So firstly, what is creatine? Creatine is a compound that is formed from amino acids which helps supply energy to cells in our bodies and mainly to our muscles. Creatine is naturally produced in our bodies by the kidneys and liver. From here it gets transported via our blood to be used where it is needed. Creatine can be consumed from eating animal protein sources rich in the following amino acids, L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine such as beef, tuna and salmon.
Many studies have been conducted over the years to learn if taking a creatine supplement will improve things like performance and body composition. One of these studies investigated the effects of creatine supplementation on interval based, high intensity exercise regimes specific to competitive soccer. On two training sessions separated 7 days apart, 17 highly trained male soccer players performed a vertical jump test, a repeated sprint test consisting of six 15 metre runs with 30 seconds recovery, an interval based endurance test, which included 40 rounds of 15 seconds high intensity running followed with 10 seconds of low intensity running and finally another three vertical jump tests.
After the first training session, players were divided up into two groups, one which consumed five grams of creatine four times a day for six days, or a placebo group who consumed the same dosages but with maltodextrine.The results showed that the creatine group’s repeated sprint test times were consistently faster than the placebo group. Neither group showed changes in the vertical jump test or the endurance test. But after completing the vertical jump tests following the endurance test, it was shown the creatine group’s performance did not decrease where as the placebo’s group performance did.1
After looking over the results, they may suggest that short term creatine supplementation benefits those performing short bursts of high intense exercise rather than endurance type training. Also, it may improve recovering abilities. In regards to the vertical jump test with no difference between the groups, different variables may contributed to these results such as the duration of the creatine dosage and also there was only 7 days between the two tests which may have not provided enough muscle stimulus to give any extra performance.
On a similar topic, another study was conducted but this time the subjects consumed creatine over 12 weeks. 19 Healthy previously trained men divided into two groups consisting of a creatine group who consumed 25 grams of creatine for one week followed by a maintenance dose of five grams a day for the remainder of the 11 weeks. The placebo group consumed maltodextrine at the same dosage. Test subjects than took part in a 12 week heavy weight resistance program. Body mass, fat free mass and strength were measured before, during and after the 12 week period.
The results showed that the creatine group had significant increases in body mass of 6.3% and also an increase of fat free mass of 6.3%. Compared to the placebo’s group, body mass increased by 3.6% and fat free mass increase by 3.1%. Strength also improved greatly with the creatine group, a 24% gain in bench press and a 32% gain in squat, where the placebo groups gain were 16% and 24% respectively.
The study concluded:
“: Creatine supplementation enhanced fat-free mass, physical performance, and muscle morphology in response to heavy resistance training, presumably mediated via higher quality training sessions. “ 2
From this study it was shown that supplementing creatine provided beneficial results on previously training males taking part in well planned training sessions. Strength increases in both bench press and squat were obvious. The study also showed that body mass and fat free mass increased greater in the creatine group. In saying this, by consuming creatine we could retain a lot more water which can lead to an increase in body weight and fat free mass. The study did not provide information of how much actual lean mass the subjects gained.
In the next study lean mass gains was measured. The study looked at the effects of two dietary supplements on 42 American football players. The players were split into four groups, a creatine group, calcium pyruvate group, a combination of creatine and calcium pyruvate and finally a placebo group. The players were tested before and after the five week supplementation period. During this time the players continued with their normal training routines.
The results showed the players who consumed creatine whether being by its self or in combination with the calcium compared to non creatine groups had significant increases in body mass, lean body mass, one repetition maximum bench press and squat, also an increase in the static vertical jump output. Quoted directly from the study it was concluded:
" Creatine and the combination supplement enhanced training adaptations associated with body mass/composition, maximum strength, and static vertical jump; however, pyruvate supplementation alone was ineffective.” 3
The research in this study showed that creatine supplementation did improve strength gains, not to mention an increase in lean body mass. Also if we were to go back to our first study where subjects only supplemented creatine for one week, their vertical jump test results did not differ between the two groups. But, in this study after five weeks of consuming creatine there in fact was a difference of increased power input between the groups.
All of the above studies have shown supplementing creatine had benefited people in a range of phyiscal results whether being in performance or body changes. Creatine supplementation has seemed to live up to the positive claims it can sometimes receive in the fitness world and may be a worthy investment for those looking to get the most out of their training.
1. Mujika I,Padilla S,Ibañez J,Izquierdo M,Gorostiaga E - Creatine supplementation and sprint performance in soccer players. - Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise [2000, 32(2):518-525]
2. VOLEK J. S. ; DUNCAN N. D. ; MAZZETTI S. A. ; STARON R. S. ; PUTUKIAN M. ; GOMEZ A. L. ; PEARSON D. R. ; FINK W. J. ; KRAEMER W - Performance and muscle fiber adaptations to creatine supplementation and heavy resistance training. - Medicine and science in sports and exercise 1999, vol. 31, no8, pp. 1147-1156.
3. Stone, M. H.; Sanborn, K.; Smith, L. L.; O'Bryant, H. S.; Hoke, T.; Utter, A. C.; Johnson, R. L.; Boros, R.; Hruby, J.; Pierce - Effects of in-season (5 weeks) creatine and pyruvate supplementation on anaerobic performance and body composition in American football players.- International Journal of Sport Nutrition 1999 Vol. 9 No. 2 pp. 146-165.