Jan 14, 2021Breaking Down Effective Creatine Use
Creatine is an amino acid located mostly in your body’s muscles, as well as in the brain. Though it can be made synthetically, most people get creatine through seafood and red meat, according to the Mayo Clinic. The liver, pancreas, and kidneys also make it.
Your body converts it to phosphocreatine and stores it in your muscles, where it’s used for energy. As a result, people take creatine orally to improve athletic performance and increase muscle mass.
But how do we properly incorporate this into our training regimens? What are the proper dosages? Are there any adverse effects?
A recent post on the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) website shared an exclusive excerpt from the book, “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, Fourth Edition With Web Resource,” help shed some light on supplementation.
Below is an excerpt from that post.
Importance to Exercise
Creatine, in the form of creatine phosphate (CP; also called phosphocreatine [PCr]), has an essential role in energy metabolism as a substrate for the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by rephosphorylating adenosine diphosphate (ADP), especially during short-duration, high-intensity exercise. The ability to rapidly rephosphorylate ADP is dependent on the enzyme creatine kinase and the availability of CP within the muscle. As CP stores become depleted, the ability to perform high-intensity exercise declines. In short-duration sprints (e.g., 100 m sprint), the energy for fueling the activity is derived primarily through the hydrolysis of CP (93). However, as high-intensity exercise increases in duration, the ability of CP to serve as an energy source is drastically reduced.
A typical supplementation regimen involves a loading dose of 20 to 25 g daily for five days, or 0.3 g/kg body mass if an individual wishes to dose relative to body weight, followed by a maintenance dose of 2 g/day (132). If one ingests creatine without an initial loading dose, muscle creatine content will reach levels similar to those seen in people who do initially use a loading dose, but reaching that muscle creatine concentration will take longer (~30 days vs. 5 days).
Muscle creatine levels will remain elevated as long as the maintenance dose is maintained (2 g/day or 0.03 g/kg body mass per day) (132). Once supplementation is stopped, muscle creatine levels will return to baseline levels in approximately four weeks (78, 132).
Most studies examining the effect of creatine supplementation on strength performance have been fairly consistent in showing significant ergogenic benefits (23, 141, 186, 243, 246) (refer to figure 11.4). Strength increases in the bench press, squat, and power clean maybe two- to threefold higher in trained athletes supplementing with creatine compared to placebo (122, 186). These results may highlight the benefit of supplementation in experienced resistance-trained athletes whose potential to improve strength may be limited. In experienced strength athletes, supplementing with creatine may also enhance the quality of workouts (less fatigue, enhanced recovery), which may be crucial for providing a greater training stimulus to the muscle.
An increase in body mass has at times been referred to as a potential unwanted side effect of creatine supplementation (206), particularly in relation to strength-to-mass or power-to-mass ratio. However, in athletes supplementing with creatine, weight gain is often a desired outcome. When people talk about side effects from a drug or supplement, they are generally referring to a potentially debilitating effect. There have been many anecdotal reports of gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and muscular problems, including muscle cramps, in association with creatine ingestion. However, controlled studies have been unable to document any significant side effects from creatine supplementation. Even during prolonged supplementation (several weeks up to many months), no increases in reported side effects were noted in subjects supplementing with creatine— either competitive athletes or recreationally trained individuals (60, 103, 151).
To read the full article from the NSCA, click here.