Creatine supplements record huge sales every year around the world. Because of it’s popularity, scientists were able to show proof and evidence of its effectiveness in sports nutrition. Obviously, creatine is a phenomenon in muscle builders and cross-fit addicts, but is it also beneficial for endurance athletes?
Creatine is naturally synthesized from amino acids in the liver and kidneys. Then, it is taken up by skeletal muscles (all the muscles used during exercise) and stored there at high concentrations. During exercise, the creatine in the muscles is converted into energy. The turnover of creatine is quite low and losses can be easily replaced by adequate intake of animal muscle products such as fish and meat. However, for those who are vegetarians or vegans, creatine can also be synthesized by your body in small amounts. Therefore, the only thing that supplementation of creatine favours is the rapid regeneration of energy called ATP. "That's awesome" I hear you say. Don't be so naïve.
With consistent use of creatine, endurance athletes will see an increase in the fat-free mass 5-7 days after creatine administration. This weight gain is due to water retention and may make the athlete gain as much as 2 kg. According to many international studies, no increase in endurance performance was demonstrated with the use of creatine supplementation and it’s even categorized as detrimental for marathoners!
Another downside for the endurance athlete is that creatine has the power to reduce range of movement around joints and cause some gastro intestinal upset. Does your gain in muscle output really compensate for increases in body mass, gut upset and injured joints?
I seem to be quite a strong opponent of creatine included in triathlete nutrition strategies, but let me tell you something awesome I found recently about the supplement:
Creatine functions only as a temporal energy buffer and provides the majority of the energy for the first 6-8 seconds of muscle contraction. Sprint and high intensity athletes rely on this system for the first seconds of contraction. Creatine will give them up to 5% of improvement in performance by increasing bursts of power and strength in the working muscles. Some studies also mention that creatine attenuates normal decrease in force or power production between repeated short sprints or high intensity bouts of exercise (weight lifts).
Research is looking into some of its hydration properties: they might have the potential for enhanced cellular hydration to support performance in hot conditions since water is retained in the muscles.
Moreover, creatine could have protective properties that could enhance rate of rehabilitation of injured athletes. No evidence is found yet but studies are on the way and I am hoping for success.
There are so many ways to maximize your endurance and your energy, however… for endurance athletes, creatine should not be one of them. A good training regimen and proper training nutrition is all you need. If you’re not satisfied with the results you get, you might want to consult a sports dietitian to help you figure out a diet that works for you. No short-cut is better than eating clean and training hard. Don’t load up on chemicals, because (yes!) those products are usually not pure and don’t empty your pockets with their steep pricing.
Baron, David. Non-hormonal performance enhancement. 1 December 2015. web page. 26 08 2016.
Burke, Louise and Vicki Deakin. Clinical sports nutrition. Sydney: McGraw Hill Education, 2015. Manual.
Photo Credit: Freepik
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