Supplements Made Simple - Creatine

What is it - and does a runner need it?


Posted: 5 June 2000
by Liz Applegate

This is adapted from the book, Eat Smart, Play Hard, by RW USA Nutrition Editor Liz Applegate.

Creatine may be one of the best-selling supplements ever, with more than $100 million in annual sales. Athletes everywhere are using it, with good reason. According to manufacturers’ labels, loading up on creatine for several days boosts muscle strength and sprint performance. When taken for a few weeks, creatine may even pump up muscle size.

All of this hype is real. Many studies suggest quite strongly that creatine works. The only catch is that it might not work for everyone.

Manufactured by your body, creatine is a proteinlike substance also found in fish, beef, and other meats. In your muscles, creatine acts much like the cylinders in your car’s engine, helping fire up your muscles during high-intensity exercise such as weight lifting, jumping, or sprinting. Load up with creatine from a supplement (20 to 25 grams daily for 5 to 7 days), and you boost the number of cylinders in your muscles.

After the loading phase, a maintenance dose of 2 to 5 grams a day helps maintain those high levels, resulting in more strength and a greater ability to do single or repeated bouts of high-effort exercise such as sprinting. As an added benefit, creatine supplements taken over several weeks may boost levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. And since men typically have lower HDL levels than women, this possible benefit of creatine increases its appeal to male athletes.

It sounds alluring, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Endurance athletes are the clear losers in the creatine story. For starters, creatine loading may make you gain weight, which can make you feel sluggish. In fact, creatine loading in swimmers does not appear to consistently boost sprint performance, and it may even have a negative impact because weight gain can change body position in the water.

Research shows only that loading up on creatine helps during weight lifting and during brief, high-intensity exercise typically lasting less than a minute. Dosing with creatine has not been shown to have any performance-enhancing powers for longer efforts, especially continuous exercise such as long-distance running and cycling.

My recommendation: Give creatine a try if you’re interested in increasing the size of your muscles or if you want to run sprints. But if you’re keeping your weight down for the next marathon, stick with a high-carbohydrate diet.


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Discuss this article

HI,

I AM A LONG DISTANCE RUNNERS , SOMETIMES 10-20 K COULD I TAKE A CREATINE WHEN I ONLY DO SPINTS OR GYM WORK? WILL IT EFFECT MY LONG DISTANCE RUNNING FOR THE NEXT DAY?

THANKS


Posted: 12/10/2011 at 01:58

I DON'T THINK CREATINE IS ANY USE FOR LONG DISTANCES.
Posted: 12/10/2011 at 16:08


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Posted: 12/10/2011 at 16:22

For creatine to work you have to take it daily so that it 'builds up' in your system. So you can't just take it before your sprints / gym work.

It only benefits high intensity exercise, so if your gym work is the 'high reps, low weight' variety that is often sold to endurance athletes then it probably wont help.

It probably will help with sprint work-outs, or high intensity weight lifting. It just enables you to do a bit extra work each session and so it indirectly makes you stronger.

The side affect is weight increase by retaining water. This will be detrimental to your endurance running.

If your main focus is endurance running then I would give it a miss. If your main focus is sprinting then it is probably worthwhile.

P.S. the advice in the article to pre-load creatine with 20-25g per day is now generally considered to be unnecessary. For an average sized man a daily dose of 5g is probably right. But DYOR.


Posted: 12/10/2011 at 16:41

for endurance cut the doasge in half to 2.5g a day and don't load. The drawback is increased risk of cramp though you can offset that with some taurine supplementation
Posted: 12/10/2011 at 16:54

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