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Creatine monohydrate and training

Creatine is a widely taken sport supplement that increases a person's short burst energy output. It is effective for increasing sprint speed, vertical jump, and lean muscle gain when used properly...

Creatine is an amino acid that is usually synthesized from natural sources in your diet such as meat and fish. It consists of arginine, glycine, methionine (amino acids) and is an important store of energy in muscles in the form of phosphocreatine that is used in conjunction with ATP (our main energy source). Creatine helps maintain ATP supplies during short, explosive bursts of work 0-30 secs in duration (eg resistance training, sprinting).

Supplementation of creatine in powder or liquid form has become very popular in the last few years with a number of sports teams, professional and recreational athletes using it. Studies thus far have shown it to be a very effective training supplement with no adverse side effects.

Contrary to popular belief, creatine does not increase resting the concentration of ATP in muscles, but helps to maintain ATP concentrations during a single maximal effort sprint by ‘recycling’ broken ATP energy chains. A 75kg person has approximately 120g stored naturally in their body, supplementation increases this by approximately 25%. Not all people respond well to creatine, especially those with already high levels from natural sources (meat, fish etc), so vegetarians often benefit a lot. When taken with glucose or high glycemic foods it appears to increase absorption by approximately 10%.

Effects of creatine

The scientific evidence to date is based mainly on short term studies:

* Subjects experience an increase in speed and power in sprints 5-8%
* Faster recovery of energy during training allows training volume to increase by 5-15%
* Work during multiple repetition strength tests increase 5-15%
* 1RM (measure of strength) and vertical jump increase 5-10%
* Improvements correlated with quantity of creatine stored in the musclesCautions
* Not all studies found increased power, speed etc.
* Some studies found decreased endurance running speed, possibly due to weight gain
* Creatine is least effective when supplementation below 20g per day for initial loading

Side effects of creatine supplementation

* The only known side effect is short term weight gain – subjects in studies average 0.7 to 1.6 kg total body mass increase
* Longer term studies showed up to 3kg gain in weight
* Weight gain is attributed to either water retention or protein synthesis (muscle mass increase)
* Possible increase in injury risk due to ability to place greater stress on body
* Concern about liver damage from the increased amino acid processing demands but no evidence to date

How to use creatine for your training

If you are seeking greater sports performance in a short burst high intensity acitivity then creatine should be suitable for you. Or if you wish to increase your lean mass and get more effect from your resistance training workouts then it will also be suitable.

For most people a load of 5g four-five times per day (total of 20-25g per day) for one week is an effective initial dose to saturate the muscles with creatine. Thereafter, you should reduce your intake to 5g per day to maintain creatine levels. Taking 100g of glucose with 5g creatine (or use formulas with a glucose transport) will aid the absoprtion of creatine.

There is some debate over whether ‘cycling’ the creatine dosage over weeks is more effective. We suggest that you do cycle, and follow this procedure: do 1 week loading (as above 5 x 5g per day), then 3 weeks on maintainence (5g per day), have 3 weeks off (zero intake), then load again for a new cycle. Monitor your performance for your own gauge of effectiveness as individual results will vary.

To find out more about creatine, eating well or your individual nutritional needs contact us!


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