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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Should an endurance athlete take creatine?

Do you have much experience on the use of creatine? perhaps you could make a post of that, I heard of an aquaintance who was taking it, his body bloated up as a result! I understand it only helps anaerobic performance as its used in the energy pathway for glycolytic independant energy pathway, since anaerobic is actually a misused phrase, anaerobic energy is what is used in throwing and jumping, for a maximal quick surge of power, more sustained maximal output is the glycolytic independant pathway that is commonly referred to as anaerobic"
Gary Moller comments:
Good question Wayne. There are no easy answers. All the energy pathways contribute to a greater or lesser degree whether sprinting or exercising steady state. It is just a question of degree. So, even during steady state our "anaerobic" processes are still at work. And they sure are whenever there is a surge of pace

Cycling is a good case in point: during a 100km race, there may a thousand micro-surges and a hundred longer ones. Seldom is it steady state. Surge-gasp for air-surge-gasp- surge and on and on and if you are lucky you still have enough left in the tank for a final sprint! Having optimum creatine stores for such events makes good sense. Low creatine levels will reduce muscle power and slow recovery from these bursts.

I have always been reasonably good on a bike and there are few mountain bikers my age who can beat me up a long hill. This is partly because I weigh just a little over 60kg. Now, I have good lungs but it is lack of leg strength that limits me. I have no sprint and I have to work very hard to hold onto a surge. I can chug along with my partner Alofa for a good three hours or so; but she always kills me on that last sharp hill when those strong Samoan thighs get pumping. My chicken thighs are no match.

I have been experimenting with adding about 5 grams of creatine to my recovery Super Smoothies because it is strength and power that are my limitations. I might have put on a Kg of body weight but this may be attributed more to my eating more and doing less overall activity. What I can report is I am riding just about the best in memory with no problems with failure of the thighs so far this season. The test will be this coming weekend when we do the 80km bone rattling Gentle Annie through the Central Nth Island.

Although I am running hard right now I would be concerned, as a runner, about possible weight gain from creatine supplementing and would probably take less than 5 grams per day. However; I have the impression that significant weight gain may be offset by the natural leaning effect from endurance training of 2-4 hrs depending on it being running or cycling.

There is also the factor of body type. If you are a heavily muscled mesomorph, just thinking about lifting weights will see muscle growth! If you are like me - a lighlty muscled ectomorph - then no matter how heavy the weights you lift and the supplements you take, you will be lucky to put on a kilo or two. Especially if you do endurance work as well. If an athlete has any tendency to gain excess muscle in a sport that favours light weight, I would be cautious about anything more than creatine supplementation of up to 5gm per day - no more. Whereas a "skinny" might benefit from a little more - up to 10 grams.

Athletes need to identify their strengths and weaknesses. A runner like Peter Snell needed to work on his endurance because he had strength to burn. Alofa is like that - her weakness is her lungs and not her legs. My weakness is my leg muscles - or the lack of them.

If you are taking creatine, it is advisable to spell the body by having a month or so off it every three or so months. For leg strength, endurance and recovery other nutritional factors such as optimum supplies of magnesium and calcium may be of greater importance.

Oh - and despite the current creatine experiment, Alofa continues to thrash my arse on that last hill!

Creatine can be purchased from here


Wayne said...

it would be interesting to find research about the results of creatine taken for endurance athletes, i would expect the benefits to be minimal if any, what i do know is it benefits repeated anaerobic bursts where there is a large proportion of energy being generated anaerobically. which wouldnt be the case in endurance exercise

Wayne said...

Gary Moller said...

Wayne, I refer to the reference you gave and your comments. It can be erroneus to translate lab results directly to the field. And running is not the same as cycling. Nor is running on a treadmill in a lab the same as running a cross-country race. I made the point that bike racing is a thousand or more bursts of pace and is not steady "aerobic". In theory creatine might help.
In cycling, extra weight and strength can be an advantage depending on the event and the course; whereas in distance running there are few if any advantages in being big.
5 grams of creatine is very different to 20 grams. So, as always when discussing these matters we must ensure we are comparing apples with apples and not something else. You will also note my comments about idetifying body type and relative strengths and weaknesses. There is never a one size fits all solution as some would have us believe.
Cheers and thanks for the info.

Wayne said...