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Should Athletes Use Creatine?

Lindsay Martin takes us through the science of Creatine and the impact it has on different types of Athletes.
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Article from Lindsay Martin, MS, RDN, LDN | 

I work with clients all the time with what supplements they should take, when and how.  A common question is: “should I use creatine?” Some clients are young,  some are older, some are in endurance based sports, some more strength or even quick energy released types of sports.  Well today, let’s get down to what the science suggests. 

First, let's dig into, what creatine is?  Creatine is an amino acid compound made up of three amino acids - arginine, glycine, and methionine.  The role is to maintain energy homeostasis by keeping cellular ATP levels constant within cells that have high and fluctuating energy demands.  This happens often in high intensity athletics like weight lifting, soccer, hockey, basketball, racketball, and others.  Creatine is located mostly in the body’s muscle mass and brain tissue.  Creatine is known to have an ergogenic effect, meaning it allows the body to have increased capacity for bodily or mental labor, especially by eliminating fatigue symptoms. 

Now, where can we get creatine naturally?  External forms of creatine can be found in seafood, red meat, and chicken.  It can also be consumed in powder supplement form.  The body can also make creatine through metabolic processes in the kidneys, liver, and pancreas. 

Creatine in Athletics 

During exercise, the body uses energy (ATP) and creatine, resulting in depleted energy levels throughout the body’s muscular cells.  By taking creatine supplements, the body is provided with extra amino acids to quickly repair the damage to the muscular cells. It also provides more energy in the muscle stores at the beginning of the workout resulting in more intense workouts with the ability for higher workloads. Creatine is most effective for fast movements that typically last less than ten seconds, like jumping, throwing, lifting, and sprinting.  There have been many research studies that show a positive relationship between the supplementation of creatine and performance gains, however the ability to convert the weight room gains to on the field performance has mixed results in the research. Research suggests that creatine be used in short term regimens to see the best results.  There is little research on the effects of long term creatine supplementation and the body.  

The suggested dose of creatine varies from 0.07 g/kg/day to 5 g/day, so it is best advised that an individual considering creatine supplementation talks with a registered dietitian on what dosing regimen is best for them. There has been some research that shows creatine is better absorbed and more effectively used when taken with glucose.  One study in particular shows that creatine supplementation combined with 1 gram of glucose per kilogram of body mass, twice per day, increases muscle total creatine nine percent more than creatine supplementation alone (Volek, 612). 

In short and through years of research, creatine has been shown to have a positive, ergogenic effect on high performance, short endurance athletes.  If the training goals align with short, high intensity movements, creatine supplementation could be greatly beneficial. For long endurance athletes, such as runners, swimmers, or bikers, the supplementation of creatine has little to no benefit.  If an individual is considering taking a creatine supplement, they should talk to a registered dietitian to see how it best fits into their training regimine. 

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