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Creatine as a Nootropic

Creatine as a Nootropic

Creatine as a nootropic is probably something you haven’t heard before. As refresher, cognitive enhancers (or nootropics or smart drugs) are prescription or off-the-counter medicines or supplements that enhance cognition. In the competitive world of athletes, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, and tired students, the demand for cognitive enhancers is bound to increase daily.
Overall, it is essential to make sure you make use of the correct product for you, knowing its full potential and side-effects.

“Simplicity Is the Ultimate Sophistication.”
― Leonard Da Vinci


What Are Nootropics?

“The only difference between the master and the novice is that the master has failed more times than the novice has tried.”
― Stephen McCranie

First things first, what are nootropics? Corneliu Giurgea, a Romanian neuroscientist, coined the term nootropic (pronounced new-tropic) in 1972. He believed that smart drugs should be invented and made widely available for the purpose of enhancing the general population’s brain health and increasing human intelligence.

According to Dr Giurgea’s findings, nootropics enhance cognition, memory, alertness, concentration, creativity, and attention. They became known as cognitive enhancers, substances that amplify the way the brain’s many cognitive functions operate and how we process information.

Simply put, cognitive enhancers (or nootropics or smart drugs) are prescription or off-the-counter drugs or supplements that enhance cognition. Some nootropics contribute to brain health while others can be quite dangerous.

Since Marco’s Grounds only works with safe and natural compounds in their purest forms, for most of our discussions we will restrain ourselves to natural nootropics that increase cognition safely.


What Is Creatine?

“Stay away from those people who try to disparage your ambitions. Small minds will always do that, but great minds will give you a feeling that you can become great too.”
―Mark Twain

Creatine is a term that you can easily stumble upon if you dare spend a couple of minutes in a gym. Although bodybuilders and weightlifters commonly use it to improve muscle mass and performance, it is not a muscle-building supplement at all. It is an energy-enhancing compound and a great one at that.

The energy provided by creatine isn’t limited to muscles alone. It makes a significant impact on the brain, as well. If you read Marco’s Wrap-Up from July 2020 (subscriber exclusive emails), you’re probably already familiar with the concept of brain cells not being intrinsically different from muscle cells.

Creatine is a compound that stores high energy phosphate groups that are donated to adenosine diphosphate (ADP), forming adenosine triphosphate (ATP), when ATP runs out in intense exercise or mental activity. Suppose you remember seventh-grade biology class. ATP is the energy currency of the body. To create energy, one phosphate connection is broken down on the ATP molecule—triphosphate means three phosphates. This turns ATP into ADP—diphosphate means two phosphates—things are simple sometimes. Now, to turn ADP and its two phosphates into ATP again to start the energy circle all over, the body uses a molecule called creatine phosphate as the phosphate donor. That’s why having optimal levels of creatine in your body helps with energy metabolism.
Creatine is made naturally in the liver and, to a lesser extent, in the kidney and the pancreas.

Where Can You Get Creatine?

“When you give joy to other people, you get more joy in return. You should give a good thought to happiness that you can give out.”
―Eleanor Roosevelt

Creatine is found naturally in meat, fish, and other animal products. Milk and eggs contain creatine in minor amounts.
Creatine can be bought separately in the market as well. It is available as creatine monohydrate (for example in capsule form with vitamin C here), which is a powdered form.
Modern preparations of creatine are available as micronized creatine monohydrate, which is equivalent to creatine monohydrate in effectiveness. The micronized formulation is readily water-soluble; hence, it is prevalent in the market. A way to use creatine monohydrate, which is much less expensive than its micronized counterpart, is to dissolve the powdered creatine into hot water; e.g., tea or coffee, and use a catalysator to increase its dissolution. A catalysator in chemistry is an element that increases the speed of a chemical reaction. In this case, using a spoon as a catalysator to stir the hot water will dramatically increase the dissolution rate. Fully dissolved creatine monohydrate has rates of absorptions that are similar to micronized creatine monohydrate.
Creatine hydrochloride is another form of creatine available and requires a lower dosage than creatine monohydrate.
Liquid creatine is another form available in the market but is ineffective as a creatine donor due to its stable solution form. Buffered creatine, creatine ethyl-ester, creatine magnesium-chelate, creatine nitrate are other formulations of creatine available, which have little data available as to their effectiveness or efficiency.

What Role Does Creatine Play in the Brain?

“When you change your thoughts, remember to also change your world.”
― Norman Vincent Peale

The primary function of creatine as a nootropic in the brain and other parts of the human body is the provision of energy in the form of high energy phosphate compounds. This has been indicated in imaging studies and the measurement of oxygenated hemoglobin [1]. Oxygenated hemoglobin identified in different parts of the brain indicates increased metabolic activity.
Reasons for Low Creatine Levels in the Brain
  • Lack of meat consumption – Since creatine is mostly found in meat sources, vegetarians, vegans and those avoiding meat consumption usually have a low creatine level in their body [2].
  • Sleep Deprivation – Sleep deprivation and lack of rest deprives the body of the time that is needed to regenerate the exhausted energy stores [2].
  • Aging – This is a natural phenomenon, where cellular metabolism slows down, energy stores decrease, and the intensity of mental and physical activity decreases [2].
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases – Patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease have shown reduced creatine stores in the brain, which affect the energy provision for essential brain cellular functions.

    How Does Creatine Improve Cognition?

    Improves Brain Cellular Metabolism
    Creatine as a nootropic prevents ATP degradation by supplying high energy phosphate compounds, stimulates protein synthesis, reduces protein degradation, and stabilizes cell membranes [2, 9].
    Prevents Neuromuscular Disorders and Age-Related Neurodegenerative Disorders
    Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Duchene’s Muscular Dystrophy, McArdle’s Disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease have shown reduced creatine kinase in the brain [2]. The pathologies of these diseases have been linked to the reduction of creatine in the brain and the lack of energy to carry out critical cellular activities [3, 9].
    Improves Memory
    Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition compared the short-term memory of people taking oral doses of creatine compared to placebo [1]. A higher short-term memory response was observed in the group that ingested creatine. Creatine did not seem to have any effect on verbal fluency or vigilance; the researchers noted [1, 9].
    Intelligence and Reasoning
    In research published in Experimental Gerontology, the effects of creatine intake on the cognitive function of healthy individuals proved that oral creatine intake improves intelligence and reasoning [4, 9]. However, other cognitive skills such as long-term memory, spatial memory, attention, executive function, word fluency, reaction time, and mental fatigue showed no significant results.
    Prevents Energy Fatigue
    Mental fatigue, which is often observed after intense mental activity, sleep deprivation, and traumatic brain injury, was seen to be reduced after creatine intake [9, 10].

    Is Creatine Safe? If So, What Doses Are Safe?

    Creatine is a natural compound that is present in the human body in muscles, brain cells, etc. Creatine intake of 5 grams per day has been indicated to be at the Observed Safe Level (OSL) for chronic long-term supplementation by research published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology [5]. Individuals also consumed much higher levels of up to 20 grams per day of creatine for short-term experiments, and they showed no adverse effects. However, since data for intakes above 5g per day in healthy adults is not sufficient for a confident conclusion of long-term safety, I’ll refrain from commenting.
    In people with healthy kidneys, long term creatine intake has shown no adverse effects. Creatine levels are used to monitor kidney function, and blood creatine levels are increased in those with kidney failure. However, this does not mean that creatine affects the kidneys. There are no such indications in the literature now. Creatine is merely excreted from the kidneys.

    How Effective Is Creatine in Enhancing Cognition?

    Creatine as a nootropic supplementation has shown positive effects in the following:
    • Elderly individuals [7].
    • Sleep-deprived (young or old) individuals [7].
    • Those with cognitive impairment, such as those with age-dependent neurodegenerative disorders [7].
    • Vegetarians and vegans [1, 8].
    However, a study performed in 2008 by Rawson et al. found that young individuals who are well rested with no sleep deprivation showed no improvement in cognitive abilities after creatine supplementation [7].

    What Are Common Drawbacks of Creatine Intake?

    • Stomach cramping can occur when taken without sufficient water.
    • Diarrhea and nausea can occur when too much creatine is taken at once without spreading the doses throughout the day.
    • Creatine must be consumed with carbohydrates or sugars to facilitate its function. This problem should be considered by health professionals recommending creatine and those following a non-carb diet or a Paleo diet. To overcome carbohydrate dependency, ensure that you use creatine with something like fenugreek (a herb used for cooking and which has the same effect as sugar for the absorption of creatine but with less drawback) or like taurine, for example in a complex like Maximum Mind or individually. Taurine has been shown to increase the rate of absorption of creatine significantly.

      Are There Other Ways to Increase Creatine Levels in the Body?

      Exercising, adapting your diet by including creatine sources, and increasing muscle mass are ways to increase your creatine levels without any supplementation [11]. However, these methods have their limits; i.e., it can be difficult to precisely control the consumed dose of creatine, and some people may not want a creatine increase coming with caloric and other nutrients.

      How Can One Maximize the Cognitive Effects of Creatine?

      Consuming creatine as a nootropic with a universal cognitive-enhancing complex like Maximum Mind is extremely likely to yield profound cognitive benefits. Consult Maximum Mind standalone results here.


      1. Benton, D., & Donohoe, R. (2011). The influence of creatine supplementation on the cognitive functioning of vegetarians and omnivores. The British journal of nutrition, 105(7), 1100–1105.
      2. Persky, A., Brazeau, G., and Hochhaus, G., 2003. Pharmacokinetics of the Dietary Supplement Creatine. Clinical Pharmacokinetics, 42(6), pp.557-574.
      3. Tarnopolsky M. A. (2000). Potential benefits of creatine monohydrate supplementation in the elderly. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, 3(6), 497–502.
      4. Avgerinos, K. I., Spyrou, N., Bougioukas, K. I., & Kapogiannis, D. (2018). Effects of creatine supplementation on the cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Experimental gerontology, 108, 166–173.
      5. Shao, A., & Hathcock, J. N. (2006). Risk assessment for creatine monohydrate. Regulatory toxicology and pharmacology: RTP, 45(3), 242–251.
      6. McMorris, T., Mielcarz, G., Harris, R. C., Swain, J. P., & Howard, A. (2007). Creatine supplementation and cognitive performance in elderly individuals. Neuropsychology, development, and cognition. Section B, Aging, neuropsychology and cognition, 14(5), 517–528.
      7. Rawson, E. S., Lieberman, H. R., Walsh, T. M., Zuber, S. M., Harhart, J. M., & Matthews, T. C. (2008). Creatine supplementation does not improve cognitive function in young adults. Physiology & behavior, 95(1-2), 130–134.
      8. American Physiological Society. (2019, April 8). The dietary supplement boosts cognitive function in vegetarians: Vegetarians showed greater visual memory gains than meat-eaters after taking creatine. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2020, from
      9. Rae, C., Digney, A. L., McEwan, S. R., & Bates, T. C. (2003). Oral creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proceedings. Biological Sciences, 270(1529), 2147–2150.
      10. The Royal Society. (2003, August 13). Boost Your Brain Power: Creatine, A Compound Found In Muscle Tissue, Found To Improve Working Memory And General Intelligence. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2020, from
      11. Cooper, R., Naclerio, F., Allgrove, J., & Jimenez, A. (2012). Creatine supplementation with a specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 33.



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