Does Creatine Work? The Truth About Creatine and Athletic Performance
The answer to the question, “Does creatine work?” is a simple one. Yes, creatine works, and we shall look at some facts and studies that prove this shortly including who may or may not benefit from this popular supplement.
For many athletes, creatine can significantly reduce fatigue and increase endurance. Bodybuilders and other athletes that indulge in regular weight training can benefit greatly from regular doses of creatine. While there is still some debate about what dosage of creatine is appropriate for athletes, no one questions the fact that creatine is helpful for boosting muscle mass.
How to Take Creatine
- Some advocates of creatine use suggest that people interested in taking creatine should take very large doses of creatine for a couple weeks, and then much smaller doses afterwards. The idea is to “load” the muscles with as much creatine as possible, and then maintain creatine levels with lower doses.
- Scientific evidence suggests that taking super high doses of creatine for a couple weeks is not that much more beneficial than taking regular doses (United States Sports Academy). The idea that a “loading” phase as important is not really well substantiated by research.
- Five grams per day of a creatine supplement is a good starting dose. Everybody reacts differently to creatine. You should start at a low dose and then increase your dose if you’re responding well. Of course, too much of anything is rarely a good thing.
Who Needs Creatine? The Types Of Athletes Who Need It
Many sports supplements makers and sellers may sell you on creatine, telling you that you need it for strength, endurance et al. The truth of the matter is, not all athletes need this supplement.
In fact, creatine should be categorized as a “good to have” supplement as opposed to a “must have” supplement. It is good to have, if you’re involved in some types of physical activity such as bodybuilding, power lifting, baseball, and other sports that require bursts of energy and strength. It can give you an advantage, which can make a huge difference in some cases.
You may or may not need it for a sport like golf. It can help you improve strength and power needed for that swing, but it is a completely individual option.
Yet for other athletes, creatine is not only unnecessary, it can actually be counterproductive. For aerobic athletes such as distance runners, it is not needed and the fact that it can cause increase in body weight can actually make it disadvantageous.
One thing is almost certain: If you take creatine, you’ll gain weight. Men’s Health
What this basically means is that if your sport is anaerobic in nature, creatine may be good for you. If sport is aerobic, you may be better off staying off it.
Aerobic endurance athletes, such as distance runners and triathletes, represent a much different picture from power athletes. Their levels of ATP and phosphocreatine don’t change during exercise because ATP is generated at the same rate it is used — a “pay as you go” mechanism. Aerobic generation of ATP, via oxidation of glucose (and fats), is slower than by anaerobic systems, but the fuel supply is enormous. Aerobic athletes train their muscles differently, and indeed the muscle tissue itself is different from power athletes. Type I muscle fibers are known as “slow-twitch” because they have a slower speed of contraction than type II fibers (“fast-twitch”). Slow twitch fibers have less glycolytic capacity, but increased mitochondria, myoglobin, and aerobic enzyme pathways.
Thus, “slow twitch” athletes cannot generate the speed and force of their “fast twitch” cousins, but they can do their thing for a long time. If an endurance athlete needs to dip into the anaerobic range, for a sprint or hill climb, the needed extra energy primarily comes from anaerobic glycolysis of glucose (yielding lactic acid, and that wonderful muscular “burning” sensation.). The ATP-creatine system is not important for endurance athletes. SportsMed Web
Is Creatine Safe?
- The question, “Is creatine safe?” is almost as commonly asked as the question, “Does creatine work?” Creatine is a very safe dietary supplement. Thousands of athletes take it every year without any noticeable adverse effects. Some athletes experience mild stomach problems as a result of taking creatine, but these usually resolve themselves quite quickly.
- It is a myth that creatine causes kidney damage. While it is true that large doses of creatine can be a little harsh on the kidneys, there is no evidence that creatine causes any permanent damage to the kidneys.
Types of Creatine Supplements
- There are three different types of creatine supplements that have been on the market for years, and a relatively new form. The three old standbys are creatine monohydrate, creatine phosphate, and creatine citrate (Vanderbilt University: Health Psychology Page). The relatively new form of creatine now available on the market is called creatine ethyl ester.
- There are no significant differences between any of the different types of creatine supplements. Although creatine ethyl ester was once thought to be absorbed more quickly than creatine monohydrate, the only difference between the two is cost (University Of Tulsa).
- It almost goes without saying that care should be taken to choose only creatine produced by reputable manufacturers. The dietary supplement industry is poorly regulated, and you need to purchase from companies that you can trust.
To achieve best results with creatine, you need to make sure that you give your muscles enough time to recover between workouts. Creatine makes it possible for your body to exercise harder during workouts, and consequently you should build up more muscle mass faster, but in order for this to occur, you need to make sure that you rest enough after your workouts.
So, does creatine work? Yes, but creatine alone cannot build muscle mass for you. You need to combine your use of creatine with well-planned workouts and adequate rest. Of course, there is no product that works for everybody and you will need to find out if it will work for you, including type and brand.
Next, you may want to check out the top creatine supplements on the market today and find the right one for you.