Creatine: is it worth the hype?
Creatine is one of the more popular sports supplements used, but do you need to take it, and what does it do?
What is it?
Creatine is a compound naturally found in muscle cells but is also eaten in the diet.
Creatine is concentrated in animal muscles (e.g., meat and fish) and therefore this is where the main dietary source for omnivores (meat eaters). It has been found that muscle and blood levels are reduced in vegetarians who consume less in the diet. Creatine exists in free (creatine) and phosphorylated (phosphocreatine) forms and most of creatine is stored in the skeletal muscle. There is enough creatine in skeletal muscle to support about 8-10 seconds of maximal exercise.
What does it do?
Creatine is a dietary supplement taken as a white powder, that is taken combined with liquid or food. Creatine supplements should be taken straight away following mixing with liquids, otherwise it does degrade to creatinine.
Creatine may be most beneficial for those who have the lowest muscle creatine (e.g. vegans, vegetarians), they have the largest potential for increase in response to supplementation.
Creatine supplementation can help to maximise training for power, speed and strength-based training. Increasing creatine stores enhances the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is a key energy source for high intensity exercise.
When to consider its use
Creatine supplementation improves the performance of short (<30 seconds), high intensity exercise, especially when there are repeated bouts. This means that it can be a useful adjunct in range of sports including many team sports.
High intensity single max efforts < 30secs e.g. sprint events, resistance training.
There is also some evidence that creatine supplementation can improve recovery and minimise the decrease in strength, endurance and mass of muscle after injury when there are very low levels of physical activity.
There is also some emerging evidence that creatine supplementation may help improve cognitive function and therefore be helpful for decision making, so this could be helpful during stressful periods.
How do you take it?
Creatine monohydrate is the best type to go for, there is the most evidence for this and it is the best absorbed (99%).
Take creatine with a source of carbohydrate to help maximise its absorption. There is some evidence to suggest post-exercise creatine ingestion is more effective. So consider taking it following exercise with your post-exercise meal.
Mix creatine powder with a liquid (e.g. recovery shake) or food (e.g. Greek yoghurt).
Short loading: 5g creatine, 4x day for 5 days
Long loading: 3-5g creatine for 20 days
3-5g creatine, 1x day, daily
You do not have to do the short loading dose, however it does help you reach the optimal dose quicker.
Creatine does increase water retention during the loading phase which can lead to a 1-2kg weight increase.
Creatine is not dangerous for your kidneys. It does increase blood creatinine levels however this is safe. It is recommended to stop creatine supplementation for 30 days prior to a blood test to get an accurate measure of your kidney function. No research has found any issues with kidney function and creatine use.
If you are not sure if Creatine would benefit you, then get in touch and Rachel White Nutrition via the Contact page and we can discuss how to best support you.