Beyond muscle: the effects of creatine supplementation on brain creatine, cognitive processing, and traumatic brain injury

Eur J Sport Sci. 2019 Feb;19(1):1-14. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2018.1500644. Epub 2018 Aug 7.


The ergogenic and therapeutic effects of increasing muscle creatine by supplementation are well-recognized. It appears that similar benefits to brain function and cognitive processing may also be achieved with creatine supplementation, however research in this area is more limited, and important knowledge gaps remain. The purpose of this review is to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge about the influence of creatine supplementation on brain function in healthy individuals. It appears that brain creatine is responsive to supplementation, however higher, or more prolonged dosing strategies than those typically used to increase muscle creatine, may be required to elicit an increase in brain creatine. The optimal dosing strategy to induce this response, is currently unknown, and there is an urgent need for studies investigating this. When considering the influence of supplementation strategies on cognitive processes, it appears that creatine is most likely to exert an influence in situations whereby cognitive processes are stressed, e.g. during sleep deprivation, experimental hypoxia, or during the performance of more complex, and thus more cognitively demanding tasks. Evidence exists indicating that increased brain creatine may be effective at reducing the severity of, or enhancing recovery from mild traumatic brain injury, however, only limited data in humans are available to verify this hypothesis, thus representing an exciting area for further research.

Keywords: Phosphorylcreatine; cerebral energy metabolism; cognition; concussion; dietary supplement.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / drug therapy*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Creatine / pharmacology*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / pharmacology*


  • Performance-Enhancing Substances
  • Creatine