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Creatine - Useful Supplement for Marathon Runners, Endurance Athletes?

Updated on March 21, 2014
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Improved Recovery from Creatine Use, Says Study

New research coming from Taiwan has shown encouraging data in regards to creatine use in endurance athletes. While both sprinters and endurance runners were tested, the endurance runners showed the best results. The findings conclude that "creatine supplementation tended to decrease muscle glycogen and protein degradation," which are two markers of recovery in athletes. The more protein degradation, the more recovery will be necessary the return to pre-exercise levels. With this boost, it may be possible for competitors to train more intensely. This does not suggest any added benefit for joint recovery, but speed increases are possible in training without additional stress to the joints.

Why Does This Study Matter?

There is an abundance of research showing creatine's safety and efficacy in human weight lifters, but this study is unique in its findings for distance runners. Most commercially available forms of creatine are relatively inexpensive and are rarely, if ever, banned from competition. More research on this topic may lead to creatine becoming a staple in the regimens of top endurance runners and athletes. Currently, the most popular dietary supplements among endurance athletes are primarily nutrition-oriented: protein and carbohydrate supplements. With this research, creatine may become a necessary component for the top marathoners and Ironman competitors.

Study Limitations

Important to note is the study's use of creatine monohydrate, the most studied and most common form of creatine. Other forms of creatine are less studied, in some cases less effective, and in most cases much more expensive. The study dosed 12 grams of creatine per day, which resulted in weight gain among participants. This is a higher than necessary dose and it is likely that the weight gain would have been lessened or eliminated with lower dosages. Other research has shown that more creatine does not mean more results, rather it simply will increase weight gain and the amount of creatine expelled in urine.

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Best Way to Use Creatine for Endurance Training

If you are to use creatine in your endurance training, you will need to learn from the lessons of the study. The subjects gained weight, which you don't want as an endurance trainee, because they took 12 grams each day. A better amount would be 5 grams, even though as little as 3 grams would be fine. To begin with, do not bother with any types of creatine that are not "creatine monohydrate." If you have any issues with monohydrate, such as stomach upset, bloating, or weight gain, you can look into some other proven forms. These include creatine HCl and magnesium creatine chelate; you do not need to start with these forms as they cost significantly more and do not necessarily confer extra benefits unless you do not respond as well to the monohydrate form.

You should take creatine daily at first, but after 6-8 weeks it is okay to reduce dosing to 4 days per week. A good rule of thumb after you have taken it for a while is to simply take it on each workout day. Though a once popular recommendation was to "cycle" creatine--that is, to take it for a month or two followed by a month off--this actually reduces its effectiveness. Your body will become saturated with creatine, as it is called, and if you take time off the saturation will go away. You will need this saturation to enjoy the benefits. It is typically reached, regardless of how much you're taking, after a month of use. It takes about a month to wear off, though once again you don't want it to wear off.

This is not a miracle drug, this is not steroids. The gains will be marginal. An experienced trainee knows that a 5% benefit is huge, but many people expect more from a dietary supplement. Do not set your expectations too high!

Another recommended product

Optimum Nutrition Creatine 2500mg, 100 Capsules
Optimum Nutrition Creatine 2500mg, 100 Capsules

This is the same ingredient as my other recommended product, but some people don't like to mix drinks. It isn't as cost effective, but it is much more convenient.

 

My recommended product

Optimum Nutrition Creatine Powder, Unflavored, 600g
Optimum Nutrition Creatine Powder, Unflavored, 600g

This is simple, cheap, reliable, and should last you for a very long time. Don't complicate creatine, as companies will try to convince you to do. This is the only form of creatine that is well-backed by research, especially for endurance athletes.

 

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    • dwelburn profile image

      David 4 years ago from Chesterfield, UK

      Good article on creating. Yes, it's one of the best sports supplements available.

    • jlongrc profile image
      Author

      Jacob Long 4 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Thanks for the comment!

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 2 years ago from Nottingham UK

      It's certainly true that the traditional 'loading' phase of 20 grams a day stated on many packs is never going to be a viable process for endurance athletes.

      It would be certainly interesting what different load levels will do to affect performance in endurance athletes as per the 3-5 grams you state above and whether that amount was just an industry guideline.

      You can still find a significant number of scientific articles which downplay the effects of creatine for endurance athletes and as there is no significant trend to research findings as such it is probably a long way from creatine being the endurance supplement of choice for many endurance athletes.

    • profile image

      Brad 21 months ago

      CyclingFitness, why do you say loading will never be a viable process for endurance athletes? I'm a 40 mile per week runner actively loading right now. I've had zero weight gain and zero problems.

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