Increasing strength and muscle mass with creatine may be your priority, but your brain may benefit more than anything. Research from the past 5 years has accelerated in the cognitive sphere and, unlike many other “nootropics” or “smart drugs”, there are a plethora of positive studies. However, these studies focus primarily on large groups of people other than you!
To discover whether creatine monohydrate is positively impacting your cognitive abilities, we have developed a guide to track cognitive improvements. This guide will allow you to leverage modern technology to get a better understanding of this supplement's effect on you.
Your Self-Tracking Experiment
There are two elements of your first self-tracking experiment. Because you are the only party in the study, it is considered a single-subject design experiment.
Baseline assessment – before you change your diet, supplementation, or practices, you want to get a “baseline” assessment. What is your cognitive function before you start taking any product? Try to get data for at least 1 week. The longer you have, the better you can compare when you make a change. This change is called the...
Intervention assessment – the intervention is what you are trying to track. In this case, it might be how much cognitive enhancement you achieve through creatine supplementation. This data is compared against the baseline to give you an indication of whether the supplement has helped or not. Again, try to do the intervention as long as possible.
NOTE: With creatine it is particularly important to collect data for around 1 month (longer than other smart drugs). Because creatine monohydrate must reach a saturation in your body, it takes longer to see a benefit.
Tools for Tracking Cognition
This program was created in 2012 to provide individuals with cognitive tracking games. Because of the popularity, there are probably experiments about creatine that you can join. These options can come with many stipulations so create your own if you want something custom.
Go through all the questions once you have joined an experiment; then try to focus on tests and games that relate to memory, attention / focus, and even mental fatigue. One way you can test mental fatigue is to undergo testing at a certain part of the day where you might be tired during the baseline. You may find after the creatine intervention that you can work longer and more efficiently.
Neurological protection is hard to quantify using these tests, but you can use basic passive-avoidance tests for learning and memory. These tests will show basic results, but you can try to to manipulate timing (as mentioned above) to quantify anti-fatigue benefits of creatine.
After finishing a test on Quantified Mind, make sure to “save this result” to access it later. The data from both the baseline and intervention will allow you to make accurate conclusions after supplementation.
The experts at Cambridge University have developed tests in 4 cognitive areas including memory, reasoning, concentration and planning. For the purposes of testing creatine, the two areas that matter most are memory and reasoning.
Paired Associates – This game activates the lateral and medial frontoparietal and occipital regions of the brain. Users must remember which objects are hidden in respective boxes.
Digit Span – Verbal working memory is used for memory of telephone numbers, names etc. This exercise tests this memory type.
Monkey Ladder – Instead of verbal working memory, this tests visual working memory. These users are expected to remember number placement; studies show chimps have better visual working memory than humans.
Spatial Span – Squares are used to help you better judge your environment.
The “Odd One Out”, “Object Reasoning”, “Double Trouble”, and “Grammatical Reasoning” tests are all useful for people taking creatine monohydrate.
Other Cognitive Testing Programs
There are a few other different programs as well; these may not be as useful as Quantified Mind and Cambridge Brain Sciences, but they can help depending on your needs. These include Cognitive Fun, Gbrainy, and CogniFit.
Subjective Cognitive Tests
Even though quantitative data is useful for determining the efficacy of creatine and other supplements, it is still important to consider how you “feel”. While subjective feelings are subject to the placebo effect and they should not be reasons to continue supplementation by themselves. Nonetheless, they can be useful determining whether a practice is continually worthwhile.
For example, one side effect of creatine is gastrointestinal discomfort. If you find your subjective wellbeing declining in intervals after creatine consumption, it could be due to a lack of water or too high a dose.
The Mercury App can help you to consistently track your feelings at different intervals. Take tests before and after you consume creatine at certain intervals. Create a new account and click “Start a new tracking” with a relevant name for the test. Determine your scale, description etc. and continue.
You can set email reminders to record your feelings; with creatine it might be preferable to test upon waking, before you take creatine, and every hour for a few hours afterward. Of course, life makes it difficult to take consistent measurement. For best results, hide the data with the Mercury App feature.
Tracking Tools are Not Perfect
As you might expect, any home “laboratory” is not going to be perfect. Tools like Quantified Mind and Cambridge Brain Sciences can test cognitive performance over time, but they are subject to the initial-practice effect. You may get better simply because you are practicing similar tasks repetitively. Again, one way to mitigate this is through longer baseline and intervention periods.
Depending on your biochemistry, you might be subject to the Yerkes-Dodson law, which distinguishes the relationship between arousal and performance. Individuals who are naturally anxiety-prone will benefit more from anxiolytics while stimulants can help inattentive individuals. Creatine has been shown to improve energy so keep your own experience with common stimulants (such as caffeine) in mind.
Tracking creatine for muscle mass and strength is a little more straightforward. You can weigh yourself and better understand strength based on your working weight and personal records. However, testing cognitive benefits with creatine can sometimes be a little more tricky. While you may not have purchased creatine monohydrate specifically for enhanced cognition, in the modern age it will be helpful no matter your profession.
If you have any questions pertaining to tracking tools or methodologies, please feel free to comment. Want more help? Email or call us!