Creatine is one of the most widely researched supplements on the market and it has the backing to demonstrate that it works! Creatine can enhance performance in sports involving repeated high-intensity exercise. These include resistance training, sprinting sports or sports within intermittent work patterns such as team sports and racquet sports.
While this article covers creatine supplementation, we do actually get creatine in the diet from meat and fish, in addition to being naturally produced in our bodies. In saying this, there are large individual variations in creatine levels due to gender, age and dietary habits.
Creatine helps to recycle ATP, extending the time in which muscles can generate force. Muscle contraction requires energy, which comes from the hydrolysis of ATP.
Increasing creatine stores can potentially enhance fatigue resistance and lead to improved performance during high intensity, brief duration activities with short recovery periods. Supplementation can increase the body’s creatine stores by up to 50%, which provides the body with the means to continue producing energy.
Unfortunately, the effectiveness of creatine supplementation depends on how well the individual responds to it, with approximately 20-30% of people being non-responders.
Supplementation with creatine involves both a loading and a maintenance phase. The loading phase can be done with 20g per day for 5-7 days followed by 3-5g per daily for maintenance. Research has also shown that supplementing with 3-5g per day for 3-4 weeks will also saturate the muscle to a similar level compared to an acute loading week.
Creatine does not need to be timed around training, but it does need to be taken consistently. It is also recommended to have a source of carbohydrates at the same time to improve uptake and storage in the muscle.
Luckily for athletes, or anyone looking into using creatine, the most widely researched and most effective form of creatine is creatine monohydrate, which is also the cheapest version around. Don’t let the staff in the supplement shop talk you into anything ‘fancier’ because it won’t be as effective.