The Brain Benefits of Creatine: Exploring the Cognitive Enhancements - Lucid™

The Brain Benefits of Creatine: Exploring the Cognitive Enhancements

Written by: Kat Austin



Time to read 8 min

Creatine is widely recognized for its role in fitness and muscle building, but its brain benefits are gaining increasing attention. Often regarded as a nootropic, creatine is believed to enhance cognitive function, offering potential improvements in memory, focus, and overall mental performance.

We’re going to dig into the scientific research behind creatine brain benefits to determine its nootropic fate–What are the brain benefits of creatine and how can we utilize them most effectively?

Key Takeaways

Creatine supports brain functions such as memory, focus, and mental clarity by increasing energy availability in the brain.

Many people, including professionals, students, and elderly people, could benefit from using creatine as a nootropic.

Creatine can be taken in low doses to reap brain benefits, reducing the chance of unwanted side effects.

Understanding Creatine Supplements

Before we can understand the way that creatine can benefit the brain, let's take a look at what creatine is and how it interacts with the body:

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid that helps supply energy to cells throughout the body, particularly muscle cells. It is composed of three amino acids: arginine, glycine, and methionine.

While the body can synthesize creatine, some creatine needs to be derived from the diet. Creatine-rich foods primarily include animal products like red meat and fish. Vegetarians and vegans typically have lower levels of creatine, as plant-based foods contain minimal amounts. Vegan creatine supplements, which are synthesized, are a good option for those who avoid animal products.

Creatine is available as a popular dietary supplement, most commonly in the form of creatine monohydrate, though other forms like creatine HCL are also used. It is widely used by athletes and bodybuilders to improve performance and muscle recovery–but its benefits may extend beyond the gym.

How Creatine Works in the Body

Creatine plays a crucial role in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy carrier in cells. During high-intensity activities, creatine phosphate donates a phosphate group to ADP to regenerate ATP, thereby providing a quick source of energy.

Other nootropic and performance-enhancing supplements, like Cordyceps mushrooms and L-carnitine, have been associated with increased ATP production.

By replenishing ATP stores, creatine enhances muscle recovery and performance, allowing athletes to train harder and longer. This same mechanism of energy support is believed to be beneficial for brain function.

Brain Benefits & Mechanisms of Creatine in the Brain

Just as it has certain overall roles in the body, creatine has specific mechanisms and interactions within the brain, including:

  • ATP Regeneration in Brain Cells: Just as in muscle cells, creatine aids in the regeneration of ATP in neurons, ensuring a steady supply of energy for cellular processes. This is particularly important for brain cells, which have high energy demands.

  • Enhanced Cellular Energy Availability : Increased energy availability in brain cells supports various cognitive functions, including memory formation, learning, and problem-solving. By maintaining ATP levels, creatine helps sustain mental performance, especially during periods of high cognitive demand.

  • Neuroprotection/Antioxidant Properties : Creatine has been shown to exhibit antioxidant properties, protecting brain cells from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a major factor in the aging process and the development of neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Protection Against Neurodegenerative Diseases: Some studies suggest that creatine may help guard against neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Its neuroprotective effects are thought to stem from its ability to maintain mitochondrial function and reduce cellular damage.

  • Dopamine and Serotonin Regulation : Creatine influences the levels of key neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which are crucial for mood regulation and cognitive function. Elevated levels of these neurotransmitters can lead to improved mood and reduced symptoms of depression.

  • Potential Effects on Mood and Cognition: By modulating neurotransmitter levels, creatine may enhance mood, reduce anxiety, and improve cognitive processes. This makes it a promising supplement for those looking to boost mental performance and emotional well-being.

Creatine Brain Benefits According to Research

According to what we currently know about creatine's nootropics interactions, there are three main areas where it may improve brain health:

  • Improving memory

  • Increasing intelligence and reasoning skills

  • Improving concentration and clarity

  • Providing neuroprotective effects

Let's discuss all of these:

Creatine Brain Studies on Memory

Several studies have indicated that creatine supplementation can enhance short-term memory.

For instance, a study at the University of Sydney examined the effects of creatine on 45 young adult vegetarians, who typically have lower levels of creatine due to a lack of red meat in their diet.

In this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, participants took 5 grams of creatine daily for 6 weeks. Results showed significant improvements in working memory and intelligence, suggesting that creatine plays a key role in brain energy capacity.

While the evidence for long-term memory benefits is still emerging, some research suggests that creatine may also support long-term memory retention and recall. This is particularly relevant for older adults who are at risk of cognitive decline.

Impact on Intelligence and Reasoning

Research has shown that creatine supplementation can improve performance on intelligence tests and problem-solving tasks. A study conducted by the University of Sunderland in the UK involved 34 healthy non-vegetarians with a mean age of 21 years.

This double-blind, placebo-controlled study involved giving one group 5 grams of creatine daily for 2 weeks, while the other group received a placebo. After 2 weeks, the creatine group showed improved results in memory, attention, and IQ tests, indicating a reduction in mental fatigue and enhanced cognitive function.

Effects on Fatigue and Mental Clarity

Creatine has been found to reduce mental fatigue, allowing individuals to maintain focus and concentration for longer periods. This is particularly beneficial for students, professionals, and athletes who require sustained mental effort.

In a double-blind placebo-controlled study , participants took 8 grams of creatine per day for 5 days. Those who took creatine experienced less mental fatigue when doing simple math problems repeatedly. Additionally, brain scans showed they used oxygen more efficiently, suggesting creatine helps the brain work better and stay less tired.

Ability to Repair Brain Cells and Provide Neuroprotective Effects

According to limited evidence , Creatine has the potential to provide protective effects against neurological diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, although further research is needed to confirm these benefits.

Current treatments for these diseases often only offer symptom relief, whereas new research is focusing on therapies that repair or replace injured brain cells. Creatine's role in supporting energy metabolism in the brain makes it a promising candidate for these therapies.

How to Use Creatine as a Nootropic

Before you hop on the creatine nootropic train, make sure that you understand the best way to buy and use creatine supplements to your advantage.

Using creatine for its brain benefits is different from using it as an athletic supplement. Make sure you consider the following factors:

Who Can Benefit from Creatine Supplementation?

The most likely candidates for creatine supplementation are athletes and bodybuilders, but it’s a misconception that its potential benefits end there. Some other groups of people who may benefit from creatine supplementation include:

  • Students and Professionals: Individuals who need enhanced cognitive performance for studying or work can benefit from creatine supplementation. The ability to maintain focus, reduce mental fatigue, and improve memory can lead to better academic and professional outcomes.

  • People with ADHD or other Cognitive Dysfunctions: Low creatine levels are associated with neurological conditions like ADHD. Creatine deficiency may affect individuals with specific genetic defects in creatine biosynthesis or transport, resulting in various intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, ADHD, ASD, and seizures.

    Some studies propose that creatine supplementation could positively affect cognitive performance by bolstering brain creatine levels, potentially offering relief for ADHD symptoms. However, there is limited evidence in this regard and creatine is not considered a treatment for ADHD.

  • Elderly Population: Older adults looking to maintain cognitive health and function may also find creatine beneficial. Its potential to protect against neurodegenerative diseases and support brain energy metabolism makes it a promising supplement for aging populations.

Recommended Dosages and Safety

Typically, a daily dose of 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate is recommended for cognitive benefits. This dosage is considered safe and effective for most individuals.

Lower doses may provide the brain boost without resulting in significant water retention that leads to creatine weight gain.

Safety and Potential Side Effects

Creatine is generally regarded as safe when taken within recommended dosages. However, some individuals may experience side effects such as:

  • Digestive issues

  • Muscle cramping

  • Water retention

  • Trouble sleeping

It is important to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions.

Criticisms and Limitations

Not all studies agree on the cognitive benefits of creatine. Some research has shown minimal or no effects on cognitive function, suggesting that the benefits may vary depending on the individual and the specific cognitive tasks being assessed.

Long-term Effects and Unknowns

While short-term use of creatine appears to be safe and beneficial, the long-term effects on brain health are not yet fully understood. More comprehensive research is needed to determine the potential long-term benefits and risks of creatine supplementation for cognitive function.


Creatine shows promise in enhancing memory, reducing mental fatigue, and protecting brain health. Its ability to support ATP production and modulate neurotransmitter levels makes it a valuable supplement for cognitive enhancement.

More research is essential to fully understand the cognitive benefits of creatine. As more studies are conducted, we will gain a clearer picture of its potential as a nootropic and its long-term effects on brain health.

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