Creatine is also highly concentrated in animal muscle (e.g. meat) so those who consume a diet including animal proteins tend to have higher concentrations of creatine in the body, whereas creatine concentrations are lower in those following a vegetarian/vegan eating pattern. A diet containing animal products can account for 50% of creatine concentrations; with the other 50% produced in the body, however the storage capacity of creatine is actually quite low.
Creatine supplementation is an effective strategy for increasing creatine levels and has good absorption of ~99%. Like creatine in food, creatine supplements act as a readily available anaerobic (no oxygen) energy source fuelling the production of ATP (energy) in high-intensity exercise. Creatine monohydrate is the supplement form that has been most widely researched and should therefore be the form that individuals choose if purchasing a creatine supplement.
Should you be taking it?
Creatine supplementation has shown most benefits for:
- Athletes involved in resistance training aiming to increase lean muscle mass
- Athletes involved in sports with brief, high-intensity efforts e.g. rowers, sprinters
- Athletes involved in sports with intermittent high-intensity exercise bouts e.g. team and racquet sports
- Individuals consuming a vegetarian/vegan diet
There is less evidence for:
- Endurance athletes
- Events that are mainly aerobic based (lower intensity)
What are the proposed performance benefits?
- Increased maximal effort
- Increased muscle strength and power
- Increased lean muscle mass, when paired with resistance training
- Reduced fatigue during exercise
- Emerging evidence also suggests creatine may be beneficial for brain health, specifically cognitive processing and mild traumatic brain injury including concussion
Note: the performance benefits are only achieved if dosage and consistency is correct.
How much should you be taking?
There are evidence-based protocols available which suggest two approaches to creatine supplementation:
- Complete a loading phase followed by a maintenance period.
- Bypass the loading phase and commence with the maintenance phase for 4 weeks to reach saturation.
Are there any side effects?
Creatine is listed in Group A of the AIS supplement framework, meaning it has strong evidence for its safety and effectiveness. However, like any supplement, there are potential side effects:
- Gastrointestinal upset has been anecdotally reported however is not consistent in the literature
- Weight gain, as fluid gain, of approx. 1-2kg
If you’re interested in trialling creatine supplementation and want to follow an evidence-based protocol, reach out to make an appointment with one of our Sports Dietitians who can set you up with your protocol and monitoring program.