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Power Your Brain with Creatine Supplementation

A Polarizing Subject

This latest in the series of Synchro Life Design practices is unquestionably the one that I have had the most conflict with over the years.  This practice is among the most powerful nutritional practices I know of (and one that I've used with great success for the better part of a decade) - yet, it is one that I've held close to the chest and been very careful about who I share it with to avoid getting into difficult opinion-fueled discussions and confusing people about what it is we're about at Synchro.  

The practice is strategic daily supplementation with creatine monohydrate.  Creatine is perhaps better known for its use by athletes trying to add muscle than by people using nutrient-dense superfoods in search of vibrant energy and optimal health.  Because of this association, creatine is greatly misunderstood as a supplement and tends to draw strong reactions from those who don't understand what it's actually doing in the body.  Most people think of it alongside questionable GNC-esque muscle-building supplements and its very hard to convince them that it may have a role to play for those looking to optimize health, energy and overall performance.  If you fall into this camp and you're ready to move on without getting to the meat of this article, stick with me one more sentence…

Creatine supplementation had been shown to increase IQ an average of 21 percent in controlled studies.

Still reading?  Yeah, I thought so. ;)  Let me first take a minute to explain what creatine monohydrate is and what its function is in the body.  Creatine is a naturally occurring amino acid that your body produces and is present in every cell in your body.  Creatine plays a critical role in the metabolism and you would be dead quickly without it.  

To explain the precise role creatine serves in the metabolism, you first need to understand the function of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).  If there is one compound that most directly can be equated with "energy" in the human body, it's unquestionably ATP.  It is the catalyst for thousands on thousands of metabolic process, giving enzymes the "power" they need to perform their function.  ATP does this by giving up a phosphate ion to the enzyme, upon which it is degraded into inactive adenosine diphosphate (ADP).  ADP is essentially useless until it is rephosphorylated, meaning it reacquires a phosphate enzyme and thus becomes ATP again.  The compound responsible for the rephosporylation of inactive ADP back into active ATP?  You guessed it, creatine.  Once in the body, creatine is converted into creatine phosphate.  Creatine phosphate is able to donate a phosphate ion to ADP, transforming it back into ATP.  So in summary, no creatine means no ATP which means enzymes (and life) crawls to a halt.   

Why Creatine Supplementation Is Essential For Optimal Health

Creatine is useful for athletes trying to build muscle simply because it gives their muscles more energy to use during a workout. Controlled studies consistently show that you can do more repetitions of a given exercise when supplementing with creatine than not. More repetitions means that you can push your body harder before fatigue and it will recover to be stronger as a result. This doesn't apply just to weight lifting, though.  Your running, cycling, swimming, dancing, etc, etc all stand to benefit if you have the extra "cell energy" to push yourself a bit further in your workout. 

But what about the IQ gains?  Like any other organ in your body, your brain needs quite a bit of ATP and creatine, especially in times of intense cognitive demand, focus or stress.  A 2006 study took two groups of vegetarians and vegans (who do not get the dietary creatine omnivores get form eating meat). One group was given low/moderate levels of creatine supplementation over a 6-week period, while the second group received placebos.  Both groups were given IQ tests at the beginning and completion of the 6-week study.  The group supplementing with creatine saw their IQ's go up an average of 20% over the 6-week period while the group receiving placebos saw no significant change. [1] 

While everyone will benefit from including creatine supplementation in their diet, it is particularly crucial for vegetarians and vegans in my opinion. Are you really willing to sacrifice 20% IQ (and athletic performance and overall health) because you choose not to eat meat? I certainly am not. There are a TON of good reasons to eat a plant-based diet.  My lifetime of research and experimentation continually returns me to the same conclusion: the performance potential for the human body is highest when eating a highly-supplemented, high-fat, high-protein plant-based diet.  With that said, it is hard to be a truly healthy vegan.  It is way easier to be adequately nourished and healthy while eating meat, as it contains most of the micro- and macronutrients the human metabolism needs to function. As vegans, we have to be far more mindful of what our body requires to function at a high level - and in my eyes, creatine is high on that list.

Possible Concerns?

For those of you who have concerns about potential adverse effects of adding creatine to your diet, its pretty simple but I'll spend a few sentences covering this none the less.  

Creatine monohydrate you buy for supplementation is synthesized in a commercial laboratory, but it is 100% identical to the naturally occurring compound your body produces naturally. Countless studies have been done and the consensus is that supplementation with creatine monohydrate is completely non-toxic and has no observable adverse effects, even when consumed at high doses (10 times higher than what I consume myself) and for long periods of time. [2] As with most things, people with kidney or liver disease should use caution, but for everyone else creatine is impressively risk-free.

Daily creatine supplementation is a practice I've had for almost 8 years now and I hope my enthusiasm for this practice has come across here.  Every system of your body - skeletal muscles, smooth muscles, nervous system, endocrine system, etc - they all require ATP and creatine to operate.  The effects of daily supplementation are undeniable.  You will feel stronger, sharper and more energized in times of intensity, whether physical or mental. Your rides and runs will feel better, you'll feel stronger in the gym, your yoga practice will feel stronger and more vibrant, you'll feel sharper in times of intense thinking or processing, etc, etc.  All of these things lead to you feeling more energized and more vibrant in every moment of your life. Seems like reason enough to at least try it for a month or so, no?

Recommended Creatine Supplementation

Personally I mix creatine monohydrate powder into my Synchro Genesis (creatine is almost tasteless) such that I get about 2g of creatine in each of the 4-6 servings of Synchro Genesis I consume in a day.  This equates to 8-12g of creatine per day, which is on the upper end of what will be useful to someone who is not intensely training in some discipline several times a week.  For most people, I recommend starting with 1g creatine per 15kg of bodyweight per day.  (For someone weighing 130 pounds, this would be 4g per day, for someone at 180 pounds this would be about 6g per day).  If this is working for you, by all means increase the dose - as I said earlier, you can consume huge amounts without seeing any negative effects.

If you are an athlete, you can cycle up your creatine supplementation during times of intense training.  I will increase my daily consumption by about 50% by taking an extra dose before a workout.  I'll do this before every workout for 3 weeks before returning to normal levels for a 2 week period, then beginning another 3 week cycle.

Our favorite brand of creatine is called Creapure and is made in Germany  You can find it here.

Stay Synchro, 

     Graham Ryan

     

 

Looking For More Articles On Performance-Improving Supplements?

Debunking The Multivitamin Myth (Supplementation Series - Part 1 of 3)

Get Rid Of Chronic Inflammation (and pain) With Turmeric

The Truth About Caffeine and Coffee

 

Sources

1. Rae C, Digney AL, McEwan SR, Bates TC (October 2003). "Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial".Proceedings. Biological Sciences / the Royal Society 270 (1529): 2147–50.

2. Persky, A. M.; Rawson, E. S. (2007). "Safety of creatine supplementation". Sub-cellular biochemistry. Subcellular Biochemistry 46: 275–289. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-6486-9_14ISBN 978-1-4020-6485-2PMID 18652082

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