SUBMITTED BY HAO-YI SIM, HUMAN NUTRITIONAL SCIENCES STUDENT
(Please note that this post serves only as a source of information, and should not be considered medical advice. As with any supplement, please see a medical professional, such as a doctor or dietitian about any concerns).
Creatine is a structure composed of amino acids, specifically L-Arginine, Glycine, and Methionine, which come together to form the small peptide. Creatine is primarily stored in the skeletal muscle, and the liver, kidney, and the pancreas (to a limited degree) help synthesize it at a rate of roughly 1 gram per day.
Creatine in the body that is attached to the phosphate group is known as “phosphocreatine”, a molecule that aids in regenerating adenosine triphosphate (ATP) stores. ATP is the vital unit of “energy currency” that when broken down, releases energy that allows muscles to contract and do work.
ATP and phosphocreatine work together in the form of the ATP-PCr energy system, which is responsible for rapidly producing energy for activities requiring intense speed, power, and strength, and lasts for approximately 10 seconds. Activities requiring this energy system include the 100m sprint, or Olympic Weight-Lifting. (Canadian Academy of Sports, 2015)
Some individuals supplement their body with creatine supplementation. That is, consuming external sources of creatine with the goal of increasing their own creatine stores. Creatine Monohydrate is the common oral supplement form that is seen in most markets today.
In order to incorporate creatine for those who have not previously taken it, the recommended standard protocol composes of a week long “loading phase” to saturate the skeletal muscle with increased creatine, followed by a daily “maintenance phase” in order to maintain this increased muscular creatine state.
The standard dosages for the loading phase consists of consuming 0.3g/kg of bodyweight per day, or roughly 20-25 grams a day on average, split into four to five intakes of 5 grams each. Once the weeklong loading phase is complete, the standard dosage for the maintenance phase is 0.03g/kg/day, or roughly 5 grams every day. (Cooper, Naclerio, Allgrove, Jimenez, 2012).
When consumed in proper amounts and combined with resistance training, creatine uptake has been shown to enhance maximum (1 rep max) and endurance strength levels. Additionally, an increase in IGF-1 (an insulin-based muscle growth factor) has been observed, and has been positively correlated with increased insulin and increased lean body mass.These positive increases strength and hypertrophy have been attributed to the fact that athletes, who have an increased creatine pool from supplementation and thus more rapid ATP generation, are able to maintain a higher training intensity and improvement of workout quality.
There has also been research demonstrating enhanced neuromuscular performance over a short duration. In other words, creatine has been shown to increase performance in anaerobic, high intensity intermittent exercises lasting approximately 30 seconds and less. While there is some research for benefits of creatine supplementation in aerobic based activities, there are a similar amount of contradictory studies, and further research is required.
If an athlete is injured or is currently in rehabilitation, there have been some studies to suggest that supplementing creatine can be an effective strategy to reduce the effect of muscle damage post endurance exercise. Further more, the supplement had the potential to aid in reducing the anti-oxidative effects after more intensive resistance training.
In one retrospective study spanning 1-4 years, it was suggested that there were no negative health effects on creatine supplementation. Rather, there appeared to be positive effects in increasing total body water, reducing risk of muscle cramps and dehydration. The body’s ability to produce creatine has shown to not be compromised after a brief period following discontinuation of creatine supplementation. However, long-term studies on creatine are limited, and thus caution should be exercised when using creatine long term.
It should be noted that a majority of studies have focused on the adult population (>18 years), with much less research in children and adolescents. Thus, recommendations for creatine supplementation in children and adolescent are limited, and typically not recommended. However, the ISSN (International Society of Sport Nutrition) proposes that a younger athlete at a serious competitive level, who is past puberty, following a well balanced, adequate diet, with parental approval and supervision by qualified professionals, may consider taking creatine to enhance training and performance.
In summary, creatine supplementation, when combined with intensive exercise and the proper loading and maintenance protocol, particularly heavy resistance training, can help enhance both maximal and endurance strength, as well as hypertrophy. Additionally, there is some research to support enhanced performance in anaerobic, high intensity exercise, as well as aid in the reduction of muscle damage and oxidative stress following exercise.
Please see the following sources used for more detailed information:
Manitoba Sport Nutrition Network