Creatine Supplementation in Sports

For all the athletes out there (yes and the weight pumping men out there too!) – Here’s a bit of FYI regarding creatine supplements
Creatine supplements are usually taken by athletes wanting to gain muscle mass. What is it? Creatine is a compound that is stored in large amounts in our muscles, is formed from a number of amino acids (aka the building blocks of protein) and is produced in our kidneys. Initial interest in creatine supplementation began in the early 90s and since then hundreds of studies have been published with the general conclusion that creatine supplementation can improve exercise capacity and sports performance. Also, it’s use could be included as part of therapy where it could aid populations such as the elderly and those who are muscle depleted gain muscle mass.

KEEP IN MIND! The benefit of creatine supplementation is specific to some athletes in certain sports. Also, IT IS ADVISABLE TO CONSULT A SPORTS DIETITIAN BEFORE STARTING SUPPLEMENTATION.

The following points on HOW TO USE CREATINE SUPPLEMENTS are part of a fact sheet that I have found very informative. The full fact sheet can be downloaded from
• “The quickest way to “creatine load” is to take large doses (20-30 g per day) for around 5-7 days. Typically, these doses are split over the day to sustain plasma creatine levels (e.g. 5g, four to five times each day). Eating a large amount of carbohydrate (about 70-100 g) with each dose increases creatine uptake via the stimulatory effects of insulin. Therefore it is useful to take your creatine doses along with a meal or substantial carbohydrate-rich snack.

• Some supplement manufacturers recommend a total daily dose of 3-5 g/day. This will eventually load the muscle, but may take up to 28 days before the muscle is saturated with creatine.

• The muscle cell has a creatine threshold or saturation point. Typically, creatine loading increases total creatine and creatine phosphate by 25% above resting levels. The response is individual and some athletes may improve their stores by 50%. Some research has suggested that athletes whose levels are initially lowest might respond best to supplementation. Obviously only those who can achieve a substantial increase in muscle creatine levels will show improved function.

• If supplementation is ceased, muscle creatine stores gradually return to resting levels – some studies have shown that it takes 4-6 weeks for this to occur. A ‘maintenance’ supplemental dose of 2-5 g creatine per day keeps the loaded muscle at elevated levels.

• Many athletes cycle their creatine supplementation – loading up, maintaining for a certain training period, and then stopping the supplements for a couple of weeks before reloading. This may suit the athlete’s training cycle or periodisation. Whether such cyclical use is better than prolonged continual use has not been studied. “

This is part of a publication by Sports Dietitians Australia.

So for those of you considering supplementation, have a read through this fact sheet, ask for professional opinion and keep in mind that although such supplements are usually marketed for all athletes, personally, I think they are not.

Sandra Mikhail (APD/AN)

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