Creatine Monohydrate

Summary

The stereotype for creatine is that this supplement is best used by athletes and bodybuilders to get bigger and stronger. While creatine can help increase size and strength, this is a small fraction of the benefits of creatine.

Many of the hundreds of creatine monohydrate studies show how useful the compound can be for improving brain function in young and elderly alike. Because creatine is naturally found in food [1] and helps to produce ATP (energy), it is incredibly neuroprotective and helps to prevent neurological decline in old age [2].

Creatine does not help in acute situations, but must be saturated in the body. Once this is done, it can help to reduce symptoms of fatigue [3], support cognitive function during sleep deprivation [4], and even helps with mood disorders like depression [5].

Also Known As

creatine, creatine 2-oxopropanoate, a-methylguanidinoacetic acid

Editors’ Thoughts on Creatine Monohydrate

Ever since I heard Jesse Lawler from Smart Drug Smarts mention that creatine monohydrate was one of the most recommended nootropics [6] that everyone can benefit from, I was fascinated. It changed my perspective from creatine being purely for bodybuilders and athletes to also being a general neuroprotective and cognitive enhancer.

I have been taking creatine monohydrate for nearly two years now and it is definitely one of the best decisions I have made. I am physically active so it has helped me with both recovery (from difficult workouts and injury) as well as increasing my strength.

The cognitive advantages are far more difficult to feel per se, which I cannot say that I have. However, this is one of the few compounds that has a significant portion of positive research so I trust the research for my brain.

Alongside fish oil / omega-3 DHA and EPA, creatine is probably one of the top three best drugs for general protection for your brain and many of the side effects are overblown. I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone.

Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor

creatine monohydrate

Creatine Monohydrate Benefits

Given that Americans (and many other people) are chronically tired and underslept [7], one of the most profound creatine monohydrate benefits is reduced fatigue and tiredness. One study showed creatine monohydrate reduces fatigue in those with traumatic brain injury by nearly 90% [8]. This happens because brain cells have more ATP (energy) to operate, which helps even in the case of sleep deprivation.

Another benefit of creatine is increased cognitive abilities. One study showed that creatine monohydrate could help to increase mitochondrial health (a part of each cell that produces energy), which aided in neurogenesis and creating neuronal growth [9], which basically means it helps enhance the number of connections in the brain.

Looking at all the gym rats you may have never considered that creatine can reduce depressive symptoms [10]. While it isn’t necessarily the next antidepressant, people who exhibit some symptoms can see relief by using this compound.

However, perhaps the most interesting benefit of creatine is what it can do for memory, learning ability, and general cognition. Those who have diets low in meat (especially vegans and vegetarians) have no dietary creatine, but supplementation can drastically improve mental performance [11].

A similar lack of creatine is seen in many elderly patients so many older people can improve their memory and prevent neurological decline [12] (such as Alzheimer’s disease and senile dementia) when they take creatine monohydrate.

Obviously there are benefits for increasing strength and muscle mass, but we will leave that to the strength and conditioning people to discuss.

How Does Creatine Work?

Creatine is not a molecule that you or anyone else is unfamiliar with. This molecule is found in many products that we eat (mostly meat), but even vegans and vegetarians create their own creatine.

It is a necessary compound that aids in the production of energy within each of our cells both in the body and the brain. Because of this, creatine supplements make our cells more powerful and capable of handling our challenges.

In practice, creatine increases creatine levels in a part of the cell called mitochondria, which is the energy producing factory of each cell. This helps creatine to increase oxygenation and blood flow to the brain [13], for example.

This means that creatine monohydrate must be saturated within the cells to provide any kind of benefits. Many people use a “loading phase” in order to load creatine into cells quickly at the beginning or it just takes a few weeks to start working.

Side Effects of Creatine Monohydrate

The most commonly cited side effect of creatine monohydrate is that it can overwork and harm the kidneys. It is a scary myth propagated for many years, but it is not true.

Many studies of creatine regarding the kidney show that there is no correlation with kidney damage and creatine supplementation. One study of people who already had kidney damage (via ALS) showed that a year of 5 – 10 grams of creatine (up to twice the recommended daily dosage) had no adverse effect on their kidney [14].

Other studies showed postmenopausal women [15], type II diabetics [16], and otherwise healthy elderly [17] or young [18] individuals had no negative side effects.

Beyond the kidney distress argument, which is obviously not true, other creatine monohydrate side effects include gastrointestinal distress. People complain of frequently needing to use the bathroom (especially during the loading phase).

Creatine Monohydrate Dosage

There are two main creatine monohydrate dosage recommendations that you can take, but both come from the same school of thought.

  • Loading Phase – a loading phase of creatine consists of 20 grams per day for around 7 days in order to saturate the cells with creatine. This may lead to a higher likelihood of gastrointestinal distress.
  • Normal Dosage – if you aren’t interested in the loading phase, the normal dosage is 5 grams per day and it will take 10 – 14 days before you experience any notable differences via creatine supplementation.

Where and How to Buy Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine is ubiquitous both on the internet and at nearby grocery stores. It is arguably one of the most popular supplements that you can find. A basic creatine monohydrate product will probably serve you the best and there is no need to seek specific unique formulas.

Despite what much of the marketing hype might say, creatine monohydrate powder alone is the best bet for seeing these advantages. Many other types of creatine exist, such as creatine nitrate, creatine magnesium chelate, creatine citrate, and creatine hydrochloride. None of them are as well-studied or effective as creatine monohydrate.

In fact, the creatine ethyl ester version of creatine is worse than monohydrate and does not provide nearly the same benefits as the simple monohydrate option.

Finally, when buy creatine monohydrate online, it is important to find products that are not filled with a bunch of other ingredients. Sometimes you can purchase creatine online and the product will be filled with caffeine and other workout supplements. You might find creatine for sale, which is appealing in the marketing, but stick to the basics.

Our recommendation is to buy creatine on Amazon as it provides the most affordable prices. Here is a standard recommended product by Optimal Nutrition, which we use personally.

Common Creatine Questions

Click to Expand Questions & Answers

Q: Do you need to cycle creatine?
A: No

Q: Is creatine a steroid?
A: No. Creatine is more similar to an essential vitamin or mineral than a steroid.

Q: Can creatine cause cancer?
A: No. There is no scientific link between creatine and any form of cancer. There is some evidence to suggest creatine might help to combat oxidative stress (which leads to cancer).

Q: Does caffeine counteract creatine?
A: There does not to be any indication this is the case.

Q: What happens if I go off of creatine?
A: One study found no loss of muscle strength or mass when going off creatine.

Q: Does creatine cause kidney problems?
A: In general, no. If you have healthy kidneys, it should not be a problem. Anyone with a medical condition should speak to a doctor beforehand.

Q: Is creatine safe?
A: Yes. It is one of the most well-researched compounds.

Q: When should I take creatine?
A: Any time. There is no difference when it is consumed during the day.

Q: Does creatine cause baldness?
A: It may increase baldness in men who already have Male Pattern Baldness. Studies are not yet conclusive, however.

Selected Community Experiences

I definitely noticed an improvement in mental clarity and sharpness (I’m a vegetarian btw) which is why I kept taking it (originally started taking it for weightlifting, got busy stopped working out).” [19] – titusrevised

“I’m a vegetarian and take it for the combination of workout and cognitive benefits. I feel like I get some extra mental stamina through the course of the day from it, but haven’t gone to the trouble of measuring or tracking.” [20] – incredulitor

References (Click to Expand)
  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9160426
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11779131
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16416332
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21118604
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17988366
  6. http://www.tropicalmba.com/potent-quotables-dc-ber-speakers/
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18053002
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18206856
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8988971
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18579168
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21448658
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18428021
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15534251
  15. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20976468
  16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15795816
  17. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18188581
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18685526
  19. https://www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/1ef4oc/anecdotal_creatine_warning/
  20. https://www.reddit.com/r/Nootropics/comments/3r8rqd/creatine_as_nootropic/

Author

Nootropedia provides research-driven and accessible nootropics information. Don’t be in the dark about nootropics.