Creatine Super Feature - Part 6: Creatine Research Reviews, Focus On Improvements In Athletic Performance!

In Part 6 I review some of the recent studies about how creatine improves athletic performance and exercise performance. I also included a review of two studies that examined the beneficial effects creatine supplementation can have for military personnel.

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Part 6:
Focus On Improvements In Athletic Performance

The Sports/Activities Included Are:

Note that the benefits of taking creatine monohydrate supplements in bodybuilding, football, powerlifting, and other strength sports is well established and were reviewed in other parts of this article or not specifically reviewed in detail in this super feature article as this is now common knowledge based on the earlier studies conducted throughout the 1990's.


Study Title:
"Effects of high dose oral creatine supplementation on anaerobic capacity of elite wrestlers."

    In this study Kocak and Karli (17) recruited twenty active international level wrestlers participated in this study, age range 22 to 27 years old; 10 in the experimental group and 10 in the placebo group.

    The daily dosage of creatine monohydrate of 5 grams, 4 times per day or placebo was divided into 4 equal amounts. Every 5 grams of supplement was dissolved in 250 ml water and it was given to the subjects 1 hour before breakfast, lunch, dinner, and workout session.

    Subjects underwent a 30-second Wingate Anaerobic tests until exhaustion in pre- and post-tests. The results of the study concluded that the short-term high dose creatine supplementation had a beneficial, ergogenic effects on improving anaerobic capacity of elite wrestlers.

    Note: creatine can be very useful for wrestlers, however, note that it will increase lean body mass. Therefore wrestlers who are struggling to lose weight to make weight at a lower weight class, need to keep their eye on the scale when using creatine during the wrestling season. But the next study reveals some interesting performance enhancing effects of short-term creatine supplement use, without out weight gain.


Study Title:
"Effects of creatine supplementation during recovery from rapid body mass reduction on metabolism and muscle performance capacity in well-trained wrestlers."

    The purpose of this study conducted by Oopik and coworkers (18) was to determine if creatine monohydrate supplementation with carbohydrate ingestion during recovery period after rapid body mass reduction would accelerate the restoration of body mass and physical performance in well-trained wrestlers. This study used a double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over format with five young healthy male wrestlers.

    These wrestlers reduced their body mass by 4.5-5.3%. Then, during a 17 hour recovery period the wrestlers consumed a controlled diet supplemented in random order with glucose or with glucose plus creatine monohydrate.

    The results of this study indicated that creatine supplementation with glucose ingestion during the 17 hour recovery period from rapid body mass loss did not accelerate the restoration of body mass. However, the creatine supplementation did stimulate the regain of physical performance in maximal intensity efforts in well-trained wrestlers in this one day test period.

    Based on the results of this study, wrestlers should experiment with using creatine to enhance performance. Just keep your eye on the scale so you don't get surprised with a sudden, unwanted increase in body weight the day before a match.


Study Title:
"Swim performance following creatine supplementation in Division III athletes."

    In this study Selsby and coworkers (19) examined the effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation using 8 male and 7 female collegiate Division III swimmers, randomly assigned to a creatine taking or placebo taking groups. The creatine takers took 0.3 grams creatine per kilogram of body mass for a 5 day loading period, and then 2.25 grams of creatine for nine days, regardless of body weight.

    To test effects of creatine taking on swimming performance, a 50 yard and 100 yard sprint was performed prior to and following the supplementation regimens. The group taking the creatine decreased their finish times in both the 50 yard and 100 yard sprints.

    As would be expected, this provides scientific evidence that creatine supplementation is effective for increasing swimming sprint performance and speed in the 50 and 100 yard swimming events.

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Study Title:
"Combined creatine and sodium bicarbonate supplementation enhances interval swimming."

    Researchers Mero and coworkers (20) examined the effect of simultaneous supplementation of creatine monohydrate and sodium bicarbonate on consecutive maximal effort swims. Sixteen competitive male and female swimmers completed in a randomized order, two different treatments; a placebo or a combination of creatine and sodium bicarbonate.

    There was 30 days of washout period between treatments in a double-blind crossover procedure. Both treatments consisted of placebo or creatine supplementation, 20 grams per day, for 6 days. However, in the morning of the seventh day, there was placebo or sodium bicarbonate supplementation, 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight, during 2 hours before a warm-up for 2 maximal 100 meter freestyle swims.

    The maximal effort swims were performed with a recovery period of 10 minutes in between. The first swims were similar, but the time of the second versus the first 100 meter swimming time was 0.9 seconds less in the combination group versus the placebo group.

    Mean blood pH was higher in the combination group than in placebo after supplementation on the test day. Mean blood lactate increased during the swims, but there were no differences in peak blood lactate between the combination group and placebo.

    The data indicate that creatine loading for several days, with one dosage of sodium bicarbonate on the day before the testing, enhanced performance in consecutive maximal effort swims. Note that bicarbonate loading has been proven in dozens of studies to improve performance in sprint athletes. It has applications with all strength athletes. However, the drawbacks of sodium bicarbonate include high sodium consumption, and occasional diarrhea.

    The use of other types of carbonates has potential as they can potentially reduce the occurrence of sodium bicarbonate induced diarrhea and high sodium intake. Competitive strength athletes looking for a boost in performance should look in to bicarbonates, in addition to protein, creatine and other strength performance aids.


Study Title:
"Creatine supplementation in young soccer players."

    The purpose of this study conducted by Ostojic (21) was to examine the effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation on soccer-specific performance in young soccer players. Twenty young male soccer players (16.6 +/- 1.9 years) participated in the study and were matched and allocated to 2 randomly assigned trials: ingesting creatine monohydrate supplement (3 x 10- gram doses) or placebo for 7 days.

    Before and after the supplementation each subject underwent a series of soccer specific skill tests: dribble test, sprint-power test, endurance test, and vertical jump test. Specific dribble test times improved significantly in the creatine group.

    Sprint power test times were significantly improved after creatine-monohydrate supplementation, 2.7 seconds placebo group versus 2.2 seconds creatine group. Vertical jump height was also significantly increased in from taking creatine; 49.2 centimeters in the placebo group versus 55.1 centimeters in the creatine group. There were no changes in specific endurance test results within or between trials.

    The main findings of this study indicate that supplementation with creatine in young soccer players improved soccer specific skill performance compared with ingestion of placebo.

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Study Title:
"Acute creatine supplementation and performance during a field test simulating match play in elite female soccer players."

    This study conducted by Cox and coworkers (22) examined the effects of creatine supplementation on the performance of elite female soccer players. On two occasions, 7 days apart, 12 players performed 5 x 11 minute exercise testing blocks interspersed with 1 minute of rest. Each block consisted of 11 all out 20 meter running sprints, 2 agility runs, and 1 precision ball kicking drill, separated by recovery of 20 meter walks, jogs, and runs.

    The creatine group ingested 20 grams of creatine monohydrate for 6 days; 5 grams, 4 times per day. The placebo group ingested the same dosage of a glucose polymer. After the 6 days of taking creatine a significant increase in body mass was measured, about 1 kilogram on average.

    No overall change in 20 meter sprint times and agility run times were observed. But the creatine group achieved faster post supplementation times in sprints 11, 13, 14, 16, 21, 23, 25, 32, and 39, and agility runs 3, 5, and 8.

    The accuracy of shooting the ball was unaffected in both groups. The researchers concluded that short-term creatine monohydrate supplementation improved performance of some repeated sprint and agility tasks simulating soccer match play, and increased body mass significantly.


Study Title:
"Effect of creatine supplementation on aerobic performance and anaerobic capacity in elite rowers in the course of endurance training."

    The effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation on aerobic and anaerobic performance was investigated by Chwalbinska-Montea (23) using 6 elite male rowers during a 7-day training period. The creatine taking athletes took 20 grams of creatine for 5 days.

    Before and after the test period, subjects performed two exercise tests on a rowing ergometer: (a) incremental exercise consisting of 3-minute stage durations and increased by 50 Watt until exhaustion; and (b) an all-out anaerobic exercise performed against a constant load of 7 Watts/kg. Heart rate and blood lactate concentrations were measured during exercise and recovery.

    The results of this study were mixed, in that creatine supplementation caused more of a beneficial effect then placebo in some of the parameters tested. Maximal power output did not significantly differ after the treatment in either group. The mean individual lactate threshold rose significantly after creatine treatment.

    During the anaerobic test the athletes supplemented with creatine were able to continue rowing longer. No significant differences were found between groups in blood lactate after the all-out exercise.

    The researchers pointed out that the results of this study indicate that in elite rowers creatine supplementation improves endurance, as expressed by the individual lactate threshold, and anaerobic performance, when compared to athletes taking just a placebo.


Study Title:
"Effect of recovery interval on multiple-bout sprint cycling performance after acute creatine supplementation."

    This study conducted by Cottrell and coworkers (24) examined the effect of varying recovery intervals on multiple-bout, short-duration, high-intensity cycling efforts of adult men supplemented with creatine or a placebo.

    Creatine monohydrate was taken in daily dosages at the rate of 0.3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for 7 days. Exercise testing consisted of 8, 15-second bouts of sprint cycling exercise.

    When compared to the placebo group the subjects taking creatine improved recovery time from repeated sprint cycling when recovery intervals were short in duration, less then 6 minutes.


Study Title:
"Oral creatine supplementation improves multiple sprint performance in elite ice-hockey players."

    This research study conducted by Jones and coworkers (25) examined the effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation on multiple sprint cycle and skating performance in ice-hockey players.

    Sixteen elite ice-hockey players were selected as subjects, and the subjects were randomly assigned to either a creatine group (8 males) or a placebo group (8 males) in a double blind design. Subjects loaded with 5 grams of creatine monohydrate or placebo (glucose) four times per day for 5 days, (20 grams per day). After this loading period a maintenance dose of 5 grams per day for 10 weeks was administered.

    At the beginning of the study and after 10 days and 10 weeks of supplementation, subjects performed a cycle test involving 5 all-out sprints of 15 seconds duration separated by 15 seconds recovery with the resistance set at 0.075 body mass kilograms; and the performed 6 timed 80-meter skating sprints with the sprints initiated every 30 seconds and a split time taken at 47 meters.

    No significant changes in any of the tests were observed in the placebo group over the period of study.

    However, In The Creatine Group Significant Results Were Observed As Follows:

    • In the creatine group, average mean power output over the 5 sprints was significantly higher at 10 days, 1074 Watts, and 10 weeks, 1025 Watts than at the beginning of the study, 890 Watts.

    • Average peak power output over the 5 sprints improved significantly from the beginning of the study, 1294 Watts, to 10 days, 1572 Watts.

    • Average on-ice sprint performance was significantly faster at 10 days, 6.88 seconds, and at 10 weeks, 6.96 seconds, when compared to the beginning of the study, 7.17 seconds.

    The results of this study clearly demonstrate that creatine supplementation has an ergogenic effect in elite ice-hockey players.


Study Title:
"Creatine supplementation improves sprint performance in male sprinters."

    The purpose of this research study conducted by Skare and coworkers (26) was to evaluate the effect of creatine monohydrate supplementation in well trained male sprinters. The study was performed as a single blind test on 18 sprinters.

    The study participants consumed either, 20 grams creatine and 20 grams glucose per day (9 males), or 40 grams of glucose per day the placebo group (9 males), divided into 4 equal daily dosages. The effect of creatine on sprint performance was evaluated in two tests, 1 x 100 meters sprint and an intermittent 6 x 60 meter sprint test.

    The Researchers Determined The Following Effects Of Creatine Supplementation:

    • Increased the 100 meter sprint velocity; 11.68 seconds versus 11.59 seconds.

    • Reduced the total time of 6 intermittent 60 m sprints; 45.6 seconds versus 45.1 seconds, whereas no changes were observed in the placebo group.
    • The sprint velocity was significantly increased in 5 out of 6 intermittent 60 meter sprints.

    The researchers noted that the improved sprint performance suggests an increased availability of energy substrate for performing work, possibly as a result of increased skeletal muscle creatine phosphate.


Study Title:
"Effects of creatine supplementation on muscle power, endurance, and sprint performance."

    This study conducted by Izquierdo and coworkers (27) examined the effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation on maximal strength, muscle power production during repetitive high-power-output exercise bouts (MRPB), repeated running sprints, and endurance in handball players.

    Creatine supplementation was 20 grams per day for 5 days. Nineteen trained male handball players participated in the study, 9 in the creatine group and 10 in the placebo group.

    The five days of creatine supplementation led to significant improvements in some performance parameters, for example, in lower-body maximal strength, maximal repetitive upper-body and lower-body high-power exercise bouts, and total repetitions performed to fatigue in the repetition maximum set of high power output exercise bouts, as well as enhanced repeated sprint performance and attenuated decline in jumping ability.

    But, creatine supplementation did not result in any improvement in upper-body maximal strength and in endurance running performance when compared to the results of the players taking the placebo.


Study Title:
"Effects of oral creatine supplementation on high intensity, intermittent exercise performance in competitive squash players."

    The purpose of this research study conducted by Romer and coworkers (28) was to determine the effects of oral creatine supplementation on high intensity, intermittent exercise performance in competitive squash players.

    Nine squash players performed an on-court "ghosting" routine that involved 10 sets of 2 repetitions of simulated positional play, each set interspersed with 30 seconds passive recovery.

    This study used a double blind, crossover design in which the creatine group supplemented 4 times daily for 5 days with 0.075 grams per kilogram of body mass of creatine monohydrate and the placebo group with the same amount of maltodextrin placebo. There was a 4 week washout period separated the crossover of treatments.

    The Creatine Supplement Group Improved:

    • Mean set sprint time by 3.2% over and above the changes noted for the placebo group.

    • Sets 2 to 10 were completed in a significantly shorter time following creatine supplementation compared when the player were taking the placebo.

    The researchers concluded that their data support existing evidence that creatine supplementation improves high intensity, intermittent exercise performance. In addition, their study provides new evidence that oral creatine supplementation improves exercise performance in competitive squash players.


Study Title:
"Effects of creatine loading on muscular strength and endurance of female softball players."

    The purpose of this study conducted by Ayoama and coworkers (29) was to determine the effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation on muscle strength and endurance of trained female softball players.

    Creatine was taken for 1 week at 20 grams per day, and for 2 weeks at 3 grams per day.

    The researchers concluded that the creatine taking athletes did not improve the maximal static strength and dynamic peak torque but they did improve the mean strength and endurance of repeated contractions. Also, the effects on females are not so great as those found in males.

    Additionally, it was determined that the effects of taking creatine may be enhanced by anaerobic exercises performed before the supplementation and the effects would disappear in a week when the supplementation was stopped.


Study Title:
"The effects of acute creatine supplementation on multiple sprint cycling and running performance in rugby players."

    This study conducted by Ahmun and coworkers (30) was designed to use both mass-supported and mass-dependent activities to assess the effectiveness of acute creatine monohydrate supplementation on a group of highly trained rugby players.

    A randomized, double-blind, crossover research design was utilized, with subjects receiving 20 g.d(-1) x 5 d of both creatine and a glucose placebo (PL). Subjects were assessed via 10 x 6-second Wingate test and a 10 x 40-m sprint test on separate days, pre-supplementation and post-supplementation. A 28-d washout period separated the two treatments.

    No significant treatment (p > 0.05) or treatment by test interaction effects (p > 0.05) were observed for peak or minimum power output (W), peak or minimum running velocity (m.s(-1)), or fatigue index (%).

    No significant differences (p > 0.05) were found post-supplementation for body mass and percentage body fat. Although statistical significance was not achieved for any of the measured parameters, there were small improvements in performance that may be of benefit to rugby players.


Study Title:
"The effect of creatine monohydrate supplementation on obstacle course and multiple bench press performance."

    In this study (31) the military researchers wanted to determine the effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation on performance of military training tasks. Two groups of 13 male soldiers each were selected for the creatine taking group and placebo group.

    The soldiers performed 3 consecutive military obstacle course runs (approximately 3 minutes over 7 obstacles with a 2 minute rest between runs) followed by a rifle marksmanship task on 3 occasions each separated by 5 days.

    The soldiers also completed a bench press training program consisting of 5 sets to failure at 70% of 1 repetition maximum. They also answered the Profile of Mood States questionnaire during each test session. Testing was done 3 times. No supplementation was given before test 1.

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    Creatine supplementation was provided using sports bars, with both groups receiving placebo bars between test 1 and test 2. From test 2 to test 3 the creatine group consumed 24 g per day of creatine monohydrate in sports bars and the placebo group consumed an equal amount creatine free of calories in the placebo sports bars.

    Five days of creatine supplement ingestion resulted in a significant (14%) increase in total bench press repetitions, but no difference between groups in obstacle course run times for the 3 runs from test 2 to test 3. Marksmanship or mood was not affected by creatine supplementation.

    Regarding body mass, an increase of 1.4 kg in body mass and a 0.5% decrease in percent body fat were observed in the creatine group. These military researchers concluded that creatine supplementation over 5 days improved performance during a controlled strength test but did not significantly improve military obstacle course performance.


Study Title:
"Effect of creatine on performance of militarily relevant tasks and soldier health."

    This group of military researchers (32) wanted to determine the short-term effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation on performance of military tasks, thermoregulation, and health risks. Male military personnel were randomly assigned to a creatine group (8 males) or a placebo group (8 males).

    Testing was conducted at the beginning of the study and again after a 6-day loading phase (20 grams of creatine per day), and then again after 4 weeks of taking 6 grams of creatine per day.

    Measurements included body composition, liver/kidney function tests, core body temperatures during a 10-mile march and 5-mile run, and performance on physical tasks.

    Results Of This Military Research Study Included:

    • Serum and urine creatine increased significantly in the creatine group.
    • Body mass increased significantly in the creatine group.
    • Number of pull-ups performed increased significantly in the creatine group.

    However, there were no significant differences between the creatine and placebo groups for other performance measures, body composition, core body temperature, or other biochemical measures.

    The military researchers also noted that the use of creatine did not cause acute health problems.


Study Title:
"The effects of creatine supplementation on cardiovascular, metabolic, and thermoregulatory responses during exercise in the heat in endurance-trained humans."

    The effects of creatine monohydrate supplementation on cardiovascular, metabolic, and thermoregulatory responses, and on the capacity of trained humans to perform prolonged exercise in the heat, was examined in this research study conducted by Kilduff and coworkers (33).

    Twenty-one endurance-trained males performed 2 constant-load exercise tests to exhaustion at 63 VO2max in the heat (ambient temperature: 30.3 C) before and after 7 days of creatine supplementation (20 g creatine per day plus 140 g glucose polymer per day) or placebo drink. Creatine increased intracellular water and reduced thermoregulatory and cardiovascular responses, such as heart rate, rectal temperature, and sweat rate.

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    Time to exhaustion was increased significantly in subjects whose estimated intramuscular creatine levels were substantially increased; responders, 47.3 minutes, versus 51.7 minutes. The researchers concluded that creatine induced hyper-hydration can result in a more efficient thermoregulatory response during prolonged exercise in the heat.

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Part 6 References

  1. Kocak S, Karli U. Effects of high dose oral creatine supplementation on anaerobic capacity of elite wrestlers. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2003 Dec;43(4):488-92.

  2. Oopik V, Paasuke M, Timpmann S, Medijainen L, Ereline J, Gapejeva J. Effects of creatine supplementation during recovery from rapid body mass reduction on metabolism and muscle performance capacity in well-trained wrestlers. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2002 Sep;42(3):330-9.

  3. Selsby JT, Beckett KD, Kern M, Devor ST. Swim performance following creatine supplementation in Division III athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 Aug; 17(3):421-4.

  4. Mero AA, Keskinen KL, Malvela MT, Sallinen JM. Combined creatine and sodium bicarbonate supplementation enhances interval swimming. J Strength Cond Res. 2004 May;18(2):306-10.

  5. Ostojic SM. Creatine supplementation in young soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Feb;14(1):95-103.

  6. Cox G, Mujika I, Tumilty D, Burke L. Acute creatine supplementation and performance during a field test simulating match play in elite female soccer players. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2002 Mar;12(1):33-46.

  7. Chwalbinska-Moneta J. Effect of creatine supplementation on aerobic performance and anaerobic capacity in elite rowers in the course of endurance training. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003 Jun;13(2):173-83.

  8. Cottrell GT, Coast JR, Herb RA. Effect of recovery interval on multiple-bout sprint cycling performance after acute creatine supplementation. J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Feb;16(1):109-16.

  9. Jones AM, Atter T, Georg KP. Oral creatine supplementation improves multiple sprint performance in elite ice-hockey players. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 1999 Sep;39(3):189-96.

  10. Skare OC, Skadberg, Wisnes AR. Creatine supplementation improves sprint performance in male sprinters. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2001 Apr;11(2):96-102.

  11. Izquierdo M, Ibanez J, Gonzalez-Badillo JJ, Gorostiaga EM. Effects of creatine supplementation on muscle power, endurance, and sprint performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Feb;34(2):332-43.

  12. Romer LM, Barrington JP, Jeukendrup AE. Effects of oral creatine supplementation on high intensity, intermittent exercise performance in competitive squash players. Int J Sports Med. 2001 Nov;22(8):546-52.

  13. Ayoama R, Hiruma E, Sasaki H. Effects of creatine loading on muscular strength and endurance of female softball players. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2003 Dec;43(4):481-7.

  14. Ahmun RP, Tong RJ, Grimshaw PN. "The effects of acute creatine supplementation on multiple sprint cycling and running performance in rugby players." J Strength Cond Res. 2005 Feb;19(1):92-7.

  15. Warber JP, Tharion WJ, Patton JF, Champagne CM, Mitotti P, Lieberman HR. The effect of creatine monohydrate supplementation on obstacle course and multiple bench press performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2002 Nov;16(4):500-8.

  16. Bennett T, Bathalon G, Armstrong D 3rd, Martin B, Coll R, Beck R, Barkdull T, O'Brien K, Deuster PA. Effect of creatine on performance of militarily relevant tasks and soldier health. Mil Med. 2001 Nov;166(11):996-1002.

  17. Kilduff LP, Georgiades E, James N, Minnion RH, Mitchell M, Kingsmore D, Hadjicharlambous M, Pitsiladis YP. The effects of creatine supplementation on cardiovascular, metabolic, and thermoregulatory responses during exercise in the heat in endurance-trained humans. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2004 Aug;14(4):443-60.

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