International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand
Creatine remains one of the most extensively studied nutritional ergogenic aids available.
With the aid of The International Society of Sport’s Nutrition research review I will illustrate some basic information regards to how creatine supplementation can benefit people looking to improve body composition and exercise performance.
The biochemical basics behind Creatine
The energy needed to maintain intense exercise is largely dependent on the amount of phosphocreatine (PCr) stored in the muscle. As PCr stores become depleted during intense exercise, muscle cannot create energy at the required rate and therefore high intensity exercise diminishes. It is hypothesised that if Pcr stores in the muscle can be increased through supplementation, the person exercising should be able to exercise at a higher intensity for longer, and therefore improve fitness gains, strength, muscle mass and fat loss.
Who will creatine supplementation benefit?
Those who regularly take part in strength training or high intensity sports like sprinting would benefit from creatine supplementation. Nearly 70% of creatine studies have reported a significant improvement in exercise capacity, while the others have generally reported non-significant gains in performance.
Short-term adaptations reported from creatine supplementation include increased cycling power, total work performed on the bench press and jump squat, as well as improved sport performance in sprinting, swimming, and football. Long-term adaptations when combining creatine supplementation with training include increased muscle creatine and PCr content, lean body mass, strength, sprint performance, power, rate of force development, and muscle diameter. In long-term studies, subjects taking creatine typically gain about twice as much body mass and/or fat free mass than subjects taking a placebo.
Many protocols are touted on the World Wide Web, but research shows there are 2 effective ways. The first, is the quickest way of increasing the creatine stores within the muscle. For the initial 5 days the athlete would use a ‘loading phase’ (0.3g per kg body weight, per day) followed by 3-5g per day.
A more gradual approach, which is slower at increasing creatine muscle stores, but still effective, is to consume 3-5g per day without the ‘loading phase’.
What is the best formula?
In a nutshell, Creatine Monohydrate has, to date shown to be the most effective type to supplement. You will find all sorts of combinations in shops and online, and although there maybe potential with some of them (ie, creatine and beta alanine), at present there is insufficient data available to suggest they outperform Creatine monohydrate..
Can young athletes take creatine?
Yes, so long as the following guidelines are met
1. The athlete is past puberty and is involved in serious/competitive training that may benefit from creatine supplementation;
2. The athlete is eating a well-balanced, performance-enhancing diet;
3. The athlete and his/her parents understand the truth concerning the effects of creatine supplementation;
4. The athlete’s parents approve that their child takes supplemental creatine;
5. Creatine supplementation can be supervised by the athletes parents, trainers, coaches, and/or physician;
6. Quality supplements are used;
7. The athlete does not exceed recommended dosages.
Are there side effects?
The only clinically significant side effect reported in the research is weight gain. Other claims of side effects including dehydration, cramping, kidney and liver damage, musculoskeletal injury, gastrointestinal distress, and anterior (leg) compartment syndrome still exist in the media. While some people who are taking creatine may experience these symptoms, the scientific literature suggests that these athletes have no greater, and a possibly lower risk of these symptoms than those not supplementing with creatine.
Although there is strong evidence supporting Creatine supplementation and performance enhancement, everyone should be aware that it is a ‘SUPPLEMENT’. Always consume a healthy, well balanced diet with the correct ratio of carbs, fat and protein as well as maximising nutrient intake before considering supplementation.
Daniel Wellard, Physio4Life Personal Trainer and Nutritionist