Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the source of energy that empowers muscle contraction movement and therefore the ability to replace it is crucial to performance. ATP production can occur through many processes, including cellular respiration, beta-oxidation, ketosis, lipid and protein catabolism. Many ingredients on the market today, as well as future players, show promise in supporting power generation towards potentially increasing athletic performance.
Creatine has been one of the most popular nutritional aids for athletes to enhance physical performance, stamina and recovery. It is a natural substance found in muscle cells and shares many similarities to amino acids. Creatine can be produced by the body from the amino acids glycine and arginine. Up to 95% of the body creatine is stored in skeletal muscle, while small amounts are found in the brain and testicles.1 About two-thirds of intramuscular creatine is stored in the form of phosphocreatine (PCr), while the remaining third in the form of free creatine.2
One of the ways the body’s supply of ATP is regenerated is through the use of PCr. When ATP breaks down, the remaining ADP needs a phosphate molecule. PCr provides the transfer of a high energy phosphate to ADP to create ATP. Therefore, more PCr means more high-energy phosphate available to build up ATP and energy within the body. Creatine supplementation can increase the total PCr available to generate energy in the form of ATP.3 Creating more ATP means more energy available to increase athletic performance. Studies have consistently demonstrated creatine supplementation that helps increase intramuscular creatine reserves.1 This increase may explain the observed improvements in the performance of high-intensity exercises, which may result in greater training adjustments.
Increases in intramuscular creatine have also shown promise of improving exercise performance by enhancing healing. One study showed that pre-exercise creatine loading and glycogen loading can promote greater glycogen restoration than carbohydrate loading alone.4 Because glycogen replenishment is important for promoting recovery, creatine supplementation can support athletes who reduce large amounts of glycogen during exercise.
Creatine supplementation can also reduce muscle damage and improve recovery from intense exercise.5 A group of researchers evaluated the effects of creatine supplementation on strength recovery and muscle damage after intense exercise, where participants supplementing creatine exhibited greater isokinetic strength and isometric elongation strength during healing. Furthermore, participants exhibited 84% lower plasma creatine kinase (CK) levels after the second, third, fourth, and seventh days of recovery.
Another study evaluated the effects of creatine loading on experienced marathon runners and found reduced signs of inflammation and muscle pain.6 Creatine help in boosting recovery can allow athletes and active consumers to train with higher intensity in a faster turn. Such an added recovery in training can help promote improved athletic performance.
Creatine monohydrate became popular for supplementation in the early 1990s. Since then, more than 1,000 studies have been conducted evaluating its effectiveness and safety. One of the most comprehensive studies looked at 52 different blood markers over 21 months and found no adverse effects.7 One of the most consistently reported side effects of creatine supplementation is weight gain due to increased water retention.8 However, this side effect does not appear to cause any direct harm to the consumer.
Creatine can be consumed through animal products such as salmon, pork, beef, herring, chicken, lamb and tuna. A normal diet containing about 1-2 g of creatine per day maintains muscle creatine reserves at about 60-80% saturation.1 A group of researchers suggested that the most effective way to increase creatine through supplementation is to take 5 g of creatine monohydrate (0.3 / kg body weight) four times a day for five to seven days.9 Consumption of creatine with a carbohydrate or carbohydrate and protein has been shown to promote greater creatine retention.10
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Madison Dorn specializes in content creation and management, with a particular passion for the health / nutrition and fitness industries. In her spare time, she enjoys working out and is a CrossFit Level One certified trainer.
1 Kreider R et al. “The position of the International Society of Nutrition Sports: the safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sports and medicine.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017; 14 (18).
2 Greenhaff P. “The Nutritional Biochemistry of Creatine.” J Nutr Biokim. 1994; 8 (11): 610-618.
3 Francaux M et al. “The effect of exogenous creatine supplementation on muscle PCr metabolism.” Int J Sports Med. 2000; 21 (2): 139-145.
4 Nelson A et al. “Muscle glycogen overcompensation increases with prior creatine supplementation.” Med Sci sports training. 2001; 33 (7): 1096-1100.
5 Cooke M et al. “Creatine supplementation enhances muscle strength healing after eccentrically induced muscle damage in healthy individuals.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009; 6:13.
6 Santos R et al. “The effect of creatine supplementation on inflammatory markers and muscle pain after a 30 km race.” Life science. 2004; 75 (16): 1917-1924.
7 Kreider R et al. “Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical health markers in athletes.” Mol Cell Biochem. 2003; 244 (1-2): 95-104.
8 Powers M et al. “Creatine supplementation increases total body water without altering fluid distribution.” Train J Athl. 2003; 38 (1): 44-50.
9 Harris R et al. “Increase in creatine in resting and exercising muscles of normal subjects with creatine supplementation.” Clin Sci. 1994; 83 (3): 367-374.
10 Greenwood M et al. “Differences in creatine retention between the three nutritional formulas of oral creatine supplements.” J Exerc Physiol. 2003; 6 (2).