What is Creatine Monohydrate? Creatine is a physiologically active substance that plays an important role in muscular contractions. In the muscle it is converted to phosphocreatine, which plays an important role in the re-formation of ATP (chemical energy source within cells) from ADP (pre-used ATP molecule). Normal creatine stores for a 70kg man total around 120g, of which 95% is found in the muscle (Hunter, 1922).
Creatine can be manufactured in the body from the amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine at a rate of 1-2g per day. On average we also consume a further 1g of creatine, a day, in our diet from foods such as beef and tuna. Creatine is an alactic energy source – this means it can produce energy in the absence of oxygen – that is capable of producing about 6-10 seconds of energy during maximal effort.
Who might benefit from Creatine Monohydrate supplements? Anyone who is involved in strength/power sports, bodybuilding, who competes in sports like football or rugby where there are repeated bouts of sprinting should benefit from creatine monohydrate. It also appears to be effective at increasing lean muscle mass and bone mineral density in older athletes.
What does research say about Creatine Monohydrate? Following supplementation creatine stores can increase to a maximum of about 160g. Once full, creatine stores stay elevated for around 14-21days but can be maintained for longer by taking a smaller maintenance dose.
Since phosphocreatine stores are important for muscular contractions, supplementation with additional creatine is believed to enhance performance during high intensity exercise (Nagle and Bassett, 1989). Creatine supplementation has been demonstrated to have the most positive benefits when used with strength/power athletes or sprint athletes. A number of studies have demonstrated that creatine monohydrate supplements enhance performance during short term exercise (Greenhaff et al., 1993; Greenhaff, 1995; Maughan, 1995; Volek et al., 1999, and; Mujika et al., 2000; Anomasiri et al., 2004; Hoffman et al., 2005).
Creatine supplementation has been demonstrated to improve muscular strength and size (Volek et al., 1999). In this study, nineteen male strength-trained athletes underwent 12 weeks of resistance training. Half were given creatine supplementation and the other half took a placebo or “inactive” supplement. Creatine supplementation consisted of 20g of creatine monohydrate per day, for 5 days, followed by a maintenance dose of 5g a day for the remainder of the study. Following the 12 weeks of training the creatine group increased fat free mass (muscle mass) by 6.3% compared to 3.1% in the placebo group. Muscle cross-sectional area increases were greater in the creatine group as well. The creatine group also demonstrated greater gains in strength, with their squat and bench press strength increasing by 34% and 22.6% respectively, compared to 25.8% and 15% in the placebo group. The increase in total body weight, and fat free mass, appears to be due, in part, to increased water retention within the muscle (Kutz and Gunter, 2003).
Similar improvements in strength and power were reported by Rawson and Volek (2005). In this study subjects took either creatine monohydrate, or a placebo, whilst doing resistance training. The researchers found that the creatine group increased muscle strength by 20% whereas the placebo group only increased muscle strength by 12%. Similarly weighlifting performance increased by 26% in the creatine group and only 12% in the placebo group. In both cases the improvement in the creatine group was around twice that of the placebo group.
Creatine supplementation has also been demonstrated to improve sprint performance in footballers (Mujika et al., 2000) and also improves football-specific skill performance (Ostojic, 2004).
Creatine may also be beneficial for endurance cycling performance (Preen et al., 2001). Endurance cyclists may benefit from creatine supplementation through the way it allows them to recovery more quickly between the small increases in pace that commonly occur during cycling races. Total work, peak power, and cycling sprint performance have been demonstrated to significantly improve following creatine supplementation (Gill et al., 2004). Also reduced levels of fatigue, during intense exercise, have been found following creatine supplementation (Hoffman et al., 2005). It appears unlikely that creatine would be of significant benefit to endurance runners, due to the increased weight gain experienced following supplementation.
It has also proved to be effective for swimmers (Anomasiri et al., 2004). In this study creatine supplementation significantly improved sprinting performance over the last 50m of 400m swimming competitions.
Creatine is also believed to protect against loss of strength and muscle size following inactivity through injury, and may also help to protect against the age associated decrease in strength and lean muscle mass. In fact research has shown that in older men (71 year olds), creatine supplementation, caused a significant increase in muscle mass and a 3.2% increase in bone mineral content (Chilibeck et al., 2005).
Is Creatine Monohydrate effective? Creatine monohydrate has proved to be perhaps the most effective nutritional supplement for enhancing muscular strength, size and power. It is one of the most widely researched sports supplements and has shown beneficial effects in nearly every research study.
How should I take Creatine Monohydrate? Creatine is normally taken using a loading dose consisting of 20g of creatine (split into four 5g doses) taken orally with simple sugars such as 200ml of fruit juice – to increase the uptake of creatine by muscle cells – for 4-6 consecutive days. This alone would keep muscle creatine levels elevated for 14-21days. But by taking a small maintenance dose (2-5g per day) you can maintain the levels of muscle creatine levels for longer. You should discontinue use after 2-3 months so your body doesn’t stop its natural production of creatine.
Researchers have found positive effects on performance without taking a loading dose (Anomasiri et al., 2004; Hoffmann et al., 2005). Hoffman et al., (2005) found that the consumption of just 6g of creatine monohydrate, for just 6 days, significantly improved fatigue resistance.
It should be noted that Creatine serums, which have recently proved popular, are far less effective than creatine powders at improving sprint performance (Gill et al., 2004). The researchers believed this to be due to a high conversion rate of creatine to the inactive waste product creatinine.
Creatine supplementation appears to cause few adverse effects, even with long term supplementation (Groeneveld, et al., 2005). Some people may, however, experience muscle cramps, diarrhoea, gastro-intestinal discomfort or nausea.
Anomasiri, w., sanguanrungsirkul, S. and Saichandee, P. (2004) Low dose creatine supplementation enhances sprint phase of 400 meters swimming performance. J Med Assoc Thai. 87 (Suppl 2), S228-S232.
Chillibeck, P. D., Chrusch, M. J., Chad, K. E., Shawn Davison, K. and Burke, D. G. (2005) Creatine monohydrate and resistance training increase bone mineral content and density in older men. J Nutr Health Aging. 9 (5), 352-353.
Gill, N. D., Hall, R. D. and Blazevich, A. J. (2004) Creatine serum is not as effective as creatine powder for improving sprint performance in competitive male team-sport athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 18 (2), 272-275.
Greenhaff, P. L. (1995) Creatine and its application as an ergogenic aid. International Journal of Sports Nutrition. 5, S100-S110.
Greenhaff, P. L., Casey, A., Short, A. H., Harris, R., Soderlund, K. and Hultman, E. (1993) Influence of oral creatine supplementation on muscle torque during repeated bouts of maximal voluntary exercise in man. Clin. Sci. 84, 565-571.
Groeneveld, G. J., Beijer, C., Veldink, J. H., Kalmijn, S., Wokke, J. H. and Van Der Berg, L. H. (2005) Few adverse effects of long-term creatine supplementation in placebo-controlled trial. Int J Sports Med. 26 (4), 307-313.
Hoffmann, J. R., Stout, J. R., Falvo, M. J., Kang, J. and Ratamess, N. A. (2005) Effect of low-dose, short-duration creatine supplementation on anaerobic exercise performance. J Strength Cond Res. 19 (2), 260-264.
Kutz, M. R. and Gunter, M. J. (2003) Creatine monohydrate supplementation on body weight and percent body fat. J Strength Cond Res. 17 (4) 817-821.
Maughn, R. J. (1995) Creatine supplementation and exercise performance. International Journal of Sports Nutrition. 5, 94-101.
Mujika, I., Padilla, S., Ibanez, J., Izquierdo, M. and Gorostiaga, E. (2000) Creatine supplementation and sprint performance in soccer players. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 32, 518-525.
Nagle, F. J. and Bassett, D. R. (1989) Energy metabolism. In: Nutrition in exercise and sport. Ed. Hickson, J. F. and Wolinsky, I. Boca Raton. FL, CRC Press. 87-106.
Ostojic, S. M. (2004) Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 14 (1), 95-103.
Preen, D., Dawson, B., Goodman, C., Lawrence, S. and Beilby, J. (2001) Effect of creatine loading on long-term sprint exercise performance and metabolism. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 33, 814-821.
Rawson, E. S. and Volek, J. S. (2003) Effects of creatine upplementation and resistance training on muscle strength and weightlifting performance. J Strength Cond Res. 17 (4), 822-831.
Volek, J. S., Kraemer, W.J., Rubin, M. R., Gomez, A. L., Ratamess, N. A. and Gaynor, P. (2002) L-carnitine L-tartrate supplementation favouably affects markers of recovery from exercise stress. American Journal of Physiology. 282, E474-482.
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