Vegetarians’ Visual Memory Improves With Creatine
Vegetarians and vegans who take the dietary supplement creatine may enjoy improved brain function, according to a new study, which found that supplementing with creatine improves vegetarians’ visual memory.
The new research was presented at the American Physiological Society’s (APS) annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2019 in Orlando, Florida.
Researchers from Stetson University in Florida studied vegetarian volunteers as well as those who ate either up to 10 or 10 or more servings of beef, chicken, pork or fish each week.
The volunteers were split into two groups selected randomly. One group took a daily creatine supplement for four weeks, and the other group did not.
Before and after the trial, all participants took the ImPACT test, a widely used standardized measure of neurocognitive function.
The vegetarian group scored higher on the post-supplement ImPACT test than the group that ate 10 or more servings of meat, poultry or seafood per week.
“Meat eaters did not show any significant improvement of cognition following supplementation because [their] creatine levels were already elevated [from their diet],” explained Kaitlyn Smith, first author of the study.
Vegetarians showed greater visual memory gains than meat eaters after taking creatine.
“This is a pilot study for future research in the field of cognition, and specifically in vegetarians, as [there is] a shift to meat- and dairy-free alternatives in society,” Smith added.
What is Creatine?
Creatine is a chemical stored in the muscles and brain that helps build lean muscle. In addition to being produced by the human body, creatine is also naturally occurring in red meats and seafood — and in smaller amounts, dairy products.
People who do not eat animal products generally have lower creatine levels in the brain than those who consume meat.
Creatine is an amino acid located mostly in your body’s muscles, as well as in the brain. Though it can be made synthetically, most people get creatine through seafood and red meat. The body’s liver, pancreas and kidneys also make creatine.
Your body converts creatine to phosphocreatine and stores it in your muscles, where it’s used for energy. As a result, people take creatine orally to improve athletic performance and increase muscle mass.
People also use oral creatine to treat certain brain disorders, congestive heart failure and other conditions.
Is Creatine Good Everyone?
Creatine is an organic acid that plays a key role in supplying energy for muscle cells during intense activity.
Creatine is produced naturally by the body and found in small quantities in animal products. Creatine stored in muscle cells helps produce ATP, which is the primary energy currency in the body.
While creatine is not an essential nutrient because the body can synthesize it, it’s one of the most widely used supplements because there is strong evidence it can improve performance and is safe for most people.
Additionally, creatine may have other health-promoting properties beyond its ability to make a person stronger or faster.
Benefits of Creatine
Extensively studied for both its safety and benefits, some of creatine’s supposed benefits are supported by research and some are not.
Creatine also shows promise outside of the athletic and performance setting, but more research is needed in these areas.
Increased Muscle Size
Creatine supplementation causes an increase in the water content of muscles, making them “larger.”
This is not due to an increase in the size of the muscle fibers. However, creatine can increase “real” fat free mass over time, as its strength and power-boosting properties allow higher quality training and thus, better gains
Improved Athletic Performance
A large body of research shows that oral creatine supplementation can make an athlete faster and stronger when performing high intensity activity.
Increased Muscle Protein Synthesis
I found a few studies which refuted this claim.
Still, if someone who uses creatine can lift more weight, muscle protein synthesis should increase; although, the creatine itself simply increases the available energy supply (ATP) for muscle contraction.
Creatine: Supplementation or Food?
An average human body contains between 3.5 and 4 grams of creatine per kilogram of muscle. However, it is capable of storing up to 5 grams per kilogram.
The idea behind supplementation is that by saturating the body with creatine, you augment its benefits.
The richest sources of creatine from food are beef and fish, which contain between 2 and 5 grams per pound.
Obviously, for vegetarians and vegans, this isn’t an option.
Because most research on the benefits of creatine is done on dosages of 5 grams, it’s not practical for most people to try to reap the benefits seen in studies without supplementation.
Of course, the potential risks of any supplement should be weighed against the benefits before using. But, should you decide to use creatine as a muscle builder, you will need to supplement in order to receive its effects.
Creatine Side Effects
Creatine supplementation should be safe when used by healthy individuals.
And although no long term studies have examined use of creatine, I am unaware of any reports of physical harm from supplementation in a person without kidney disease. However, there is evidence creatine supplementation can damage unhealthy kidneys.
Dehydration is also a concern with supplementation, as creatine will draw water into the muscle cell. If you use creatine, be sure to drink plenty of water, which you should be doing anyway.
Creatine supplementation should be safe when used by healthy individuals.
And as with all supplements, due to a lack of regulation, toxins and impurities in a product are always a concern. Buying a reputable brand makes this less of an issue.
GI distress is a common side effect of creatine. Taking it with food, not “loading” (see below) or perhaps using a form besides monohydrate may lessen or eliminate this reaction.
Again, creatine is very safe for most people. However, since kidney and liver disease, in their early stages, may not produce any symptoms, it is a good idea to have your doctor test your kidney and liver function, especially if you plan on using supplements.
There are many different kinds of creatine available.
If you look on the shelves of a supplement store, you will see creatine monohydrate, creatine ethyl ester, creatine hydrochloride, creatine AKG and others.
The oldest form is creatine monohydrate, and this has been the compound used in essentially all of the well-designed studies.
A creatine loading phase may be the fastest way to benefit from the supplement’s effects.
Research proves that a creatine loading phase can maximize your muscle stores within one week or less.
This strategy involves taking 20 grams of creatine daily for 5–7 days to saturate your muscles rapidly, followed by 2–10 grams daily to maintain high levels.
While research has shown this to increase the rate at which muscles become saturated, loading is not necessary for creatine to exert its positive effect.
Creatine supplement products are popular, so there are numerous choices available.
Each two-scoop serving of Cell Tech Micronized Creatine Powder delivers 7g of HPLC-certified creatine monohydrate and 3 grams of creatine HCl.
This is highly rated creatine powder with excellent reviews.
Naked Creatine contains only one ingredient: 100% micronized creatine monohydrate, with no artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors.
It has zero calories, and it’s soy free, gluten free, and dairy free. Fantastic reviews on this one, as well!
If you prefer creatine capsules, Optimum Nutrition’s Creatine Capsules provide 2.5 grams of creatine monohydrate per 2-cap serving.
If you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or exerciser, I recommend taking 3-5 grams of creatine monohydrate daily.
Should you choose to load, take 5 grams 4 times per day for 6 days followed by 3 grams per day, after your doctor tells you your kidneys are healthy.
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What To Read Next:
- Volek, J., Duncan, N., Mazetti, S., Staron, R., Putukian, M., Gomez, A., Pearce, D., Fink, W., Kraemer, W. Performance and muscle fiber adaptations to creatine supplementation and heavy resistance training . PT Clinical. 2013.
- Prevost, M., Nelson, A., Morris, G. Creatine Supplementation Enhances Intermittent Work Performance . Exercise and Sport. Quarterly. V. 68, 1997.
- Skare, O., Skadberg, O., Wisnes, A. Creatine Supplementation improves sprint performance in male sprinters . Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. V. 11, Apr 2001.
- Kreider, B., Ferreira, M., Micahel, W., Grindstaff, P., Plisk, S., Reinardy, J. Cantler, E., Alamada, A. Effects of creatine supplementation on body composition, strength, and sprint performance . V. 30. Sep 2007.
- Juhn, M., Tarnopolsky, D., Maek, M. Oral Creatine Supplementation and Athletic Performance: A Critical Review . Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine. Oct 1998.
- Parise, G., Mihic, S., MacLennan, S., Yarasheski, K., Tarnopolsky, M. Effects of acute creatine monohydrate supplementation on leucine kinetics and mixed muscle protein synthesis . Applied Physiology. Nov. 2009.
- Magali, L. Poortmans, J., Francaux, M., Berre, J., Boisseau, N., Brassine, E., Cuthbertson, D., Smith, K., Babraj, J., Waddell, T., Rennie, M. No effect of creatine supplementation on human myofibrillar and sacroplasmic protein synthesis after resistance exercise. Clinical Journal of Physiology. Jun 2003.
- Kreider, R. Creatine supplementation: analysis of ergogenic value, medical safety, and concerns. Exercise Physiology. Apr 1998.
- Edmunds, J., Jayapalan, S., DiMarco, N., Saboorian, H., Aukema, H. Creatine Supplemention Increases Renal Disease Progression in Han: SPRD-cy Rats. American Journal of Kidney Diseases. V. 37. Jan 2001.
- Hultman, E., Soderlund, K., Timmons, J., Cederblad, G., Greenhaff, P. Muscle creatine loading in men. Americal Physiological Journal. Jul 1996.
- Vandenberghe, K., Van Hecke, P., Van Lemputte, M., Hespel, P. Phosphocreatine resynthesis is not affected by creatine loading . Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise [1999, 31(2):236-242
- Haugland, R., Chang, D. Insulin Effect on Creatine Transport in Skeletal Muscle. Biology and Medicine. Exp Biol Med (Maywood) January 1975 vol. 148 no. 1 1-4.
- Vandeberghe, K., Gillis, N., Leemputte, M., Van Hecke, P., Vanstapel, F., Hespel, P. Caffeine counteracts the ergogenic action of muscle creatine loading. Applied Physiology. Journal of Applied Physiology February 1, 1996 vol. 80 no. 2 452-457