What is creatine?
Creatine is a naturally occurring compound found in skeletal muscle (and the brain) that is obtained from meat and fish as well as being produced naturally by the body. There is large individual variation in creatine levels due to gender, age and dietary habits (vegetarians have lower levels of muscle creatine than meat eaters).
Creatine and performance
Creatine has a role in the regulation of energy production and acts indirectly to help supply the body with ATP (the body’s fuel currency). Increased creatine stores can potentially enhance fatigue resistance and lead to performance improvements during high-intensity, brief duration (<30 second) activities with short recovery periods. It should be noted individual responses to creatine are varied individuals with the lowest starting creatine stores having the greatest potential for a response to supplementation.
Who might benefit from creatine supplementation
- Sportspeople undertaking resistance training programs to increase lean muscle mass
- Sportspeople participating in sports with repeated brief, high intensity efforts with short recovery periods (e.g. throwers, sprinters)
- Sportspeople participating in sports with intermittent work patterns (e.g. team sports, racquet sports)
Recommended dosing strategy
Supplementation with creatine involves both a loading and maintenance phase (saturated muscle takes approximately 4 weeks to return to baseline levels). Loading can be done over a short (5 day) or slow (28 day) period followed by an ongoing maintenance dose. Each dose should be taken with a generous portion of carbohydrate to enhance uptake and storage of creatine in the muscles.
Potential side effects
- Acute loading is typically associated with a small weight gain (~600-1000g) which may be counterproductive to athletes competing in sports where power-to-weight ratio is important
- Anecdotal reports of muscle cramps, strains and tears but little evidence to substantiate an increased risk of these events
The incorporation of creatine into an athlete’s nutrition plan should be considered on an individual basis. Working with an Accredited Sports Dietitian will help to ensure that the most appropriate dosing strategy and best results are achieved.
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