Creatine For Endurance Athletes, Does It Work?
Creatine is relatively new to the performance supplements arena, having its first known usage in athletics in 1993. Since then the number of creatine studies have increased, but a lot of questions still remain un-answered.
Creatine is a substance found in dietary meat and fish, but is also created in your liver, kidneys and pancreas. It is stored in muscle tissue in the form of creatine phosphate, a fuel that’s used mostly during maximum efforts of up to 12 seconds and to a lesser extent efforts lasting a few minutes.
The amount of creatine produced by the human body is not enough to boost performance…
but scientists have found that by supplementing your diet for a couple of days, certain types of performance are enhanced.
In order to get an adequate amount of creatine from your diet, you would have to eat up to 5 pounds of rare meat or fish every day! Taking creatine as a supplement appears to be effective in increasing stored creatine for most working class athletes.
A few years ago scientists from Sweden, Britain and Estonia tested creatine supplements on a group of runners. Following a loading period, the runners ran a 4 x 1000 meter interval workout at max effort.
Compared to the pretest performances, the creatine supplemented runners greatly improved their combined 4000 meter times by an average of 17 seconds, where as the placebo control group slowed by 1 second.
The advantage the creatine runners experienced, increased as the workout progressed. In other words, the creatine group experienced less fatigue and were faster at the end.
Be aware though, that a few other studies using swimmers and cyclists have found no improvement in performance from creatine supplementation in repeated short anaerobic efforts.
Try creatine for yourself and let us know how it goes
There is still not a lot known about creatine supplementation, but the benefits are showing to be greatest for maximising gains from short exercise bouts, for example interval and hill repeat drills.
Some athletes believe that it reduces body fat, but it may only seem that way since the body weight increases due to water retention as fat stays the same. Body weight gains have been in the range of 2-5 pounds.
Creatine does not directly build muscle tissue
Instead it provides the fuel so more power training is possible within a given workout session, therefor stimulating muscle growth
The use of creatine for endurance athletes is still up for debate. The best times to supplement for an endurance athlete are during the maximum strength weight training phase and the higher intensity build phase of a training program.
Those that are low in force and power qualities seem to benefit the most at these times. It is best to avoid using creatine in the peak phase when water weight gains may be difficult to shed before high priority events.
About 20 – 30% of athletes who take creatine report no measurable physiological changes. Vegetarians may benefit the greatest from creatine as they typically have low levels due to their diet.
Most studies have used amounts such as 20 – 30 grams of creatine a day taken in 4 – 5 doses during a 4 – 7 day loading phase. After a loading period, muscle creatine levels can be maintained at high levels for 4 – 5 weeks with 2 grams taken daily.
Dissolving creatine in fruit juice appears to improve absorption. In these studies not all athletes experienced an increase in muscle creatine levels despite taking high dosages.
According to scientists involved in creatine studies, there is little health risk since it is filtered from the blood and puts no extra workload on the kidneys. Scientists do know that once you stop short term use your natural production of creatine is restarted.
The only well documented side effect is the addition of body weight during the loading phase, which soon disappears. A greater concern is that creatine may give you a false positive in a urine test for kidney problems.
There have been stories of muscle spasm and cramping in power athletes using creatine on a long term basis, perhaps due to lowered concentration of electrolytes in the muscles.
Talk with your health professional before supplementing with creatine.