Does Creatine Monohydrate Improve Anaerobic Performance?

It’s been a little while since my last post on this blog.  I thought that I would blow the dust off this blog and start writing posts again.  When it comes to dietary supplements, there’s no question that their use is popular among athletes.  Both Olympic and professional athletes seem to share an esurient desire to find a competitive edge in their respective sports.  For some, they make the unfortunate and dangerous decisions to cheat by using illegal, performance-enhancing, drugs which can have deadly consequences.   yet others, opt for safer alternatives with common choices including energy drinks/bars, protein powders, and creatine monohydrate.

What Effect Does Creatine Monohydrate Have on Athletic Performance?

One mistake that I’ve probably made in my previous posts is writing to a more medically savvy audience, so I will try to make an effort now to write for a typical reader.  To answer the question about what effect creatine monohydrate has on anaerobic performance, there’s a recent article published in the journal, Acta Physiologica Hungaria (Juhasz et al, 2009) that address this question.

I would imagine that the difference between placing fourth or first at the Olympic games could translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars in terms of endorsements.  Not everyone is born with Michael Phelps’ genetic makeup which is why athletes look to get an edge whether it be the latest swim gear or dietary supplements.

For this particular study, it was relatively small and it involved 16 male swimmers. For five days, the test subjects ingested creatine monohydrate in four separate doses of 5 grams each (total of 20 grams of creatine). From what I understand, each 5 gram dose is about one table-spoon of creatine.

What’s interesting is that they tested for three different measures:

  1. Average power output determined by a Bosco test
  2. Maximal 100m fin swim times.
  3. Measured lactate concentration after (Lactate levels rise with anaerobic exercise as a by-product of metabolism)

Results

  1. Average power of continuous 1 minute rebound jumps improved in Creatine group by 20.2%
  2. Swim times were reduced in creatine group but remained unchanged in control group
  3. Lactate levels were significantly less after 5-minute restitution on the second measurement in both groups.
  • [ first (pre: 50.69+/-1.41 s; post: 48.86+/-1.34 s) and second (pre: 50.39+/-1.38 s; post: 48.53+/-1.35 s) sessions.]

The Study Authors Concluded:

“The results of this study indicate that five-day Cr supplementation enhances the dynamic strength and may increase anaerobic metabolism in the lower extremity muscles, and improves performance in consecutive maximal swims in highly trained adolescent fin swimmers.”

In terms of this particular study, the study itself is relatively small.  As well, this study looked specifically at the impact of creatine supplementation on anaerobic power in the lower extremities of trained fin swimmers, which means that the results might not be applicable to other populations/muscle groups.

Note: However, creatine monohydrate is one of the better studied dietary supplements for performance-enhancement in athletes. There’s a number of other placebo-controlled studies supporting the various benefits of creatine.

For those who’ve tried creatine, what have been your experiences with this supplement?

Reference:

  1. Juhász I, Györe I, Csende Z, Rácz L, Tihanyi J.  Creatine supplementation improves the anaerobic performance of elite junior fin swimmers.  Acta Physiol Hung. 2009 Sep;96(3):325-36.

4 thoughts on “Does Creatine Monohydrate Improve Anaerobic Performance?

  1. Very interesting article. You mostly hear about creatine use as far as weight training so this is a fairly new perspective. In theory you should gain an energy boost but the increase of bulk (water mass) could negate the effects in anaerobic activities.

  2. Interesting read…from my knowledge, Creatine is by far one of the most researched sports supplement on the market today.

    Reading this study though, was a placebo drug used on some of the subjects?

    1. Mark,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, a placebo was used in this study. The test subjects were randomly assigned to either:

      a creatine (CR, 4×5 g/day creatine monohydrate for 5 days) or placebo group (P, same dose of a dextrose-ascorbic acid placebo) in a double-blind research.

  3. As Steve says then the increase in water mass will take away the positive effect in most sports.

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