We get asked about creatine supplementation on a pretty regular basis. Rightly so, it’s been a player in sports nutrition supplementation for a long time now and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
Creatine monohydrate is THE most researched supplement in the world of sports nutrition, and it’s one of the few that, time and time again, has been shown to be not only safe, but rather effective, too.
So what does it actually do?
According to a 2011 article published in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry, creatine monohydrate:
- Increased single and repetitive sprint performance
- Increased work performed during sets of maximal effort muscle contractions
- Increased muscle mass & strength adaptations during training
- Enhanced glycogen synthesis
- Increased anaerobic threshold
- Possible enhancement of aerobic capacity via greater shuttling of ATP from mitochondria
- Increased work capacity
- Enhanced recovery
- Greater training tolerance
What is the proper dosage?
There’s been some debate in the nutrition world about whether or not nutrient timing matters. I think those debates are missing one key element: just because something is “okay” doesn’t mean it’s optimal for increasing performance. Another issue that is missed in the literature is the timeframe referred to as the pre-training meal time. But that’s a topic for another discussion.
- Eating at least 3 hours before training is always going to lead to higher quality training that not eating at all. Aim for a high carbohydrate meal, a serving of protein, and limit fats in the hour before training.
- Your post-training meal represents an opportunity to immediately begin the recovery process. The better you recover, the better your next training session will be. Imagine those wins stacked on top of each other time and time again!
According to the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand on the safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine:
“THE QUICKEST METHOD OF INCREASING MUSCLE CREATINE STORES MAY BE TO CONSUME ~0.3 G/KG/DAY OF CREATINE MONOHYDRATE FOR 5–7-DAYS FOLLOWED BY 3–5 G/DAY THEREAFTER TO MAINTAIN ELEVATED STORES. INITIALLY, INGESTING SMALLER AMOUNTS OF CREATINE MONOHYDRATE (E.G., 3–5 G/DAY) WILL INCREASE MUSCLE CREATINE STORES OVER A 3–4 WEEK PERIOD, HOWEVER, THE INITIAL PERFORMANCE EFFECTS OF THIS METHOD OF SUPPLEMENTATION ARE LESS SUPPORTED.”
Are some brands of creatine better than others?
My favorite site for comparing the quality of different brand of supplements is www.labdoor.com. I don’t get any sort of compensation for telling you that, I just really like that site and they are constantly adding new supplements to it. It’s certainly not all inclusive, but it’s a good place to start. For those that are subject to WADA drug-testing, you can also search for products that have been tested for over 200 banned substances.
To answer the initial question, should you use creatine?
Given the evidence supporting both the benefits of supplementing with creatine and the lack of side-effects, creatine appears to be a very effective way increase strength and work capacity. It should be noted that proper diet, sleep, and stress management should be in line before the addition of supplements. If you need help getting started with performance nutrition, you can apply to work with our team here or to learn more about our services, go here.
AUTHOR: DR. KRISTIN LANDER, DC, CISSN
Kristin has competed internationally in both powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting. She is a lover of all things barbell, nature, and nerdiness. She has helped hundreds of athletes over the last decade reach the highest level in their sport through her evidence-based performance nutrition methods, careful attention to detail, and individualized approach.