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Could a common sports supplement be the answer to many other heath complaints?

  • May 27, 2024
  • 3 min read
Could a common sports supplement be the answer to many other heath complaints?

Creatine is perhaps the most widely tried and tested of all the sports supplements. It has been safely and effectively used by athletes and exercise enthusiasts alike for decades. However in the past few years there has been a growing body of research pointing towards its benefits in depression, perimenopause and age related fatigue and memory issues. It has also been known to help those with muscle cramps, long covid and multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s.

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance involved in the body’s energy cycle. It is primarily found in muscle cells in the form of creatine phosphate (PCr). During high intensity exercise, the body separates the phosphate molecule to generate adenosine triphosphate (ATP), known as the currency of energy. This will power the muscles to to generate more force. Creatine will also pull water into the muscle cells, which will increase protein synthesis, improving muscle strength, performance and size over time. PCr will also buffer the hydrogen ions that accumulate during this type of training, causing you to “feel the burn” and fatigue, allowing the muscle to work harder for longer and achieve greater power, strength and speed gains.

Women in particular benefit from creatine supplementation as they naturally have 70-80% lower creatine stores than men. This will not only benefit exercise performance but also brain health.

A 2021 study published in Nutrients, looked at creatine supplementation across a women’s lifespan and found positive changes to mood and cognition, possibly by restoring brain’s energy levels and homeostasis. This partially explains why it has also been so useful in mitigating the brain fog common in long covid, post viral fatigue, ME and perimenopause. According to the American Journal of Psychiatry adding a creatine supplement to antidepressant medication can speed up the efficacy in women with major depressive disorder. For some people antidepressants so not work at all. In these cases creatine can be incredibly beneficial at attenuating the symptoms.

Creatine is an amino acid found in animal protein. The kidneys and liver will synthesise approximately 1g per day, we use around 2g a day, so the rest is needed via the diet. However it is very hard to eat enough animal protein to accommodate this. This is where supplementing comes in. Creatine Monohydrate is the most effective and bioavailable, meaning you’ll absorb more of the nutrients. It is tasteless and can simply be mixed into water, a smoothie or even porridge. Traditionally athletes do a loading phase of 20g a day for around a week to get fast results. However this will come with a little water retention in the first few days. Some may even experience some gastrointestinal issues like bloating. This has perpetuated the myth that creatine makes people look bulky. However, with lower doses of 2-5g per day, you can reep the benefits without the bloat or the bulk.

About Author

Natalie Shanahan

Natalie Shanahan has a BSc in Genetics and a MSc in Bioinformatics. She worked as a lecturer, teaching genetics and biochemistry, before moving to Australia to work for their first Bioinformatics company. Here she managed their marketing as well as working on their numerous educational resources. Natalie left her career in science to follow her passion and now works as a personal trainer and nutrition consultant, helping individuals and employees of large organisations better understand their health and wellbeing.

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