Why Creatine Is the Best Sports Supplement

March 20, 2013 | Tammy Kovaluk

Must See Nutrition Videos

The supplement industry can be confusing. There are thousands of products, many backed by outrageous claims. Worst of all, some supplements are nothing more than expensive junk foods. So, are any worth taking? If I could recommend one supplement, it would be creatine.

What Is Creatine?

The following is a bit on the scientific side, but hopefully it makes sense about what creatine is and why it is one the best supplements on the market. So, bear with me. (Learn more about creatine.)

Creatine is used in energy production. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the only source of energy that can be used directly for muscle contraction. ATP is generated through three energy systems: the ATP-PCr (ATP-phosphocreatine), glycolytic and oxidative energy systems.

The ATP-PCr system sustains muscles' energy needs for three to 15 seconds. Phosphocreatine in muscle is immediately available at the onset of exercise and can be used to resynthesize ATP at a high rate, which corresponds to a high power output. The major disadvantage of this system is its limited capacity. The total amount of energy available is small, so fatigue occurs rapidly.

This energy supplied during and following intense exercise depends largely on the amount of phosphocreatine (PCr) stored in the muscle [2]. As PCr stores become depleted, energy availability diminishes due to the body's inability to resynthesize ATP at the rate required to sustain high-intensity exercise [2]. During very intense exercise, phosphocreatine stores can become almost completely depleted. Consequently, the ability to maintain maximal effort for exercise declines.

Creatine supplementation increases the rate of ATP resynthesis during and following high-intensity, short-duration exercise [2, 3, 4]. The ability to maintain maximal intensity exercise and work per bout or set is greater, and recovery time is quicker.

Is Creatine Effective?

Creatine is one of the most extensively studied and scientifically validated nutritional ergogenic aids for athletes [1]. It is one of the few supplements highly recommended by top sports nutritionists in the United States, people such as Dr. Joan Eckerson, who stated at a sports nutrition lecture I attended that "if your athletes are not taking creatine, they are at a disadvantage." (Learn more about creatine's effects.)

In addition, according to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN):

The use of creatine as a nutritional supplement within established guidelines is safe, effective and ethical. Despite lingering myths concerning creatine supplementation in conjunction with exercise, Creatine Monohydrate (CM) remains one of the most extensively studied, as well as effective, nutritional aids available to athletes. Hundreds of studies have shown the effectiveness of CM supplementation in improving anaerobic capacity, strength, and lean body mass in conjunction with training. In addition, CM has repeatedly been reported to be safe, as well as possibly beneficial in preventing injury. Finally, the future of creatine research looks bright in regard to the areas of transport mechanisms, improved muscle retention, as well as treatment of numerous clinical maladies via supplementation.[1]

How Much Should You Take?

According to the ISSN, the best way to increase muscle creatine stores is to consume 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight (to derive kilograms, divide weight in pounds by 2.2) for three days, followed by three to five grams per day [1].

Final Thoughts

As with any supplement, brand quality is key. Brands with '"fillers" are what produce side effects, like bloating, so it is worth researching a brand before buying it. Also, watch for any creatine "blends" like effervescent creatine, buffered creatine, etc. Those are marketing gimmicks. Numerous studies show there are no differences between the types. Pure creatine monohydrate is all you need.

References

[1] Buford, T. W., Kreider, R. B., Stout, J. R., Greenwood, M., Campbell, B., Spano, M., Ziegenfuss, T., Lopez, H., Landis, J., and Antiono, J. (2007). "International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Creatine Supplementation and Exercise." Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, 4(6).

[2] Hultman E, Bergstrom J, Spreit L, Soderlund K. "Energy metabolism and fatigue." In: Taylor A, Gollnick PD, Green H, editor. (1990). Biochemistry of Exercise VII. Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL, 73-92.

[3] Balsom PD, Soderlund K, Ekblom B. (1994). "Creatine in humans with special reference to creatine supplementation." Sports Med,18:268-80.

[4] Harris RC, Soderlund K, Hultman E. (1992). "Elevation of creatine in resting and exercised muscle of normal subjects by creatine supplementation." Clin Sci (London), 1992 Sep;83(3):367-74.

Topics: CREATINE
Tammy Kovaluk
- Tammy Kovaluk, MSc, CSCS, is the owner of RISE Sport Performance Training (Tucson, Arizona). Originally from Canada, she has over 15 years of experience working...
Tammy Kovaluk
- Tammy Kovaluk, MSc, CSCS, is the owner of RISE Sport Performance Training (Tucson, Arizona). Originally from Canada, she has over 15 years of experience working...
Must See
Antonio Brown Juggles 3 Footballs
Views: 1,204,941
Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,880
Dashon Goldson: "You Just Gotta Have Heart"
Views: 4,901,621

Featured Videos

A Day in the Life of NBA D-League Star Seth Curry Views: 69,070
Kevin Love's Cone Hop Basketball Shooting Drill Views: 9,456
Eastbay Path to the Pros Episode 2: Laying the Groundwork Views: 133,452
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Perfect Dwyane Wade's Signature Euro Step
Views: 1,308,880
What Ryan Hall Eats for Breakfast
Views: 795,300
STACK Fitness Weekly: How To Do a Muscle-Up
Views: 778,676
Greg Nixon's Hill Training Program
Views: 705,782
Roy Hibbert 540 lbs Deadlift
Views: 1,561,942

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Demystifying Popular Smoothie Boosters

3 Supplements to Boost On-Ice Performance

Creatine Supplements: Benefits, Concerns, Types and Dosage

Powder Hour: Is It Time to Add Protein Powder to Your Diet?

The One Thing You Need to Do to Build Muscle

The Positive Side Effects of Creatine (Besides Building Muscle)

4 Creatine Myths Exposed

EXOS Launches New Line of Supplements

The Best Time to Consume Creatine

ZMA: Is This Mysterious Supplement Right for You?

Why You Need Vitamin D in Your Diet

Should You Be Taking BCAAs?

2 Safe Pre-Workout Supplements

7 Fiber Supplements: More Than Just For Weight Loss

Workout Supplements: Do You Really Need Them?

3 Tips on Choosing the Best Post-Workout Creatine

The Powerful Health Benefits of Turmeric

Use Sodium Bicarbonate to Get More Out of Creatine

The 5 Essential Sports Supplements

Why You Can't Ignore Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition

7 Sketchy Marketing Phrases Used By Supplement Companies

HGH Use Among Teens on the Rise, According to Survey

The 6 Most Promising Weight-Loss Supplements

DHEA Supplements: Should You Take Them?

3 Reasons Why You Should Take a Fish Oil Supplement

Do Athletes Need Zinc Supplements?

Soy vs. Whey Protein

L.A. Galaxy's Safe Supplementation for Soccer Players

Iodine: An Overlooked Essential Mineral for Female Athletes

Blueberry Supplements: Better Than Actual Blueberries?

Fuel for Thought: Gels, Bloks and Beans

The Truth About Muscle-Enhancing Supplements

4 Best Supplements for Football Players

What's Missing From the Female Athlete's Diet, Part 2: Iron

Make Sure You're Getting Enough Calcium

Can Baking Soda Improve Your Training Gains?

Why Creatine Is the Best Sports Supplement

5 Rules You Must Know Before Taking a Fish Oil Supplement

Should I Take Creatine?

6 Supplements That Power Quality Workouts

Ask the Experts: Is Caffeine Safe for Athletes?

This Just In: Boost Your Workout With Peppermint

How to Select a Healthy Protein Bar

4 Muscle-Building Supplements That Don't Work

The Best Post-Workout Supplements and Nutrition

7 Rules That Would End PED Use in Baseball Immediately