Volek, J. S. (2003). Effects of Creatine Supplementation and Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Weightlifting Performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17(4), 822–831. https://doi.org/10.1519/00124278-200311000-00031
- Roschel, H., Gualano, B., Ostojic, S. M., & Rawson, E. S. (2021). Creatine Supplementation and Brain Health. Nutrients, 13(2), 586. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020586
- Watanabe, A., Kato, N., & Kato, T. (2002). Effects of creatine on mental fatigue and cerebral hemoglobin oxygenation. Neuroscience Research, 42(4), 279–285. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0168-0102(02)00007-x
- Wu, J. L., Wu, Q. P., Huang, J. M., Chen, R., Cai, M., & Tan, J. B. (2007). Effects of L-malate on physical stamina and activities of enzymes related to the malate-aspartate shuttle in liver of mice. Physiological Research, 56(2), 213–220. https://doi.org/10.33549/physiolres.930937
Former drinker, Nutritionist, Biohacking enthusiast, self-experimenter, research fanatic, and self-taught writer, Stephen immerses himself deep into the literature of human optimisation and better understand the nature of addiction. His goal is to help people take control of their addiction, reset their cravings, unscramble their broken brain circuitry and use actionable strategies that work ten times better than anything else.