CREATINE AND STRENGTH IMPROVEMENT

Introduction

Creatine is one of the most popular and widely researched natural supplement. There have been several researches conducted to find the effectiveness and ergogenic usage of creatine especially in sports nutrition.

Creatine is produced endogenously at an amount of about 1 gram per day, whose synthesis mostly occurs in the liver, kidneys and to some extent in the pancreas.  The remaining creatine is obtained through the diet at approximately 1 gram per day for a normal vegetarian. About 95% of the stored creatine is found in the skeletal muscle and remaining 5% is distributed in brain, liver, kidneys and testes.”

Creatine is used as an ergogenic aid for improving strength and sport performance by athletes. The purpose of this review is to do a research analysis of creatine and its effectiveness as an ergogenic aid for sports athletes by analyzing recent findings on this topic. In our research analysis we are going to summarize the effects of creatine supplementation as being studied in various researches. These researches have studied the effectiveness of creatine on various criteria such as its impact on physical performance, anaerobic exercises, skeletal muscle hypertrophy, aerobic exercises, improving recovery from injury, muscle damage and oxidative stress induced by exercise and its effectiveness on range of motion and its effects on gaining muscle mass.

International Society of Sports Nutrition, USA has approved the following points related to the use of creatine as a nutritional supplement:

1. Creatine Monohydrate is the effective ergogenic nutritional supplement available for athletes in boosting their high intensity workout capacity and lean body mass during training.

2. Creatine,  if being used properly with precautions and supervision can act as a supplement for athletes which are an alternative to potentially dangerous anabolic drugs.

3. Creatine has been considered as an effective nutritional supplement for muscle uptake and for increasing high intensity exercise capacity. 

4. There is no scientific evidence that the short or long term usage of creatine can cause any detrimental effects on any healthy individuals.

5. Creatine even has numerous benefits in several clinical populations.

The use of creatine in sports nutrition had been surrounded by many controversy in the early 1990’s during which creatine gained widespread popularity. Since then there have been many researches which backed the effectiveness of it as sports nutrition. Even though creatine has been accepted as a safe and useful ergogenic aid there have been many myths which still remain but don’t have any scientific researches which prove them.

Some of the myths about creatine are as follows:
1. All the weight which is gained during creatine supplementation is due to water retention.
2. Creatine causes renal distress.
3. Creatine causes cramping, dehydration and electrolyte status.
4. Effects of long term creatine usage are unknown.
5. Newer forms of creatine are more beneficial than creatine Monohydrate and cause fewer side effects.
6. It is unethical and illegal to use creatine.

Research Analysis
In the following section we are going to summarize the effects of creatine supplementation as being studied in various researches. These researches have studied the effectiveness of creatine on various criteria such as its impact on physical performance, anaerobic exercises, skeletal muscle hypertrophy, aerobic exercises, improving recovery from injury, muscle damage and oxidative stress induced by exercise, its effectiveness on range of motion and its effects on gaining muscle mass.

Effects of creatine on physical performance
There have been many studies which focussed on creatine supplementation to increase body’s creatine level. There have been positive relationships between muscle creatine uptake and exercise performance. It was observed there was a significant increase in strength performance after 12 weeks creatine supplementation with concurrent periodized heavy resistance training. The positive effects were attributed to an increased total creatine pool resulting in rapid Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) regeneration between resistance training sets which allows athletes to maintain a higher training intensity and improve the quality of workouts during the entire training period. Creatine combined with heavy resistance training helps in performance enhancement and endurance strength as well as muscle hypertrophy.

Effects of creatine supplementation on anaerobic exercise
Creatine has shown neuromuscular performance enhancing properties on short duration anaerobic exercises. It has been observed in some research studies conducted on anaerobic exercises, the use of creatine on certain group of athletes has shown more number of repetitions and weight lifted as compared to placebo group without creatine. Basically, creatine has shown improved amount of work accomplished, weight lifted, time, force production and power. This indicates creatine has been useful to ease with the fatigue symptoms on multiple high intensity short duration bouts.
These studies have shown that creatine supplementation has great effects on short duration high intensity intermittent exercises.

Effects of creatine on skeletal muscle hypertrophy
Studies have shown improvements in lean body mass, fiber cross sectional area and contractile protein in trained males when resistance training was combined with creatine supplement with protein and carbohydrate compared with just protein or protein and carbohydrate supplements without creatine.
When creatine supplementation is combined with heavy resistance training in a group of athletes it has shown muscle insulin like growth factor (IGF -1) and lean body mass concentration to increase as compared to placebo group which has not taken the creatine supplementation.

Effects of creatine on aerobic exercises
Apart from creatine effects on anaerobic exercise creatine has shown positive effects on endurance activities as well. In a meta analysis it was noted that endurance activities lasting more than 150s rely on oxidative phosphorylation as primary energy supplier. It was studied that ergogenic endurance potential for creatine supplementation on aerobic endurance exercises diminishes as the duration goes over 150 secs. . However,  it was observed that creatine supplementation causes a change in substrate utilization during aerobic activity which leads to an increase in steady state endurance performance.

Creatine improving recovery from injury and muscle damage
Creatine has even proved to be of benefit to athletes for the recovery from injury and muscle damage. There has been research which observed decrease in several markers of muscle damage (creatine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase, aldolase, glutamine oxalocetic acid transaminase and glutamic pyruvic acid transaminase) in 4 athletes after an iron man competition where they were supplemented with 20 gram/ day during a 5 day period prior to the competition.
Studies have shown that creatine loading pre and post workout of resistance training in a group of young athletes have reduced the amplitude of loss of strength and muscle damage. Creatine ingestion post workout enhances regenerative responses favouring an anabolic environment to avoid severe muscle damage and improve the recovery process.

Effects of creatine on range of motion
Research have shown that a 5 day of 25g/d loading protocol of creatine supplementation followed by 3 day of 5g/d negatively influenced both ankle dorsiflexion and shoulders abduction and extension range of movement in a group of young athletes. This could be due to either creatine supplementation increases intracellular water content which result in increased muscle stiffness and resistance to stretch, or neural outflow from the muscle spindles is affected due to an increased volume of the muscle cell.

Creatine effects on muscle mass
Creatine combined with resistance training helps as an aid to increase the training effect on muscle mass and strength. There has been research carried out for 12 weeks of resistance training combined with creatine supplementation which increased muscle fiber diameter by 35% in both type 1 and type 2 muscle fibers in men vs. 6-15% in placebo supplemented resistance trained subjects.

Conclusion
Creatine is one of the most researched supplements in the field of sports nutrition which has even been surrounded by many of the myths due to its popularity in the 1990s. Creatine has proved to be one of the safest supplements for athletes for increasing their strength performance during anaerobic and aerobic exercises. When combined with resistance training creatine has been helpful to athletes for their skeletal muscle hypertrophy to gain lean muscle mass. It has even proved to be helpful for recovery from injury and muscle damage caused during exercise. Creatine even helps in the range of motion.
The myths surrounding creatine does not have any scientific researches to prove them and on the other hand there are many researches which backup the benefits discussed in this analysis.

References:
1. Persky A, Brazeau G: Clinical pharmacology of the dietary supplement creatine monohydrate. Pharmacol Rev 2001, 53: 161-176.
2. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Published: 30 August 2007.
3. Hickner R, Dyck D, Sklar J, Hatley H, Byrd P: Effects of 28 days of creatine ingestion on muscle metabolism and performance of a simulated cycling road race. J Int Soc Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:26
4. Hespel P, Derave W: Ergogenic effects of creatine in sports and rehabilitation. Subcell Biochem 2007, 46:245-259
5. Casey A, Greenhaff P: Does dietary creatine supplementation play a role in skeletal muscle metabolism and performance. Am J Clin Nutrition 2000, 27: 607S-617S.
6. Volek J, Duncan N Mazzetti S, Staron R: Performance and muscle fiber adaptation to creatine supplementation and heavy resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exer 1993. 31: 1147-1156
7. Bazzucchi I, Felici F : Effects of short term creatine supplementation on neuromuscular function. Med Sci Sports Exercise 2009, 41: 1934-1941
8. Branch J: Effects of creatine monohydrate on body composition and performance: a meta-analysis. Int J Sports Nutr Exer Metab 2003, 13: 198-226.
9. Cribb PJ, Williams AD, Hayes A: A creatine – protein – carbohydrate supplement enhances responses to resistance training. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2007, 39: 1960-1968.
10. Burke DG, Candow DG: Effects of creatine supplemention and resistance training exercise training on muscle insulin like growth factor in young adults. Int J Sports Nutr Exerc Metab 2008.
11. Bassit RA, Pinherio CH, Vitzel KF, Sproesser AJ, Silveira LR, Curi R: Effect of short term creatine supplementation on markers of skeletal muscle damage after strenuous contractile activity. Eur J Appl Physiol 2010, 108: 945-955.
12. Robert Cooper, Fernando Naclerio, Judith Allgrove and Alfonso Jimenez: Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/ sports performance: an update. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutriotion 2012, 9:33
13. Douglas Paddon Jones, Elisabet Borsheim and Robert R Wolfe: Potential ergogenic effects of Arginine and creatine supplementation. The Journal of nutrition 2004
14. Cooke MB, Rybalka E, Williams AD, Cribb PJ, Hayes A: Creatine supplementation enhances muscle force recovery after eccentrically induced muscle damage in healthy individuals. Journal of International Soc Sports Nutrition 2009
Web URLs
• http://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3080578/ – Analysis of the efficacy, safety and regulatory status of novel forms of creatine.
• http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407788/ – Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/ sports performance: an update.
• http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1332404/ – Creatine supplementation: recent developments.
• http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3543170/ – Effects of creatine supplementation on oxidative stress profile of athletes.
• http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3963244/ – Creatine supplementation and exercise performance: a brief review.
• http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3407788/ – Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/ sports performance: an update.
• http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2048496/ – International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Creatine supplementation and exercise.

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