The Truth About Supplements: How Much Does Creatine Help?

Within the health and fitness industry, people are always looking for ways to improve the results of their training.

One of the most common ways to gain these improvements is through supplementation.

While the supplementation of protein powder is quite common, there are a number of other supplements that can significantly improve performance and boost your results in the gym that probably don’t get the attention that they deserve.

One of those supplements is creatine.

Creatine is actually one of the most well researched supplements commercially available on the market today.

It has shown to improve performance on tasks that require strength and power, increase the ability of the body to build muscle mass, while also helping to promote fat loss, among a host of other positive effects on the body.

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What Is Creatine?

So what is creatine?

Interestingly, creatine is a substance that is found naturally in muscle cells. It is one of the key substrates that the body uses to create energy for exercise. You see, the body’s energy comes from a molecule called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is often described as the ‘energy currency’ of the human body.

Unfortunately, during high intensity exercise (such as weight lifting, sprinting, or jumping), our stores of ATP run out very quickly. And I mean quickly – normally we use all our stored ATP within 8-10 seconds of high intensity activity. Which ultimately explains why we can only sprint maximally for about 10 seconds, and then begin to slow down.

This is where creatine comes in.

Creatine is used to help produce ATP rapidly. The more creatine we have available in the muscle tissue, the more energy we can produce at a high intensity. This leads to an increase in performance (think one or two more reps in the gym, or one or two more seconds of maximal sprinting).

Unfortunately, our creatine stores are not infinite, so creatine supplementation will not increase our performance indefinably. But by ensuring the creatine stores within our muscle tissue are at maximum capacity, we can maximise our personal exercise performance.


Creatine Supplementation And High Intensity Activity

In regards to the performance of high intensity exercise, creatine supplementation is arguably the most effective. In fact, there have been hundreds upon hundreds of studies researching the effects of creatine supplementation on exercise performance.

Of those studies, a massive 70% have reported a positive effects! The other 30% have demonstrated either a small, or statistically insignificant, effect. Zero (yep, zero) have reported a negative effect associated with creatine supplementation and exercise performance.

Most of the research has suggested an improvement in exercise performance of around 10%, although it is not uncommon for improvements as high as 15% to be reported.

So to give some actual examples of performance increases, creatine supplementation has shown to cause significant reductions in 40 metre sprint times, while also significantly delaying fatigue during those repeated sprints.

Similar results have been observed in both 100 and 60 metre sprints in male sprint athletes, where times were reduced with a 4 day creatine loading supplementation.

Further improvements in performance have been observed in soccer players and swimmers, suggesting that creatine supplementation it is not only suitable for improving sprint performance, but jumping performance also.


Creatine Supplementation And Strength And Power

The ability of creatine supplementation to improve high intensity exercise performance is not its only immediate benefit. It is also one of the most effective supplements to improve performance on strength and power based exercises. If we think about, this does make sense.

ATP is crucial for the successful performance of both strength and power based exercise, as they are often short duration and performed at a very high intensity.

Training cycles while using creatine supplementation have demonstrated significant increases in strength, in comparison to a control group who did not receive creatine supplementation.

Interestingly, in the same study, the group receiving creatine supplementation also saw a significant increase in testosterone levels.

Creatine supplementation in conjunction with weight and sprint training has also demonstrated significant improvements in sprint speed and jump performance, in comparison to a control group that did not receive creatine supplementation.

Ultimately, supplementing with creatine can also improve your training results significantly, by measured increases in both strength and power.


Creatine Supplementation And Muscle Mass

As mentioned, creatine provides improvements in short term exercise performance, and can increase the results of our training in regards to developing strength and power.

Furthermore, creatine supplementation has also shown to be extremely effective at improving both short and long term increases in muscle mass. This effect has actually been demonstrated repeatedly in a number of different populations.

A study lasting 12 weeks in duration, undertaken on weight lifters demonstrated that creatine supplementation can improve muscle growth by over 2 times than just training alone! As a bonus, in conjunction with these increases in muscle mass, those taking creatine also experienced a significant increase in strength.

Similar result have been observed in the elderly, in which a 14 week weight training program combined with creatine supplementation saw a large increase in muscle mass, compared to a group that undertook only weight training.

Creatine has been demonstrated to be the single most effective supplement to promote muscle growth and increase muscle mass!


How To Use Creatine

So now that we know that creatine can have a number of positive effects on muscle growth and exercise performance, we need to start implementing it into our diet. There are a number of different forms of creatine available.

Some of these are marketed as the best form available, but it is important to note that these bold claims are actually unsupported by research. The form of creatine that has been the most heavily studied is creatine monohydrate.

Not only has creatine monohydrate been proven time and time again to be both a safe and effective form of creatine supplementation, it is also the most common and affordable form of creatine. Creatine supplementation should commence with a loading protocol, which is the fastest way to maximise your muscle stores of creatine.

  • A loading phase involves maintaining a high daily dosage of creatine for a short time, and then moving into a lower dosage for the remainder of your creatine supplementation cycle.
  • A loading phase typically consists of taking 20 grams of creatine for 7 days, which is then dropped to a maintenance dose of 5 grams per day for the remaining 5-7 weeks. Creatine monohydrate powder can be mixed with liquid, and should be taken at the same time each day.
  • A typical recommendation is to take it first thing in the morning every single day, as this is said to ensure your creatine stores are full before any training sessions later in the day.
    After supplementing with creatine for 6-8 weeks, it is normally recommended to take 1-2 weeks off, and then repeat the entire process.

Conclusion

So in conclusion we can certainly recommend the use of creatine as a dietary supplement.

It has shown to significantly improve performance in the short term, while also increasing the results of our training by maximising the development of strength and power, and increasing gains in muscle mass.

Creatine is a cheap, safe, and effective supplement that can be incorporated into your daily diet with ease, and is defiantly worth the effort required.

Luke Cafferty
 

Luke Cafferty is a fitness junkie, personal trainer and blogger. He's passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a strong and well rounded physique, while inspiring you to do the same.

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