Is Creatine Use Recommended for Runners?
You’ve seen it at the supplement store. You may have heard bodybuilders or fitness people talk about its many benefits. But what exactly is creatine? And is it something you should think about? Read more as we get into the details.
What is creatine?
Some call it the miracle supplement.
Creatine contains the amino acids: glycine and arginine. Your body actually already manufactures about a gram a day of these amino acids through an average omnivorous diet.
Is creatine like steroids?
No. It’s not steroids.
Many bodybuilders swear by it as a way to get more pump into the muscle cells. It helps to extend energy and push the body out of its comfort zone to achieve greater results in the gym, on the track, or at the pool. Wherever you want to extend your results.
How does creatine affect the body?
You won’t see it doing its work on the surface, it works much much deeper than that.
It functions inside the body on a microscopic, cellular level. Its role is to enhance and store energy within the cell. The most basic form of cellular energy is called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This is the energy storage your cells use to perform many of their functions.
ATP is the energy source within the cells for your whole body and it burns out over time.
Adenosine triphosphate or ATP runs out quickly with intense exercise. This is where a supplement can help. Creatine phosphate can help the body replenish ATP, giving your cells the capacity to produce more energy. So, in theory, the more you take, the more energy your cells can produce, giving greater performance during high-intensity exercise like running.
Increased lactate threshold
One study found that supplementation led to a 5% increase in lactate threshold. What that means is you can run at a higher intensity for much longer without burning out.
Creatine and carbs
It works together with the carbohydrates in your diet to increase the glycogen levels stored in the muscle cells.
There’s so much more to creatine use
It’s so much more than an energy carrier.
It performs a variety of different functions within the cell. Since the 1970s researchers have found that creatine supplementation acts as a switch, enhancing many more capabilities within the body. These include:
Increase in the amount of muscle protein synthesis, which can help in faster recovery times of damaged muscle tissue.
Creatine supplementation has been shown to suck water into the muscle cells, which improves the hydration that is important to all cellular functions.
Creatine as an antioxidant
Believe it or not, creatine can also act as an antioxidant. When you train and run, that exercise tears down the muscle cells. The broken cells are “free radicals” and they float throughout the body. It helps to repair or eliminate these free radicals in the body.
The whole idea of creatine, as a purely sports-oriented supplement, is now beginning to change.
It’s already viewed as a health supplement. But it may also work to cut fat. It boosts the “thermogenic effect,” in other words increasing the calorie-burning effect that happens after you eat.
Mental benefits of creatine use
The central nervous system is one of the largest energy-consuming systems in the body.
The higher the mental capacity used, the more energy consumed. Recent research at the University of Sydney found that creatine supplementation increased both memory and intelligence, by up to 30%. It may also protect against brain injury and other age-related cognitive disorders.
Creatine use and high-intensity activities
Some research suggests that it’s one of the most effective supplements available for high-intensity exercise, including running.
In one particular study, creatine significantly reduced fatigue and recovery time needed when doing speed work like 40-meter sprints.
Cycling is a great cardio activity to boost endurance.
A study found a 3.7% improvement in cycling power after cyclists loaded on creatine monohydrate for 4 days. Similar research also found that supplementation can improve running sprint performance.
Swimming and creatine use
Short-term supplementation has been shown to improve swimmers’ sprint speeds much more than just training alone.
Futbol and creatine
Among elite soccer players, it has been shown to improve 15-meter sprint speeds, jumping performance, and overall endurance and stamina.
Is creatine use safe for chubby runners?
Too good to be true, and usually is. Are there downsides?
The good news is that it’s not new and it is one of the most heavily studied supplements on the market. There is a huge body of evidence from numerous studies, both short and long-term, that show that it is safe. But just like anything else, please check with your doctor before taking any supplements or medications.
How to supplement with creatine
The most studied and proven form is creatine monohydrate, with hundreds of studies supporting its safety and effectiveness. Supplementing can increase muscle creatine stores by up to 10–40%, depending on you and your current levels. If you have low stores, you may see even more noticeable improvements.
A loading phase is the fastest way to maximize the amount of creatine in the muscles. Loading involves taking a high dose of the supplement for a few days and then taper off after that.
How much creatine do you need during loading?
Typically, the loading phase means taking 20–25 grams per day, in 5-gram increments, for up to 5–7 days. Following the loading phase, continue with a maintenance dose of 3–5 grams per day.
The bottom line
Creatine is one of the most scientifically valid supplements on the market.
The most common form, creatine monohydrate has been studied the most extensively and is also the cheapest form on the market.
In high-intensity running exercise, it can improve performance by up to 15%. As you do other exercises like resistance training, weight training, and HIIT, it can also help you gain muscle and strength.
Also, it’s safe for long-term use. There has been no research to show any long-term issues in healthy individuals. So you are good to go.