I have discussed the extrinsic "fringe" benefits of creatine supplementation in the past - or in other words, the benefits gained from supplementing that go beyond the standard and proven increases in strength and muscular growth. I came across another benefit recently, and one that I haven't seen before but makes sense in hindsight.
Good science is never absolute. A recent review that has come out looking at creatine supplementation's effects on glucose metabolism is very adamant at pointing out the relatively scant evidence surrounding the benefits on this topic. Having said that, this is an interesting topic to discuss and research further.
Creatine Supplementation and glycemic control: a systematic review
The focus of this review is the effects of creatine supplementation with or without exercise on glucose metabolism. A comprehensive examination of the past 16 years of study within the field provided a distillation of key data. Both in animal and human studies, creatine supplementation together with exercise training demonstrated greater beneficial effects on glucose metabolism; creatine supplementation itself demonstrated positive results in only a few of the studies. In the animal studies, the effects of creatine supplementation on glucose metabolism were even more distinct, and caution is needed in extrapolating these data to different species, especially to humans. Regarding human studies, considering the samples characteristics, the findings cannot be extrapolated to patients who have poorer glycemic control, are older, are on a different pharmacological treatment (e.g., exogenous insulin therapy) or are physically inactive. Thus, creatine supplementation is a possible nutritional therapy adjuvant with hypoglycemic effects, particularly when used in conjunction with exercise.
We know that active muscles absorb water and blood sugar like sponges. We also know that creatine supplementation can cause water and blood sugar retention in muscles. Purely speculation from me, but I would assume that the mechanisms of glucose metabolism - digestion and absorption of glucose is being enhanced with creatine supplementation by increasing the rate of absorption into the muscle cells.
One of the primary roles of insulin is simply to transport and store excess blood glucose in muscle and adipose (fat) cells. That is why exercise is so effective for healthy insulin sensitivity because working muscles absorb so much blood sugar and ease the load of the pancreas and the hormone insulin.
It appears that supplementing with creatine, along with having a well-rounded resistance and exercise program appears to increase insulin sensitivity and reduce the risks of diabetes.
Tyler Robbins B.Sc. CSCS
Director of Fitness
Head of CrossFit