Even though creatine is still the best sports supplement on the market, many athletes don’t use it. They are afraid that the energy supplement will make them put on weight. American sports scientists at Bloomsburg University have found a way to get round this side effect. Low doses of creatine don’t make you heavier but they do boost your muscles.
If you use creatine in the classical way, you start by loading, somewhere between 20 and 25 g creatine/day for the first 5-7 days. After that you go over to a maintenance dose of 3-6 g creatine per day.
If you use creatine in this way your muscles will have more energy, and you’ll be able to squeeze more reps out of your sets. You retain more fluid and that’s why you put on weight. What happens in your body if you skip the loading phase and just use low doses of creatine? This had never been studied, which is why the researchers at Bloomsburg University decided to do so.
The researchers gave 20 test subjects a placebo or a maintenance dose of 0.03 creatine/kg/day. That works out at an average dose of 2.3 g creatine per day. The creatine was given for 6 weeks.
This dose did not make the subjects put on weight. Their maximal strength didn’t increase either. But the subjects’ muscles became tired less quickly – their fatigue resistance increased as the researchers put it.
The researchers determined this by getting the subjects to do 5 sets of 30 reps of leg extensions. During the reps the researchers measured the strength [technically speaking the torque] with which the subjects got the weight moving. For the subjects who took creatine their torque decreased less fast during their sets.
Theoretically the findings were not so strange. If you eat meat, chicken or fish daily you consume about 2 g creatine. At the same time your body breaks down about the same amount of creatine each day. If you take 2 g creatine in the form of a supplement it’s only logical that you’ll build up creatine reserves.
This is interesting for team players and athletes because this dose does not cause bodyweight to increase. Runners, football players, sprinters and swimmers benefit from an increased fatigue resistance but need to maintain their weight.
Low-dose creatine supplementation enhances fatigue resistance in the absence of weight gain.
We examined the effects of 6 wk of low-dose creatine supplementation on body composition, muscle function, and body creatine retention.
Twenty healthy men and women (21 ± 2 y old) were randomized to receive creatine (0.03 g · kg(-1) · d(-1); n = 10, 4 women) or placebo (n = 10, 4 women) for 6 wk in a double-blind placebo-controlled fashion. Participants were tested on two occasions before supplementation to establish a reliable baseline, and then were retested after supplementation. Testing included body composition, maximal strength (three-repetition maximal concentric knee extension at 180 degrees/s), muscle fatigue (five sets of 30 concentric knee extensions at 180 degrees/s), and plasma creatine concentration.
There were no significant differences in body mass, fat-free mass, fat mass, body fat percentage, total body water, or maximal strength in either group from before to after supplementation (all P > 0.05). After supplementation, plasma creatine increased significantly in the creatine group (+182%, P = 0.03), with no difference in the placebo group. Compared with baseline values, creatine-supplemented volunteers were more resistant to fatigue during sets 2 (7%), 3 (9%), 4 (9%), and 5 (11%) (all P < 0.05). In placebo-supplemented participants, there was no improvement in fatigue resistance during sets 2 (0%), 3 (1%), 4 (0%), and 5 (-1%) (all P > 0.05).
Ingesting a low dose (?2.3 g/d) of creatine for 6 wk significantly increased plasma creatine concentration and enhanced resistance to fatigue during repeated bouts of high-intensity contractions.
PMID: 20591625 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]