Creatine is a protein that the body can make using three amino acids (arginine, glycine and methionine). It can be found in foods such as meat and fish, however not in high quantities. High doses can be achieved through supplementation.
How it works
The muscle stores of a protein called phosphocreatine are limited. Creatine supplementation raises these limited stores. According to Hultman et al (1996) they are raised typically by around 2%.
ATP is the primary fuel for high intensity activity. When performing at a high intensity the body’s ability to replenish ATP at the rate required of high intensity exercise is not efficient. Creatine works as a reservoir of phosphate needed for the regeneration of ATP.
Why take Creatine?
Creatine helps fuel ones muscles during high intensity activities such as sprinting or weightlifting. In weight lifting it can give you an extra repetition because you have increased stores of phosphocreatine.
Several studies have shown that it increases strength and power gains when following a program.
Weight gain is a side effect of taking creatine.
Professor Kreider of the University of Memphis estimates athletes can gain up to 1.5kg during the first week of a loading dose and up to 4.5kg after 6 weeks.
There have also been reports of muscle cramping, gastrointestinal discomfort, dehydration, muscle injury and kidney and muscle damage. However there is no clinical data to support these statements. (Williams et al 1999; Robinson et al 2000).
Will I lose strength if I stop taking Creatine
When you stop taking creatine your body automatically steps up creatine manufacture. You may experience some weight loss and there is anecdotal reports about athletes experiencing small reductions in strength and power, although not back to pre-supplementation levels.
Studies that prove its value
A study by Ostojic in 2004 found that creatine supplementation improved sprint power, dribbling and vertical jump performance in young football players, but had no effect on endurance.
A study Volek and Kramer in 1996 found that creatine supplementation improves strength, the number of repetitions performed to fatigue, jump squat, peak power and the ability to perform repeated sprints.
The international journal of Sports Nutrition posted a position stand in 2007. One of their conclusions stated that – “There is no scientific evidence that short or long term use of creatine monohydrate has any detrimental effects on otherwise healthy individuals.”
In a 2005 study by Poortmans et al, they supplemented 20 men with 21 grams of creatine daily for 21 consecutive days. It was found that there were no detrimental effects on kidney permeability.
There are several other studies that give similar results to the above. At the moment evidence that shows creatine leads to kidney damage or other serious health issues cannot be found.
The dosage protocol according to IJSN – loading phase of between 3-5 days in which the individual consumes .3/kg of bodyweight/day followed by 3-5kg per day for a number of weeks thereafter. Some choose to cycle creatine, examples are 4 weeks on 2 weeks off or 3-5 months on followed by a 1 month lay off.
Another dosage protocol would be to ingest smaller amounts of creatine monohydrate 2-3g/day. Over 4 weeks this will increase muscle creatine stores. However this method is less supported.
Do GAA players need it?
Personally I have no qualms with players using it once they have read about creatine monohydrate and understand what they are taking and are taking the right doses. The studies have proven that one will make gains in strength and power while taking creatine when following a program.
Many will say that creatine is this and that however nothing proves that it has any detrimental effects on kidneys or other health issues.
Some will argue that you should only take in natural foods, if you are one of those, well then brilliant keep doing it and it will work, however before blasting creatine realise that you have nothing to back you up. Creatine is one of the most studied supplements out there. When looking at examine.com 706 results show up for creatine. This is a crazy number!
For further reading and also information on teenagers and children taking creatine read this article – http://sigmanutrition.com/an-open-letter-to-neil-francis-the-irish-independent-science-scaremongering-creatine/
The position of the international journal of sports nutrition can be found here: http://www.jissn.com/content/4/1/6#B49
I hope this blog on creatine is informative, I have tried to back everything up with studies that have been carried out to prevent too much bias and pub talk. I hope players can make up their own minds if they are going to use it or not. I feel like this article informs you about its effects and hopefully clears up what creatine actually is and does.