Creatine monohydrate is one of the most beneficial sports supplements to build muscle while improving muscle strength and endurance.

So can it improve your cognitive function too?

Throughout this detailed guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know about the effects of creatine supplementation and your cognitive functioning.

Yes, creatine is good for brain health. However, when it comes to creatine supplementation and your brain’s health, you must understand what it does and how it affects the brain and body.

Creatine is found naturally in your body, produced by the amino acids arginine, glycine,  and methionine. It is also typically found in red meat, fish, poultry, pork, and dietary supplements.

While you can get creatine from food sources, it’s not always enough, and creatine supplementation is often recommended.

Creatine plays an important role in the body’s energy production and also helps to protect it against oxidative stress. 

And while taking creatine supplements like creatine monohydrate is typically for increasing skeletal muscle mass, clinical trials have shown that it’s essential for brain function and development.[1]

When your body is under a high energy demand, your brain cells quickly deplete your ATP (adenosine triphosphate) stores, leaving you with low brain creatine levels.

ATP is used for several tasks in the brain. Firstly, it helps maintain the calcium, potassium, and sodium levels in and around your brain cells.

This, in turn, helps lower the levels of oxidative stress in your brain while helping to keep your neurons firing as they should.[2]

If your body doesn’t have adequate creatine, your brain won’t function as it should, especially during complex tasks.

Increased ATP is also linked to increased dopamine levels and could help mitochondrial dysfunction.

Note From A Trainer!

Even though your body can’t function optimally without creatine, it doesn’t mean creatine supplementation is mandatory.

Your body produces small levels of creatine, which is used for “essential” functions, and you can top this up by eating certain foods (like red meat). 

Although if your diet is low in creatine sources, it might be necessary to use creatine supplements (like oral creatine monohydrate supplementation).  

8 Important Benefits Of Creatine For The Brain

1. Helps Brain In ATP Production

Taking creatine supplements helps to increase your muscle’s phosphocreatine stores.[3

Phosphocreatine helps with the creation of ATP, which your body uses as an energy source for all basic functions.

When you exercise, your body breaks down ATP to create energy. However, the rate at which your body burns ATP is faster than it can create it.

This is where creatine supplementation steps in. By taking the dietary supplement creatine, you increase your phosphocreatine stores, which allows you to produce more ATP for your workouts and cognitive function.

 The above is the primary function of creatine in your body and its performance-enhancing abilities.

2. Improves Memory And Cognitive Function

In most cases, creatine supplementation increases the concentration of creatine and phosphocreatine in the brains of adults and the elderly, improving certain cognitive abilities.

So, even if you don't hit the gym much, creatine might be an excellent supplement, depending on your age.

In 2010 clinical trials showed creatine supplementation greatly improved cognitive performance and memory in vegetarians and vegans.[4]  

While another study showed creatine helped improve the short-term memory of elderly healthy individuals, compared to the placebo group.[5]

These results have yet to be replicated in young adults or healthy adults who regularly exercise as they're most likely at their total creatine limits, meaning their bodies wouldn't benefit from taking creatine supplements.

3. Can Reduce Symptoms Of Anxiety

If you're wondering whether creatine can help reduce anxiety symptoms, our findings are somewhat mixed.

While creatine hasn’t been directly linked to causing or preventing anxiety, users have mixed reports on whether it helps or makes it worse.

Personally, having increased performance (mentally and physically) massively reduces any anxiety I may have, and I know several of my clients have had positive experiences using creatine.

On the other hand, some users online have blamed creatine for an increase in anxiety. So it's difficult to say which is correct.

I know it might not be the answer you’re looking for, but I want to be completely transparent with you; more research is needed, and I feel this would be the perfect case study for a double-blind placebo-controlled test. 

So the bottom line is… the jury is out on this one.

4. Enhances Attention And Focus

Even though the benefits of creatine and physical performance are well documented, there is a new group of evidence suggesting the supplement may increase brain performance, too, in regard to alertness.

Part of the increased focus and attention comes from the reduction in fatigue. The less fatigue you feel, the more energy you have, making you feel more focused. 

I’d even say that creatine’s ability to improve sleep quality will also make you feel more focused.

As you can see, there are multiple ways in which increased brain creatine content can help you feel more focused.

Man Playing With Metal Puzzle Toy

5. Reduces Mental Fatigue

Mental fatigue, low oxygen environments (oxygen deprivation), and sleep deprivation alter the energy demands and energy reserves of the brain.

Sleep deprivation is likely to increase the brain's energy demands, while mental fatigue will cause depleted energy reserves.

If your brain has a reduced oxygen intake, your brain cells won’t be able to produce enough ATP.

By supplementing creatine, you could lessen the effects of these stressful states by increasing the cellular stores in the brain, which may give you improved cognitive abilities.

Current evidence shows that creatine supplementation won’t reverse the effects of sleep deprivation, fatigue, or lack of oxygen completely but could preserve the brain’s neuron functionality.[6]

If you've been suffering from a mental fatigue-associated decrease, then creatine might help improve the cognitive effects on your brain and nervous system.

6. Improves Brain Fog

A foggy brain is sometimes linked to when you stop taking creatine, as some users notice a small reduction in cognitive ability, yet this is yet to be proven in cognitive tests.

However, an often overlooked side effect of creatine is its ability to help with mental fog, which can occur whether you’re a healthy youth or an older adult. By increasing your brain creatine stores, you’ll see an improvement in cognitive processing.

This side effect could be useful for older adults suffering from neurodegenerative diseases that cause mental fog and confusion, but I’ll discuss that further soon. 

7. Supports Healthy Sleep

Sleep plays a huge role in having a healthy human brain. A good sleep will improve cognitive function, repair your central nervous system, and improve your physical performance.

Still, sleeping well doesn't always happen.

Luckily, one of the side effects of creatine is improved sleep quality. And I can vouch for this as I sleep like a baby when I’m on creatine.

Creatine has been found to reduce fatigue while improving sleep quality, so you get two benefits in one. Not too bad, considering it’s a natural substance.

Improved sleep and less fatigue will affect not only your brain energy levels but also your body's energy. As a result, you'll have more energy for your workouts, so you can work harder in the gym and grow more muscle mass.

8. May Help Parkinson’s & Other Neurological Diseases

Parkinson's disease is often characterized by a reduction in dopamine levels, a key neurotransmitter in your brain.

The drop in dopamine levels causes your brain cells to die, which results in the awful side effects of this horrible disease.

While exogenous creatine supplementation in mice has been shown to prevent the drop in dopamine levels by up to 90%, these studies are yet to yield the same results in humans.[7]

However, when looking at the loss of strength and muscle in those with Parkinson’s disease, supplementing creatine alongside a weight training program has been shown to improve overall strength.[8]

Aside from Parkinson’s disease, there has been much research into whether creatine monohydrate supplementation improves other neurological diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Huntington’s Disease.

However, creatine supplementation may have a limited (if any) effect on these diseases.

Yet, there has been some headway regarding creatine and mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

For these conditions, dietary creatine is often increased to enhance the creatine stores in the brain and can play a significant role in treating these conditions.

Other areas creatine support might help with are:

  • Developmental disorders (such as learning delays or seizures)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Cognitive and psychomotor performance
  • Decreased muscle function

While there might be mixed results regarding whether or not creatine can help neurodegenerative diseases, it could be worth trying, especially if some of the results are backed by randomized controlled trials.

Note From A Trainer!

Always seek advice from your doctor before you try to increase brain creatine levels, as they can recommend the dosing strategies and methods of creatine administration. 

How To Best Take Creatine Supplements For Improved Intelligence

Looking to improve your intelligence with creatine supplements? - If so, the best option for you is creatine monohydrate.

When it comes to dosage, there are a few protocols you can follow:

Maintenance-only method:

  • Take 3-5g daily with or without food.

Loading phase followed by maintenance:

  • Take 20g per day (4x 5g dosages) for the first 5 days, then switch to 3-5g per day.

I’m a big fan of using the first method and permanently taking that amount each day, and I find it’s easier to stick to.

Still, this method does take longer to build up your creatine stores.

It’s also worth noting that if you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or elderly, you might want to up your dosage of creatine as you won’t get as much creatine from food as people who eat meat & fish. I’d suggest taking 5-10g per day in this instance.   

Person Scooping Gnarly Creatine Supplement Powder

Creatine And Brain Benefits-Related Questions

Are there any side effects of creatine for brain function?

A side effect of creatine is improving brain function. It’s been documented to improve traumatic brain injury symptoms by aiding creatine transporters in the brain.[9]

How much does creatine improve brain function?

Creatine can improve brain function between 20-50% depending on the current creatine levels measured in your brain regions.

What is the best creatine for brain health?

The best creatine for your brain health is the oral supplementation of creatine monohydrate.

Does creatine increase IQ?

Yes, creatine does increase your IQ. A study showed you gain an average of 15 points over a 6-week period and increased long-term memory.[10]

Conclusion

Creatine is one of the best dietary supplements you can take. It has numerous health benefits, from increased muscle mass to better performance and improved endurance.

However, many of its benefits occur in your brain, including improved sleep quality, decreased brain fog, better attention/focus, and it might help lower the risk of certain brain diseases like Alzheimer's.

So if you want to boost your cognitive measures, creatine could be the supplement for you. 

References: 

  1. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2003.2492
  2. https://journals.lww.com/jtrauma/Abstract/2006/08000/Prevention_of_Complications_Related_to_Traumatic.11.aspx
  3. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1186/1550-2783-9-33
  4. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/influence-of-creatine-supplementation-on-the-cognitive-functioning-of-vegetarians-and-omnivores/E2D37729902DDFA6CFC85767AD0421FC
  5. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13825580600788100?journalCode=nanc20
  6. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2020/01000/Can_Creatine_Combat_the_Mental_Fatigue_associated.14.aspx
  7. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0014488699970498?via%3Dihub
  8. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1545968306293449
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK209321/
  10. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/08/030813070944.htm
Miloš Lepotic

Miloš Lepotic

Meet Miloš, a certified sports nutritionist and self-taught supplement expert whose pharmacological background and nearly a decade of gym experience make him the perfect guide for optimizing your health and athletic performance through supplement reviews and practical advice rooted in factual, science-backed information.