Creatine is perhaps the most studied supplement on the market today. A quick database search will pull up literally thousands of articles looking at its efficacy and safety. Such research has led to scientific consensus arounds its beneficial use as an ergogenic (performance enhancing) aid. However what is often lost in translation is how its use directly impacts real world performance. The following will hopefully elucidate five typical scenarios where the use of creatine will be highly beneficial.
You’re trying to build muscle mass
One of the most common reasons individuals will use creatine is if they’re trying to stick on some extra muscle. Creatine does this in two ways: firstly, by being stored in the muscle with water. It isn’t untypical for someone to increase their lean mass within a week of sustained creatine supplementation. The second way creatine assists muscle mass growth is somewhat indirect, by increasing strength and power (which we will unpack shortly), thus enabling greater adaptations to an increased training load.
You want to be stronger
Getting stronger often goes hand in hand with increasing muscle mass, but supplementing with creatine has been shown to further increase strength gains in individuals engaged in resistance training [1, 2]. These strength gains are primarily in short duration activity lasting less than three minutes, so this would have a huge benefit to those engaged in weightlifting, CrossFit, and strongman .
You want to get faster
There is a plethora of evidence linking creatine supplementation with increased power output. Given increased power generally means increased speed, it should come as no surprise that creatine supplementation has also had an impact on such.
Research in swimmers has found that creatine supplementation for only 5-7 days can reduce swim times and improve power output [3, 4]. Other research has found improvements in anaerobic capacity and anaerobic power output in activity lasting up to 30 seconds [5, 6].
You play sport
It doesn’t take a research scientist to realise that improvements in muscle mass, strength, power, and speed, are going to have a huge carryover to most sports. Creatine elicited improvements in performance markers have been noted in footballers and wrestlers, however given the countless variables involved, it is hard to study the impact supplementation has on game day performance.
Nevertheless, reasoning and prudence allows us to put two and two together. If the power and anaerobic capacity of a footballer is correlated with his or her performance, and creatine supplementation improves such, then it is more than reasonable to denote that creatine supplementation improves football performance.
You’re vegetarian or vegan
Research has found that a vegetarian diet significantly reduces levels of stored creatine, even if eggs and milk are still consumed . This is most probably due to the removal of a key dietary source of creatine in meat.
It would come as no surprise than that vegetarians garner even more benefit from creatine supplementation than their meat eating counterparts; with a larger increase in stored creatine, lean muscle mass, and strength .
1. Lanhers, C., et al., Creatine Supplementation and Upper Limb Strength Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med, 2017. 47(1): p. 163-173.
2. Devries, M.C. and S.M. Phillips, Creatine supplementation during resistance training in older adults-a meta-analysis. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2014. 46(6): p. 1194-203.
3. Juhasz, I., et al., Creatine supplementation improves the anaerobic performance of elite junior fin swimmers. Acta Physiol Hung, 2009. 96(3): p. 325-36.
4. Anomasiri, W., S. Sanguanrungsirikul, and P. Saichandee, Low dose creatine supplementation enhances sprint phase of 400 meters swimming performance. J Med Assoc Thai, 2004. 87 Suppl 2: p. S228-32.
5. Law, Y.L., et al., Effects of two and five days of creatine loading on muscular strength and anaerobic power in trained athletes. J Strength Cond Res, 2009. 23(3): p. 906-14.
6. Graef, J.L., et al., The effects of four weeks of creatine supplementation and high-intensity interval training on cardiorespiratory fitness: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2009. 6: p. 18.
7. Lukaszuk, J.M., et al., Effect of creatine supplementation and a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet on muscle creatine concentration. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab, 2002. 12(3): p. 336-48.
8. Burke, D.G., et al., Effect of creatine and weight training on muscle creatine and performance in vegetarians. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 2003. 35(11): p. 1946-55.