Jan 29, 2015
Nutrition Case Study

By Michelle Rockwell

Contributor Michelle Rockwell shares the case study of a track and field athlete who used creatine to make lean muscle gains and performance improvements.

Keisha was an NCAA Division I sprinter looking to gain three to five pounds of lean body mass and improve her speed and power on the track. She was from the Caribbean and had always eaten a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, rice, and fish. She was lactose intolerant, and as a result had stayed away from most dairy products.

Though moving to the U.S. didn’t taint Keisha’s diet with massive amounts of junk food, as happens to so many foreign athletes, she did struggle to take in enough calories to support her significantly increased training level and her first foray into weightlifting. She had also been unsuccessful in her goal of gaining weight. I suggested that she make several nutritional modifications to increase protein consumption (adding nuts, seeds, more fish, yogurt, and tofu nuggets), calcium consumption (yogurt and fortified orange juice and cereals), and calorie intake (avocado, olive oil on veggies, olives, peanut butter, dense breads, dried fruit, and granola), and these changes helped improve her energy level and overall nutrition profile. But when it came to weight gain, Keisha and her coaches felt she had reached a plateau.

Keisha came to me asking whether a creatine supplement would be a good strategy. Ordinarily, I would suggest that an athlete maximize creatine in his or her diet before supplementing because creatine is found naturally in many foods, especially non-poultry meats. But she was unwilling to eat beef or pork, and though her diet did contain fish (which has some creatine), she wasn’t eating nearly enough to have the desired effect of weight gain.

So I started Keisha on a regimen of three grams per day of a quality creatine supplement and advised her to continue her normal diet and increase fluid consumption. After about six weeks, Keisha had gained three-and-a-half pounds and was noticing a significant difference in her recovery between sprint intervals. In addition, her maximum lifts in the weightroom increased by 15 to 20 percent.

This is a perfect example of how to use a supplement the right way. Supplementation should never be an alternative to eating right, but it can provide a boost when an athlete with a healthy diet has a specific, reasonable goal that they’re struggling to meet.

Michelle Rockwell, MS, RD, CSSD, is a private sports nutrition consultant based in Durham, N.C. She works with athletes and teams throughout the country ranging from recreational to professional. She also offers sports nutrition consulting and workshops through RK Team Nutrition, at: www.rkteamnutrition.net.

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