Five Types of Athlete that Benefit from Creatine Supplementation
To translate our hard work in the gym into real changes in physical performance, it’s vital we provide our bodies with what they need. Creatine is an organic compound, produced by the liver and kidneys, that helps to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which provides the energy for muscle contractions. Loads of research links creatine supplementation to enhanced performance among athletes. Let’s take a look at five types of athlete that science says can benefit from a creatine regimen.
On average, elite football players run 8–12 kilometres per match and are involved in up to 250 high-intensity actions, like sprinting, jumping, and changing direction. For such actions, anaerobic processes are required. In the context of football, the “gold standard” assessment of anaerobic power is the Wingate test, for which athletes pedal as fast as they can for 30 seconds on a cycle erg. A meta-analysis by researchers in Spain revealed that, compared to a placebo, creatine led to significant improvements on the Wingate test among football players, highlighting the supplement’s capacity to enhance anaerobic metabolism.
Explosiveness is key in martial arts, and in forms that prioritize kicking, such as Taekwondo, explosive legs are especially important. One measure of leg anaerobic power is the vertical leap test. To see if creatine supplementation improves vertical leap among martial artists, researchers in Canada had Taekwondo practitioners complete the test, then had one group take 20 grams of maltodextrin (placebo) for six days and another group take 20 grams of creatine for the same duration. On the seventh day, vertical leap was tested again. Compared to the placebo group, the creatine group exhibited significantly greater improvements in vertical leap, suggesting creatine can facilitate rapid gains in leg anaerobic power.
As well strength, rugby players, who typically cover 7 kilometres per match, require exceptional fitness. One concern associated with creatine is that it will lead to increases in mass, thereby decreasing performance on fitness tests. In one study, published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, rugby players completed tests of muscular endurance—number of reps on bench and leg press at 75% of max—and aerobic endurance, assessed by a shuttle-run test (aka beep test). After 8 weeks of creatine or placebo, they were tested again. In comparison to the placebo group, greater improvements in bench and leg press were seen in the creatine group, though there were no between-group differences on the shuttle-run test. These results indicate that creatine supplementation can enhance strength without compromising fitness.
Besides performance, creatine can assist with rehabilitation. Among swimmers, overuse injuries are common in the flexor hallucis longus muscle, a posterior lower leg muscle that attaches to the big toe. In a study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine swimmers with overuse injuries affecting this muscle received physiotherapy along with either creatine (5 grams, four times per day) or a placebo. After 2 weeks, those in the creatine group, compared to the placebo group, had significantly higher ankle plantar flexion peak torque (think calf press) and reported less pain.
In view of the above results, it’s not surprising that creatine can benefit strength athletes. Researchers in South Africa asked experienced powerlifters to complete leg extensions and deadlifts before and after 5 days of either creatine (9 grams per day) or placebo. Relative to the placebo group, the creatine group showed greater improvements in peak torque and average power on leg extension, as well as in their one-rep-max deadlift.
Creatine supplementation can enhance performance on various assessments and exercises, including the Wingate test, vertical leap test, bench press, leg press, calf press, leg extension, and deadlift. Besides the sports covered here, how well individuals do on these tests is predictive of performance in numerous disciplines. A strong vertical leap, for instance, is of course crucial in sports like basketball and volleyball, while the Wingate test is commonly used to assess the anaerobic power of rowers, cyclists, and hockey players. So, if you’re looking for a low-cost and effective supplement to up to your game, creatine could be the answer.
Chilibeck, P. D., Magnus, C., & Anderson, M. (2007). Effect of in-season creatine supplementation on body composition and performance in rugby union football players. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 1057, 1052–1057. http://doi.org/10.1139/H07-07
Juhasz, I., Kopkane, J. P., Hajdo, P., Szalay, G., Kopper, B., & Tibanyi, J. (2018). Creatine supplementation supports the rehabilitation of adolescent fin swimmers in tendon overuse injury cases. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 17(April), 279–288.
Kazemi, M., Hashemvarzi, S. A., & Mohammadi, Z. F. (2013). The combined effect of creatine and sodium bicarbonate supplementation on blood lactate and anaerobic power in young taekwondo players. International Journal of Sport Studies, 3(9), 963–969
Mielgo-ayuso, J., Calleja-gonzalez, J., & Marqu, D. (2019). Effects of creatine supplementation on athletic performance in soccer players: a systematic review. Nutrients, 11(757), 1–17. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu11040757
Rossouw, F., Krüger, P. E., & Rossouw, J. (2000). The effect of creatine monohydrate loading on maximal intermittent exercise and sport-specific strength in well trained power-lifters. Nutrition Research, 20(4), 505–514. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0271-5317(00)00142-1