Does Creatine Improve Memory?

TL;DR Article Summary

Creatine shows promise in enhancing memory in older folks. It also aids cognitive function when you’re sleep deprived and/or stressed. [2]. However, claims that creatine helps with Parkinson’s are unproven. While creatine is safe and beneficial for both your body and mind in small amounts, it’s not a magical nootropic, and benefits may not be noticeable at all.

Understanding Creatine

What is Creatine?

Creatine is essentially fuel for our muscles. It helps athletes perform better in sports by giving extra energy, which becomes evident during strenuous physical activities. But it’s not just our body that uses creatine, but our brain, too. Supplementing it may confer some cognitive benefits, the degree of which depends on the dosage and your unique biochemistry.

Sources of creatine in the diet

Meat and fish are the best sources of creatine in nature. Some people also supplement it, which is helpful if you’re exercising hard and often, or if you’re a vegan.


Creatine’s Role in the Brain

How does it work?

Like any other part of our body, the brain needs energy to work. In fact, it’s estimated that our brain consumes up to 20% of our body’s total energy expenditure – despite weighing only around 3lbs.

Adding creatine to your supplement regime can help fuel your brain cells, helping you to remember things better and focus for longer.


The Vegetarian Connection

Memory and Meat-Free Diets

Since meat is one of the main sources of creatine, you might ask, “do vegetarians have less creatine in their bodies?” It might be the case if we’re not taking any creatine at all, but studies show that when vegetarians take creatine supplements, their memories are enhanced – in some cases even more than people who eat meat. One potential reason for this is because meat doesn’t have as much creatine as you’d get from a supplement.

Research on Creatine and Memory

What do studies say?

If you look over the study data, creatine seems pretty consistent in helping people, especially older individuals between ages 66-76, improve overall brain performance. For younger individuals, the cognitive benefits of creatine aren’t as pronounced as its physical benefits. [1]

Any special conditions?

You may ask, okay but what if I take more creatine? Will that boost the benefits?

The answer is probably not. Research shows that taking creatine longer or taking more than recommended doesn’t potentiate the effects.


Benefits Beyond Memory

Okay, what else can creatine benefit except for memory? It may enhance reasoning, according to some studies. You should also be able to think faster in daily situations.

Keep in mind, though, that creatine’s nootropic effects are still not as researched as some other compounds like Ginkgo Biloba, fish oil, and turmeric. The results with people taking creatine for cognitive benefits are also mixed. Ultimately, trying it for yourself is going to give you the best idea of whether it’s worth it for you, as each one of us is different.

Effects on the Sleep-Deprived Mind

Combatting Cognitive Fatigue

We’re all familiar with that brain fog, or fuzziness, when we wake up too early. That’s our brain complaining it’s tired, basically. Interestingly, creatine might serve as a pick-me-up for our exhausted brains, but without stimulant side effects.

When we’re sleep deprived, our everyday tasks feel harder and slower. Sort of like when you’re trying to run in a dream but everything feels sluggish. Research shows that creatine might replenish our brain’s energy stores, giving us that extra kick to push through our day.

If not sleeping enough has become a habit for you, consider taking creatine to help mitigate some of the detriments of sleep deprivation. It should give you sharper mind and ability to think clearer, focus better, and endure the whole work day without falling asleep at your desk!

This by no means is a thumbs up to keep being sleep deprived, however. No supplement is a replacement for sleep. And over time, if you neglect your sleep over and over again, it will catch up with you in some way.

High-Altitude Cognitive Benefits

Performance in Oxygen-Deprived Conditions

In higher altitudes, the air gets thinner with less oxygen. This can lead to brain fog and inability to think clearly. Creatine’s effects are also helpful when you’re in these kinds of environments. While there’s next to no research around these specific benefits in this very specific scenario, other benefits of creatine and the way creatine works suggest it may be beneficial for mountain climbers and those who work in high places.


Neurodegenerative Diseases and Creatine

The hallmark symptom of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s is a gradual loss of brain function. Sadly, creatine isn’t shown to be effective in slowing it down. [3]

Final Thoughts

Today, creatine is mostly used by athletes and bodybuilders to build muscle and strength. However, it has benefits that go beyond just the physical prowess. This naturally occurring compound also provides energy for your brain, enhancing memory and concentration, especially in older people and those who’re sleep deprived.

While creatine isn’t cure all panacea and it doesn’t work for diseases like Parkinson’s, it’s beneficial for your brain when taken in small amounts and ideally, as a part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Further Reading:

References

  1. Prokopidis K, Giannos P, Triantafyllidis KK, Kechagias KS, Forbes SC, Candow DG. Effects of creatine supplementation on memory in healthy individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Rev. 2023 Mar 10;81(4):416-427. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuac064. PMID: 35984306; PMCID: PMC9999677.
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35984306/
  2. Avgerinos KI, Spyrou N, Bougioukas KI, Kapogiannis D. Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Exp Gerontol. 2018 Jul 15;108:166-173. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2018.04.013. Epub 2018 Apr 25. PMID: 29704637; PMCID: PMC6093191.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6093191/
  3. Mo JJ, Liu LY, Peng WB, Rao J, Liu Z, Cui LL. The effectiveness of creatine treatment for Parkinson’s disease: an updated meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Neurol. 2017 Jun 2;17(1):105. doi: 10.1186/s12883-017-0885-3. PMID: 28577542; PMCID: PMC5457735.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5457735/

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