Gary Moller: [DipPhEd PGDipRehab PGDipSportMed(Otago)FCE Certified, Kordel's and Nutra-Life Certified Natural Health Consultant]. ICL Laboratories registered Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis and Medical Nutrition Consultant.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Will creatine improve endurance sports performance?

I am asked now and then if creatine supplementation is beneficial for endurance sports like triathlon, kayaking and cycling, including mountain biking.
After a year or so experimentation myself, I can now say "yes!" Let me explain why:

First of all, here is a reprint of the information about Balance Creatine:
"Creatine is a naturallly occurring compound within the body and is synthesized from 3 amino acids. The muscle cells is a major store of creatine in both its basic and phosphorylated form. Comprehensive research has illustrated that increasing dietary intake of creatine can serve to boost creatine stores within the muscle cell. By loading muscular creatine stores in this way, immediate, high-intensity anaerobic work can be supported for a fraction longer. While a few seconds may not seem significant, it may be the difference between succumbing to, or out-running your opposition. While we typically receive 2-3g of creatine through our daily diet, an additional 5g of supplemental creatine daily is the recommended dosage for progressive creatine loading over the period of 28 days.

Balance Micronised Creatine provides superior grade creatine to assist your performance and help maximise high-intensity work output. Packed in New Zealand, Balance's pharmaceutical grade creatine uses smaller micronised particles. The greater surface area they provide means better mixing, absorption and results.

It is important when using creatine to follow the recommended guidelines. Creatine is unlike other compounds in that excess levels are not regularly flushed from the body. With this in mind it is important to cycle creatine supplementation. Progressive loading can be undertaken as detailed above or a rapid loading phase can be achieved on a daily dosage of 20g for 5 days. Following the loading phase, a 28 day maintenance phase of 2-3g of creatine daily serves to hold maximal levels of muscular creatine. It is then wise to stop supplementation for a period of 4-6 weeks to allow creatine levels to fall back to base values. This avoids the accumulation of creatine metabolites produced during the breakdown process.

As with all dietary changes, it is crucial that you experiment to find your best results. When creatine is held within the muscle it also causes water to be retained and can result in weight gain up to 1kg following the onset of supplementation. It is important therefore to weigh up both the benefits of creatine and the impact that carrying a little more weight will have on your performance. "
Ok, that's the science and the propaganda over with! Now let's explain why creatine might be beneficial for sports like cycling, paddling etc.
First of all, I have never noticed a weight gain when using creatine. This might be because the heaps of endurance training while taking it helps keep the muyscles lean. A bulking up might happen if the bulk of my exercise was lifting weights in a gym. Mind you - I have never been able to bulk up. Wrong genes!

Creatine improves explosive power of not more than about 10 seconds. Creatine improves recovery immediately following those explosive bursts. So, how will that assist competing in an endurance race?

If we were to put a power meter on a cyclist in, say a 100km race, what we would discover is there is barely any steady state cycling. Instead, what we would see is several hours of repeated power bursts, some as brief as a few seconds with others much longer: thousands of them as the bunch surges back and forth! In between, the cyclist gasps for air, desperately trying to recover before the next burst of intense effort. The cyclist who wins is the last one standing with sufficient reserve for a final all out sprint to the line.

Kayaking is similar: A 500m flat race always begins with a mad sprint, a middle phase of hanging in there and desperate recovery, followed by a final attempt at sprinting to the line. Down-river kayaking is seldom steady state, with constant bursts of power to correct for eddies and rocks and negotiating rapids. Slalom is all about repeated bursts of power.

Mountain bike riding is never steady state, being repeated bursts of power to negotiate a sharp climb, to get over an obstacle or to pass a flagging opponent and grunty hill climbs.

Creatine has a place in the athletes nutritional repertoire, when taken in accordance with the guidelines above and cycled in such a way that useage peaks with competition cycles. Not much is needed: there is probably no benefit taking more than the recommended amounts - less may be just as good for an endurance athlete with maybe a wee boost before the Big One.

Note: If you want to fine tune your nutrition for health and competition, I am available for one-on-one consultations.

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