Surprisingly, creatine is the most common ergogenic aid used by exercising individuals and athletes. It’s used to increase muscle mass, muscle performance, and furthermore muscle recovery. But what’s in it?
Creatine – What’s the Scoop? Or What’s in the Scoop?
Creatine is the most common ergogenic aid used by exercising individuals and athletes to increase muscle mass, muscle performance (strength, endurance, power) and furthermore muscle recovery (4). Creatine may also have beneficial effects on brain and bone health, cognition, and symptoms of neurodegenerative disease (1, 2, 4).
Creatine is naturally produced in the kidney and liver from reactions involving the amino acids arginine, glycine, and methionine. However, 95% of total body creatine is stored in skeletal muscle. Mechanistically, creatine increases muscle mass, muscle performance and recovery by influencing high-energy phosphate metabolism, muscle protein kinetics, satellite cells, hormonal regulation and inflammation (1, 2, 4).
Why Would I Supplement?
Typically, intramuscular creatine stores are only 60-80% saturated. However, creatine supplementation further increases these stores by 20%. So, for individuals on a plant-based diet, creatine supplementation leads to accelerated creatine uptake and muscle benefits over time.
How Do I Supplement?
Evidence-based research supports two main creatine supplementation protocols:
- Creatine loading and maintenance protocol: consume 20 grams or 0.3 grams/kg/day for 5-7 days, followed by 5 grams/day or 0.1 grams/kg/day thereafter
- Low-dosage protocol: Consume 5 grams/day or 0.1 grams/kg/day
Timing of Ingestion
Regarding the timing of ingestion, a recent meta-analysis suggests that post-exercise creatine is optimal for increasing muscle mass whereas pre-exercise and post-exercise creatine increase muscle strength similarly (1, 5).
Safety of Creatine
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, creatine is not only safe but leads to significant health benefits across all populations (Kreider et al., 2017).
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(1) Candow, D.G., Forbes, S.C., Little, J.P., Cornish, S.M., Pinkoski, C., Chilibeck, P.D., 2012. Effect of nutritional interventions and resistance exercise on aging muscle mass and strength. Biogerontology. 13, 345-358.
(2) Chilibeck, P.D., Kaviani, M., Candow, D.G., & Zello, G.A. (2017). Effect of creatine supplementation during resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscular strength in older adults: a meta-analysis. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, 2, 213-226.
(3) Poortmans, J. R., Rawson, E. S., Burke, L. M., Stear, S. J., & Castell, L. M. (2010). A-Z of nutritional supplements: Dietary supplements, sports nutrition foods and ergogenic aids for health and performance Part 11. British Journal of Sports Medicine,44(10), 765-766. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2010.076117
(4) Kreider, R. B., Kalman, D. S., Antonio, J., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Wildman, R., Collins, R., . . . Lopez, H. L. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition,14(1). doi:10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z