Creatine and Strength Improvements

A large body of work over several years has clearly shown that creatine supplementation enhances performance and strength gains.  All of which has proven that this is a safe and effective supplement to have in the athletes game plan.
Creatine monohydrate is a synthetic version of an amino acid found naturally in the body, primarily in skeletal muscle.  It is essential for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fuse for motion involving muscle contraction.

7

Creatine supplementation isn’t just for male athletes, women are consuming it also.  A study found in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research studied sixteen collegiate women lacrosse players for this study.  Each player consumed either creatine or a placebo for five weeks during their preseason conditioning program.  Pre-and post-testing consisted of body composition, muscle endurance test, blood lactate response to the endurance test.  A regime of dietary creatine supplementation significantly improved upper-body strength gain and decreased the percent of body fat as assessed by skin fold in women athletes engaged in a resistance-training program.

Also in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research the article titled “Effects of Creatine Supplementation and Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Weightlifting Performance” reports that recent data indicated that athletes may not be using creatine as a sports performance booster per se but instead use creatine chronologically as a training aid to augment intense resistance training workouts.  The purpose of this review was to evaluate the effects of creatine supplementation on muscle strength and weightlifting performance when ingested concomitant with resistance training.  The effects of gender, interindividual variability, training status, and possible mechanisms of action were discussed.  Of the 22 studies reviewed, the average increase in muscle strength (1, 3, or 10 repetition maximum RM following creatine supplementation plus resistance training was 8 percent greater than the average increase in muscle strength following placebo ingestion during resistance training.  Similarly, the average increase in weightlifting performance (maximal repetitions at a given percent of maximal strength) following creatine supplementation plus resistance training was 14% greater than the average increase in weightlifting performance following placebo ingestion during resistance training.  The increase in bench press 1 RM ranged from 3 to 45% and the improvement in weightlifting performance in the bench press ranged from 16 to 43%.  Thus there is substantial evidence to indicate that creatine supplementation during resistance training is more effective at increasing muscle strength and weightlifting performance than resistance training alone, although the response is highly variable.

A study titled “Effects of Creatine Supplement on Body Composition, Strength, and Sprint Performance” determined that the hematological parameters remained within normal clinical limits for active individuals with no side effects reported.  Total body weight significantly increased in the HP group while no differences were observed in the percentage of total body water.  DEXA scanned body mass and fat/bone free mass were significantly increased in the HP group.  Gains in bench press lifting volume, the sum of bench press, squat, and power clean lifting volume, and total work performed during the first five 6-sprints were significantly greater in the HP group.

The conclusion in this study was that the addition of creatine to the glucose/taurine/electrolyte supplement promoted greater gains in fat/bone-free mass, isotonic lifting volume, and sprint performance during intense resistance/agility training.

Does creatine work for vegetarians?  It seems that it does.  The study done at St. Francis Xavier University, Department of Human Kinetics, Nova Scotia, Canada shows that vegetarians who took creatine had a greater increase in TCr was significantly correlated with initial muscle TCr, and the change in lean tissue mass and exercise performance.  These findings confirm an erogenic effect of CR during resistance training and suggest that subjects with initially low levels of intra-muscular CR (vegetarians) are more responsive to supplementation.

Other studies suggest that oral creatine supplementation can acutely ameliorate skeletal muscle function in older humans, but its value in the prevention of sarcopenia remains unknown. Evaluation done at the laboratory of Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics in Belgium claim the effects of lifelong creatine supplementation on muscle mass and morphology, contractility, and metabolic properties in a mouse model muscle senesence.  Male mice were fed control or creatine supplementation (2% of food intake) diet from the age of 10 to 60 weeks.  Soleus and extensor digitorum longus muscles were tested for in vitro contractile properties, creatine content, and morphology at weeks 25 and 60.  Both muscle types showed reduced phosphocreatine content at week 60 that could not be prevented by creatine.  Aged soleus muscles had fewer fast-twitch glycolytic fibers irrespective on treatment received.  It was concluded that lifelong, creatine supplement is no effective strategy to prevent sarcopenia in senescence-accelerated mice.

Yet another study from Oxford Journal’s article titled “Creatine Supplementation Enhances Isometric Strength and Body Composition Improvements Following Strength Exercise Training in Older Adults” conclude that the addition of CrM (Creatine Monohydrate) supplementation to exercise stimulus enhanced the increase in total and fat-free mass, and gains in several indices of isometric muscle strength.  They also said that there is a significant increase in intra-muscular total creatine in the CrM group.  But finally, there were no significant side effects of treatment or exercise training.  This study confirmed that there were no significant side effects of treatment or exercise training.  This study confirms that supervised heavy resistance exercise training can safely increase muscle strength and functional capacity in older adults.

Long term oral creatine supplementation doesn’t seem to impair renal function in healthy athletes.  This is a side effect that has been postulated, but no complete investigation has been conducted to support this theory.

The most common and effective method is to take creatine in the powdered form mixed with a drink of water.  Taking creatine with a rapidly digested carbohydrate, such as juice, helps deliver more creatine to the muscle than when taken alone because of the insulin release in response to the juice.  The recommended dose is 3 to 5 grams a day, although some protocols recommend a “loading phase” of five days with 20 grams. Avoiding caffeine during the creatine loading phase because it seems to interfere with the loading mechanism.

REFERENCES

  1. Mindell, Earl, R.Ph., Ph.D., with Mundis, Hester.  EARL MINDELL’S NEW VITAMIN BIBLE. New York, Grand Central Publishing, 2004.
  2. Benner, Megan; Rankin, Janet Walbert; Sebolt, Don. 2000.  The Effects of Creatine Supplementation During Resistance Training in Women.  Journal of Strength & Conditining Research.  National Strength and Conditioning Associatin.  Abstract from journals.lww.com.
  3. Rawspm. Eroc S.; Volek, Jeff S. 2003.  Effects of Creatine Supplementation and Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Weightlifting Performance.  Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.  National Strength and Conditioning Association.  Journals.lww.com.
  4. Kreider, Richard B.; Ferreira, Maria; Wilson, Michael; Grindstaff, Pamela; Plisk, Steven; Reinardy, Jeff; Cantler, Edward; Almada, A.L. Effects of Creatine Supplementation on Body Composition, Strength, and Sprint Performance.  Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.  January 1998 – Volume 30 – Issue 1 – pp 73-82.  Lippencott, Williams & Wilkins 1998.
  5. Burke DG, Chilibeck PD, Parise G. Candow DG, Mahoney D. Tamoplosky M. Effect of Creatine and Weight Training on Muscle Creatine and Performance in Vegetarians.  Department of Human Kinetics, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonis, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2003 November; 35 (11) 1946-55.  United States National Library of Medicine.  National Institues of Health.
  6. Wim Derave, Bert O. Eijnde, Monique Ramackers, and Peter Hespel January 28, 2005.  Accepted in final form February 16, 2005.  No Effects of Lifelong Creatine Supplementation on Sarcopenia in Senscence-Accelerated Mice (SMPS8).  American J. Physiology Endocrinology and Metabolism 289, E275-E277, 2995.  Laboratory of Exercsie Physiology and Biomechanics, Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Science, K.U. Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
  7. Andrea Brose, Gianni Parise and Mark A. Tarnoplosky.  2002 Creatine Supplementation Enhances Isometric Strength and Body Composition Improvements Following Strength Exercise Training in Older Adults.  Biomedgerontology, Oxford Journals.  The Gerontological Society of America.
  8. Poortmans, Jacques R.; Francaux, Marc.  Long Term Oral Creatine Supplementation Does Not Impair Renal Function in Healthy Athletes.  Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Volume 31, No. 8, pp 1108-1110, 1999.  Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc. 1999.
  9. Skolnik, Heidi, MS, CDN, FACSM, Chernus, Andrea, MS, RD, CDE NUTRIENT TIMING FOR PEAK PERFORMANCE. Human Kinetics, 2010.