Take creatine to get faster, stronger, and be able to train longer. Research shows that the benefits of adding creatine to your diet aren’t limited to strength or hypertrophy. In fact, creatine supplementation can yield neuromuscular and anaerobic benefits. Creatine is so effective at improving performance because it is the first energy source called on by the body, meaning it plays an essential role in energy metabolism.
The key to workout nutrition is to match your goal with your protocol. Creatine loading (taking a moderate to large dose for a short period of time) has been shown to improve anaerobic performance and neuromuscular strength, without increasing body weight. A recent study found that individuals taking 20 grams of creatine for five days performed better on a calf muscle strength test compared to a group that took a placebo. The creatine supplement group also had superior neuromuscular function and a faster muscle contraction time. The study included a pre-test prior to taking creatine and a post-test one week later. There was no resistance training performed during the week, just supplementation.
A second study found that taking 20 grams of creatine for five days increases sprint running capacity. Participants improved their time to exhaustion by 23 percent, highlighting the value of creatine loading prior to a sport competition with a high-intensity component. A longer study from the University of Oklahoma found that participants who took creatine for four weeks while performing high-intensity sprint training had higher creatine phosphate levels. Participants who didn’t take creatine but did perform the training had significantly lower creatine levels at the end of the study.
One concern with creatine supplementation for athletes with a sprint-running component in sports such as soccer, basketball, or track has been the increase in lean body mass that can come with it. It’s true that taking creatine with a carb/protein post-workout supplement for a long period has been shown to increase strength and muscle mass, particularly a training protocol for strength or hypertrophy. In contrast, creatine loading for short periods from a week to four weeks as in the University of Oklahoma study indicate elevated muscular creatine phosphate levels and improved performance.
Smith, A., Ryan, E., Fukuda, D., Costa, P., Kendall, K., Cramer, J., Stout, J. The Effect of Creatine Loading on Neuromuscular Function. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011 March. 25(Suppl1), S25.
Fukuda, D., Smith, A., Kendall, K., Dwyer, T., Kerksick, C., Cramer, J., Stout, J. The Effects of Creatine Loading and Gender on Anaerobic Running Capacity. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.2010. 24(7), 1826-1833.
Kendall, K., Smith, A., Graef, J., Fukuda, D., Moon, J., Beck, T., Cramer, J., Stout, J.
Effects of Four Weeks of High-Intensity Interval Training and Creatine Supplementation on Critical Power and Anaerobic Working Capacity in College-Aged Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.2009. 23(6), 1663-1669.