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Creatine: A review of the research

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD on Jul 23, 2012 1:34:11 PM

For athletes interested in bulking up, creatine is commonly a topic of discussion. While I typically recommend hard work and smart nutrition over taking a creatine, here is some information about creatine, to help you determine if you want to make it a part of your sports supplement program. The information is taken from a recent article in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

 

• Your liver and kidneys (and to a small extent, your pancreas) produce about 1 gram creatine per day and store it in your muscles. Your body will produce less creatine if you start taking creatine supplements, but this soon changes when you stop taking the supplements.

 

• Creatine is found in meat. Hence, meat-eaters consume about 1 gram creatine per day but vegetarians (and others who do not eat beef, chicken, fish or other meats) have lower amounts of creatine stored in their muscles.

 

• The average 154-lb (70-kg) man stores about 120 to 140 grams of creatine; taking creatine supplements can increase creatine levels inthe body.

 

• Higher creatine allows for more rapid ATP regeneration between resistance training sets. This allows athletes to maintain a higher training intensity and stimulates greater muscle strength and size.

 

• A typical supplementation protocol is:  Loading phase: four 5-gram doses taken throughout the day (20 grams total/day) for five days, followed by 3 to 5 grams creatine per day to maintain.

 

• Some athletes have no response to creatine supplements. Perhaps these non-responders already had initially high creatine levels? If so, this suggests a maximum size for the creatine pool.

 

• Some athletes show an 8% to 14% improvement in 1 Repetition Max (the heaviest amount of weight a person can lift)—but not everyone experiences such a response.

 

• Vegetarians who take creatine tend to have a larger increase in lean muscle mass compared to non-vegetarians—5.3 lbs vs. 4.2 lbs (2.4 kg vs. 1.9 kg) respectively. Note: That's only one pound more ... not much!

 

•Although creatine has been shown to be most effective with anaerobic intermittent exercise such as lifting weights, it might also help athletes such as sprinters who do intense aerobic exercise that lasts more than 150 seconds (2.5 minutes)—but creatine’s effects diminish as the duration of the exercise increases over 150 seconds. Creatine’s benefits may be related to improving one’s anaerobic threshold.

 

•Creatine combined with high intensity or long duration exercise and a high carbohydrate diet can contribute to higher muscle glycogen stores.

 

• Creatine can act as an effective antioxidant after intense resistance training sessions.

 

• Post-exercise creatine can favor an anabolic environment and improve the recovery process.

 

• Because creatine gets stored with water, it increases intracellular water content. This can result in water-weight gain, increased muscle stiffness, and reduced range of motion.

 

• Creatine has not been well-tested in athletes younger than 18 years of age. Some speculate taking creatine might be a stepping-stone for kids that leads to more dangerous products like steroids (though this is just speculation).

 

• Creatine Guidelines for teen athletes include:

            -Only recommended when the athlete is a serious competitor and is post-puberty.

            -The athlete is eating a well-balanced sports diet that optimizes performance.

            -Both athlete and parents understand the effects of creatine supplementation and approve of taking the supplement. No one can guarantee safety.

            -Qualified professionals supervise the supplementation of only reputable brands of creatine supplements.

            -The athlete does not take more than the recommended dose.

 

• Creatine supplements come in many forms, including in combination with protein and carbohydrates. More research is needed to determine if one style is the most helpful.

 

ª Negative health reports associated with creatine are few. The isolated reports suggest the athletes took high doses and had undiagnosed renal disease.

 

• Creatine is not associated with increased cramps or injuries. If anything, creatine holds more water in the body, and this might decrease the risk of dehydration.

 

To read the complete article by Robert Cooper and colleagues, go to http://www.jissn.com/content/pdf/1550-2783-9-33.pdf

Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update

 

Eat wisely, fuel well before and after you lift weights, exercise wisely, and enjoy the benefits.

Nancy

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