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creatine and depression, creatine for depression, creatine benefits for mental health, creatine benefits for depression

Creatine and Depression: Helpful or Harmful?

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Creatine is one of the most popular supplements available. It’s primarily used to help people during high-intensity weightlifting and exercise, but in reality, it has a lot of other benefits, including potential benefits for mental health. Below we talk more about creatine and depression, and also other effects creatine might have on mental health.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a supplement that can improve strength, exercise performance, and muscle mass. Creatine is one of the most widely tested supplements in the world, with an excellent safety profile.

Creatine is also found in muscle cells naturally. It’s a substance that helps muscles produce energy during high-intensity workouts or heavy lifting, making it popular among bodybuilders and athletes.

Creatine has similarities to amino acids, and your body can produce it naturally using arginine and glycine, which are amino acids.

Around half of the creatine in your body will come from the food you eat—primarily seafood and red meat. Amino acids make the rest of the creatine your body stores in your kidneys and liver.

Around 95% of your creatine is stored in your muscles as phosphocreatine, and the other 5% is in the brain and testes. If you supplement, you’re increasing your phosphocreatine stores, a type of stored cellular energy.

The stored energy helps your body produce ATP, which provides energy to your body.

How Creatine Works

Some of the ways that creatine works to help you gain muscle and improve your athletic performance include:

  • Taking creatine helps boost your workload, meaning you can do more work or volume in a training session.
  • Supplementing with creatine improves cell signaling, which helps with muscle repair and growth.
  • Studies indicate when you take creatine, it can raise your anabolic hormones.
  • Creatine lifts the water content of the cells of your muscles, improving the cellular volume and promoting muscle growth.
  • With a creatine supplement, you might experience more muscle mass because it reduces protein and muscle breakdown.

Creatine and the Brain

Substantial scientific research shows that creatine benefits brain health and function. It’s a lot more than simply a workout supplement.

Creatine is synthesized in the brain and nervous system. Reviews support the potential for supplementing with creatine to keep your cognitive processing and brain healthy because it increases brain ATP.

In a review published in the journal Nutrients, a positive impact was found between supplementation with creatine monohydrate and neurological and mental health conditions. Researchers widely recognize that ATP and creatine maintain homeostasis of the central nervous system.

Your brain stores phosphocreatine like your muscles and requires abundant ATP to function optimally.

Some of the particular conditions that creatine supplementation might help with include:

  • Alzheimer’s
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Ischemic stroke
  • Epilepsy
  • Injuries to the brain or spinal cord
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Brain and memory function in older people

In one study, taking five grams of creatine daily for six weeks significantly improved intelligence and working memory in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 45 young adults who were vegetarians.

There’s evidence that if you increase your creatine intake, it can help shorten concussion symptoms as well.

Can Creatine Help Treat Depression?

Depression can occur because of conditions including bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. For a lot of people, conventional treatments aren’t effective. Creatine can potentially improve disruptions in the physiological pathways of the brain that can lead to depression.

There are several reasons that creatine might help depression. For example, it can help move energy around the tissues and allow it to have an antidepressant effect.

In one study done around ten years ago in South Korea, women were given either antidepressants alone or the same antidepressant as creatine. At the end of the study, half the women in the creatine group were depression-free; that rate was double that of the group just taking an antidepressant.   

While it can all seem a little complicated, the biggest takeaway when talking about creatine and depression is that it may be helpful because it helps increase the production of ATP in the brain, which may make the brain less likely to cause us to feel depressed.

In a large-scale review published in 2020, major depressive disorder seemed to be highest among U.S. adults with the least dietary creatine consumption. For example, in adults with the lowest amounts of creatine consumption, the prevalence of depression was 42% higher. In adults with the highest levels of creatine consumption, the risk for depression was 31% lower.

Why Does Creatine Help with Depression?

We mentioned this above, but as far as we can tell, the reason creatine helps with depression is probably because of the increased production of ATP in the brain.

ATP stands for adenosine triphosphate, which is an energy-carrying molecule. Sometimes ATP is called the energy currency of life because it’s the universal energy source for all living cells.

Every living organism has cells that require ATP for energy needs, and ATP is made when the food we eat is converted into energy.

ATP is a building block for all life forms; without it, the cells wouldn’t have the power to do the necessary functions to sustain life. Every life form relies on ATP to do things required for survival.

Our brain uses more energy than any other organ—around 20%.

Part of the reason the brain needs so much energy is to fuel those electrical impulses that neurons use for communicating with each other. Around two-thirds of the “energy budget” of the brain is used for helping nerve cells send signals or fire. The rest is used for the maintenance of cell health.

ATP is the primary source of cellular energy in the brain, and ATP levels vary depending on brain activity.

The brain needs adequate energy to keep balance inside and outside its cells. If there’s an imbalance, it can cause strokes and other conditions.

Adequate ATP levels in the brain support the cycling of neurotransmitters and proper cell signaling in the brain.

While everyone is different, researchers believe there is a biological component to depression. For example, there may be an imbalance in parts of the brain managing mood in people who have depression. There can also be links between depression and brain structure, such as a less active frontal lobe.

Creatine, in its support of ATP production, could potentially normalize brain activity, fuel it in the way it needs, and help reduce symptoms of depression.

The brain needs a lot of power to work the way it’s meant to, and taking a creatine supplement may be a way to increase your ATP levels naturally and power the brain.

How Long Does Creatine Take to Work for Depression?

There’s not one definitive answer to how long it takes creatine to work for depression, but in most currently available studies, it’s been used for around six weeks. Some people may experience benefits sooner than that.

Which Creatine is Best for Depression?

Most creatine products are fairly similar to one another—you will probably make your comparisons based on price, reviews, and quality, ensuring the company is reputable, so there aren’t additives.

Some types of creatine that I personally like that are cost-effective and reputable include:

Is Creatine Good For Depression—Final Thoughts

Is creatine good for depression? Does creatine improve mood? Does creatine help mental health? These are all common questions, and based on currently available research, the answer appears to be yes.

Creatine can help with brain and mental health and depression because it supports the production of ATP. The brain needs large amounts of ATP, which it uses for cellular energy.

Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6769464/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-the-brain-need-s/

https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/creatine-may-augment-efficacy-ssris

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inner-source/201210/creatine-muscle-and-mood-0

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-020-0741-x

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