The last form of performance enhancing supplements we will address prior to the 2019 Open is creatine.
What is it?
Creatine “… is the primary metabolic fuel for high-intensity, short duration exercise.” (Smith-Ryan, 2013, p.167) Our bodies synthesize a finite amount of creatine, the rest we consume through our diet. Without supplementation, creatine is consumed from animal muscle tissue, i.e. meat. Due to its source, we store the majority of creatine within our muscle tissue.
Why do we care about it?
Especially in sports such as CrossFit, high-intensity, short duration movements are kind of our jam. Creatine stores are directly related to our muscle’s ability to put out stored energy. Essentially as one runs out, so does the other. The idea behind creatine supplementation is intentionally expanding and increasing our body’s storage of creatine so that high-intensity, short duration movements can last longer or can allow for our bodies to move heavier loads. Studies have also shown that long-duration supplementation when paired with consistent resistance training and proper nutrition results in significant body composition changes (more lean muscle, less body fat).
How does one supplement with creatine?
There are many forms of creatine, but the most well-tested and highly available form is creatine monohydrate powder. Other forms of creatine exist, however they are manipulated for the intention of faster digestion and absorption, which usually results in smaller amounts of creatine per serving. Creatine is best absorbed when its powdered form is mixed with a liquid. Capsules result in less overall absorbed creatine due to their form. Our bodies do have a maximum capacity to store creatine, so consuming above the recommended dose won’t result in sudden, large creatine stores in our muscles. Creatine’s digestion, absorption, and storage rate is also very slow. (Smith-Ryan, 2013) This means that consuming a scoop of creatine won’t result in performance-related effects for a day or so after consumption. Ending supplementation will eventually result in your muscles’ storage to return to the normal levels prior to supplementation.
Who should or could supplement with creatine?
This is where things get tricky. Many of us want to be faster, stronger, push harder, jump higher, knock out more reps time and time again, etc. From a realistic perspective, the way to do those things is simple: show up to the gym 4-6 days per week, put in the effort, log your results, do some mobility and stretching, eat good quality foods in proper amounts (ensuring adequate intake of protein), drink plenty of water, get plenty of sleep, repeat. Again, and again, and again. Being on track 90% of the time will result in 100% progress. Adding a creatine supplement to a lifestyle of poor nutrition, low gym attendance or effort, lack of sleep, high stress, little to no recovery, minimal hydration, etc. will not suddenly make you a rockstar at the gym. As previous posts have stated, supplementation is exactly that. It is intended to supplement an already well-balanced nutritional path and healthy lifestyle. Now with that being said, creatine could be a supplement considered by those intending to pursue past daily health and fitness into competitions, athletics, etc. Assuming they are following the healthy lifestyle guidelines, creatine supplementation could increase their capacity to give maximal effort for longer durations. Antonio (2008) states that creatine supplementation is ideal for strength and power athletes who need to put out more effort or move heavier weights during shorter periods of time with minimal rest.
SIDE NOTE: Your genetic make-up is a greater determinant of creatine storage and utilization than consistent, regular supplementation. i.e. some of us have the genetics to use the heck out of creatine to our advantage and others of us do not. If you are someone who meets the previously stated criteria and is interested in supplementing with creatine, the only way you will know if supplementation will properly benefit your performance and your physique is to simply try it out. No studies have shown negative effects of creatine supplementation. (Smith-Ryan, 2013)
This week’s video post will discuss common questions about creatine and its use!
As always, email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or flag me down with any questions on your individual situation!
Your Nutrition Coach,
Antonio, J., Kalman, D., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Willoughby, D. S., & Haff, G. G. (2008) Essentials of sports nutrition and supplements. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press.
Smith-Ryan, A. E. & Antonio, J. (2013) Sports nutrition & performance enhancing supplements. Ronkonkoma, NY: Linus Learning.