Creatine - Useful Supplement for Marathon Runners, Endurance Athletes?
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.
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.
Do you take creatine?
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!
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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.