CREATINE: A CONDITIONALLY ESSENTIAL NUTRIENT FOR ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE, BRAIN FUNCTION, AND HEART HEALTH.
Widely considered a sports supplement for athletes, there is growing research (“growing research” being the keywords, as it means we’re most likely just scratching the surface on the importance of this molecule and its role in optimal function of the human body) showing the critical role creatine plays in optimal function of the human body, and is quickly being recognized as an essential nutrient for everybody.
So how does creatine work?
In a fairly recent paper published on PubMed titled, Perspective: Creatine, a Conditionally Essential Nutrient: Building the Case, it describes creatine as “a major component of energy metabolism that is abundant in human skeletal muscle, brain, and heart.
In short, creatine plays a critical role in the reuptake of ADP back into ATP in your cells.
ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) is the source of energy in your cells. So, the more ATP you are producing at the cellular level, the more cellular energy you have, which makes everything in the body work and perform better.
When your cells use up their ATP, the byproduct is ADP. Creatine helps your cells turn ADP back into ATP.
You can see why this extra cellular energy in your muscles is beneficial for athletes, but who wouldn’t want to also benefit from more muscular energy in your workouts, and in your everyday life?
We also now know that muscle is actually the largest organ system in the body, and plays a critical role in disease prevention and overall longevity. If you haven’t yet, check out our complete guide to muscle & longevity for more on this.
Your heart (another organ where creatine should be abundant) is the hardest working muscle in the body, which means more creatine can help it produce more cellular energy, which in turn, allows it to work less hard, relieving it of stress, and potentially lowering the risk of a severe cardiovascular event over time.
Finally, there’s an estimated 86 billion cells in the human brain. Imagine the improvement in daily cognitive function, and the potential for lowering risk of brain/age related disease if all 86 billion of those cells were producing more energy on a daily basis, over time.
For more info on the growing research on creatine and its benefits on cognitive function, check out this paper on PubMed, Creatine supplementation and brain health.
It’s becoming pretty clear that we all need creatine for optimal health and daily performance, so let’s learn a bit more about how we get creatine.
Creatine is synthesized in the body naturally, so it’s a critical molecule that is required for growth, development, and overall health no matter the individual.
Okay, so creatine is a necessary molecule for optimal health, and it’s produced internally, so you’re good right?
Not so fast.
The growing research on creatine has surfaced two important dilemmas concerning the endogenous synthesis of creatine within the body, and the amount of creatine required for therapeutic and ergogenic (enhancing performance, stamina, and recovery) benefits.
Some people contain a fairly common genetic snip that negatively affects the body’s ability to synthesize creatine naturally.
It appears that even those who do not contain this genetic snip, (meaning they don’t have any issues with internal creatine synthesis) still do not synthesize enough creatine to yield optimal therapeutic and ergogenic benefits.
What does this mean?
This makes creatine an “essential” nutrient for the body under most conditions, and should be treated as such.
An essential nutrient is a nutrient that is required for normal function of the body, but is not produced within, or not produced in adequate amounts for optimal health, making an essential nutrient, a nutrient you must consume through food or via supplementation.
In the case of creatine, it’s conditionally essential because it appears we don’t produce enough of it internally to meet the demands of the human body for optimal function.
HOW TO GET MORE CREATINE THROUGH DIET OR SUPPLEMENTATION:
Creatine is found naturally in red meat, so if you eat solid amounts of red meat, you are probably getting enough in combination with what you synthesize internally, for more optimal function and benefits.
However, research has shown that loading creatine around strenuous activity (e.g. exercise) yields the most benefits systemically. Because of this, even though I consume a lot of grass-fed red meat and wild game, I still supplement with creatine prior to workouts.
Also, if you are on a vegan or vegetarian diet, you may really want to consider supplementing with this conditionally essential nutrient for muscle, heart, and brain function, as there are no plant-based whole food sources for creatine.
I recommend Thorne’s Creatine, as they’re an award winning brand, known well for the purity and potency of their supplements. It’s also cost effective, and they use a micronized creatine which has been shown to have higher bioavailability than standard, non-micronized creatine.
ESTABLISH A BEDTIME ROUTINE
Many sleep scientists agree that sleep really begins 30 minutes before you actually go to bed.
If you’re doing it right.
The idea here is to start preparing your body for sleep with some active relaxation techniques, and other lifestyle habits that can help promote a deeper, more restorative sleep.
Furthermore, with greater consistency, in both frequency you commit to a bedtime routine, and the time in which you do it, you better train the body and mind to wind down for the night, which will serve to enhance the effectiveness of your bedtime routine, and its overall impact on your sleep quality.
I try to be as consistent as possible with a bedtime routine that ideally starts around 9:30-10:00 pm. Naturally, some days are longer, which gives me a later start, and from time to time, I try new things as part of my bedtime routine to see how I feel and respond to them.
Below are various things I currently do, have done with success, or Micaela does, that you may want to try, or consider as part of your bedtime routine.
A Quick Shower. I’m currently doing a 5 minute cold/hot intermittent shower (switching from cold to hot and back and forth every 30 seconds) about 30 minutes before bed as often as possible. The cold/hot intermittent shower helps reduce inflammation, improve circulation, help jumpstart nighttime hormone production, and boost immune function. Research has shown that a warm to hot shower will also jumpstart nighttime hormone production. It doesn’t need to be a full shower, just get your body under the water.
Blue Light Blocking Glasses. Once the cold/hot intermittent shower is done, I’m throwing on my blue light blocking glasses, which will block stress inducing artificial blue light waves. This then signals to my brain that it can wind down for the day, as we don’t naturally wind down our light exposure with the sunset. To read more on this, check out last week’s sleep hacks if you haven’t yet.
Journal. Right now, I’m making a habit of writing down goals for the next day, or simply outlining what I need/want to get done or accomplish. In the past, I’ve journaled more thoroughly, writing down what I’m grateful for at the end of the day, the amazing things that happened to me (and I promise, if you try, you’ll find things in every day), and random thoughts I want to get down, and found this practice to be very beneficial.
Meditate. I personally have never been great at getting into a meditation routine at night, and have typically prioritized journaling, however, Micaela meditates quite regularly as part of her bedtime routine, and gets great benefits from it. She uses the Calm App, and recommends it.
Breathwork. This is a key part to concluding our bedtime routine, and I definitely recommend this to everyone. We both practice the 4-7-8 Breathwork routine when we lay down. CLICK HERE to check out a quick video on it.
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
This documentary follows John and Molly Chester, a married couple who left their jobs in Los Angeles, to launch Apricot Lane Farms, a traditional, regenerative term, using practices designed to mimic nature.
Apricot Lane Farms residents include pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, guinea hens, horses, highland cattle, and one brown Swiss dairy cow named “Maggie”. The land consists of Biodynamic Certified avocado and lemon orchards, a vegetable garden, pastures, and over 75 varieties of stone fruit.
To see how you can watch “The Biggest Little Farm”, and to learn more, tap the image below.
MOST OF OUR SUFFERING COMES FROM AVOIDANCE
Almost near every morning, I take an ice cold shower.
It’s always cold, and you never truly get used to it.
Some days, if I’m not in a rush, or hurry to get out the door, I’ll catch myself stalling.
Avoiding the cold, knowing it’s going to suck.
Then you get in your head. You give yourself some silly, unnecessary anxiety, even though you know, deep down, that this is good for you.
At some point, I stop avoiding it, and I just do it.
And when I’m done, I feel amazing.
In fact, it actually reduces stress and anxiety for the whole day now, just because I faced the music and dove in.
And both the daily and long-term health benefits are well worth it.
I find this to be a strong metaphor for life.
Anxiety is the anticipation of future pain.
Let that thought sink in.
…is the anticipation…of future pain.
What alleviates anxiety?
Action alleviates anxiety.
Whether it’s that difficult conversation you don’t want to have with someone, but know you need to, the hard decisions in life you’ve been putting off, and any other avoidance of some perceived future pain.
Stop torturing yourself and take action.
The avoidance of the suffering, oftentimes is far worse than the suffering itself.