The Effects and Benefits of Creatine Supplementation

Creatine is one of the most researched and popular sports supplements. It has been shown to enhance strength, power, and muscle mass when combined with resistance training. Additionally, creatine may provide therapeutic benefits such as reducing inflammation. This article summarizes current research on creatine supplementation in athletes and aging populations.

Combining Creatine, Whey, and Conjugated Linoleic Acid

In one study, participants were given whey protein, creatine, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) supplements, alone or in combination, along with resistance training. The group receiving all three supplements had the greatest improvement in performance. Whey and creatine together were more effective than whey alone. This suggests a potential synergistic effect of combining creatine and whey protein.

Creatine Responders vs. Non-Responders

Some people respond better to creatine supplementation than others. Muscle biopsies show creatine non-responders already have saturated creatine levels in their muscles. In responders, creatine uptake and utilization is enhanced, leading to increased strength and lean mass gains.

Effects on Type I and Type II Muscle Fibers

Some evidence indicates creatine supplementation may preferentially target and enhance type II fast-twitch muscle fibers used in sprinting and resistance training. Creatine provides an energy source these fibers need for powerful contractions.

What is Creatine?

Creatine is a naturally occurring compound made up of three amino acids – arginine, glycine, and methionine. The body can produce creatine, but we also obtain it through food, primarily meat. Creatine plays a key role in providing energy for high-intensity activities.

Creatine is part of the body’s phosphagen energy system used for short bursts of activity. It combines with phosphate to form phosphocreatine, which helps replenish ATP energy stores. This buffers ATP production for sprint-type sports relying on this initial anaerobic energy system.

Creatine Content in Meat

Herring contains relatively high creatine levels, possibly due to its active lifestyle and reliance on anaerobic energy. While we can produce creatine endogenously, dietary intake from meat helps maintain optimal body stores. Most studies have focused on creatine monohydrate, which appears to be the most effective supplemental form.

Creatine for Health and Aging

Beyond performance enhancement, creatine has therapeutic health benefits. Supplementation can help older adults retain muscle mass and strength, maintaining independence. Creatine also has anti-inflammatory effects that may aid recovery.

Research shows creatine supplementation, combined with resistance training, is effective for combating sarcopenia – age-related muscle loss. By helping retain muscle mass and strength, creatine may help seniors stay active and independent longer.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Studies indicate creatine supplementation can reduce inflammatory markers after certain activities like long distance runs. More research is exploring creatine’s anti-inflammatory and therapeutic benefits.

Two main creatine supplementation protocols exist. With a loading phase, around 20g daily for 5-7 days maximally saturates muscles. This is followed by a maintenance phase of 3-5g daily. Skipping the loading dose and using only the maintenance dose saturates muscles more slowly over 1-2 months.

Consuming creatine with carbs, especially simple sugars, enhances muscle creatine uptake. However, caffeine may counteract creatine’s effects.

Creatine Safety and Recommendations

Always choose supplements certified safe and effective by health organizations. Creatine is well-tolerated long-term in healthy populations. Those with kidney disease should avoid use due to possible adverse effects. Timing of doses does not appear to change creatine’s efficacy.

Decades of research demonstrate creatine’s impressive effects on muscle mass, strength, and high-intensity exercise capacity. Emerging studies are uncovering therapeutic benefits like reduced inflammation. Older adults may also benefit from creatine supporting healthier aging. Following recommended loading and maintenance dosing provides optimal results from this well-researched performance enhancing supplement.

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