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Is Creatine Effective In Endurance Sports?

Is Creatine The Difference Between Finishing In 1st Or 2nd Place?

Posted by TimeIsMuscle - February 20th, 2016

What is Creatine?

Before we tackle the effects of this supplement, we must first ask ourselves what is creatine? Creatine is a natural chemical compound, derived from amino acids found in our kidneys and liver, that is transported through our bloodstream to our muscles. Creatine makes up 95% of our overall skeletal muscle. Supplementation of creatine monohydrate has been found through scientific research to increase muscle strength and size. This is the most common benefits associated with the supplementing of creatine monohydrate.

My Experience Using Creatine

I started using creatine during the teenage weightlifting phase of my life. My training routine rarely changed. I regularly did the same workouts day after day, week after week and month after month. Initially during the first few weeks, my strength remained the same. However, within weeks of using this supplement (post loading phase), all of my lifts increased. I found myself more competent with my heavy lifts, enabling me to perform 90% of my max for one or two more reps than normal. I felt like I had that much more energy and strength as a result from the use of this supplement. Nowadays, I still cycle on and off creatine for two to three weeks at a time, over the course of around 3-4 months each year.

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Can Creatine Enhance The Performance Of Endurance Athletes?

Having established the benefits of taking this supplement to boost weightlifting gains, let’s discuss whether or not creatine can enhance performance in endurance based sports?

The short answer is “No”. The majority of articles relating to this topic state that creatine may have a positive effect on high-intensity exercise, but not for enhancing an athlete’s endurance. Studies often only acknowledge benefits of creatine in relation to aerobic endurance as “Short Term” (i.e. sprint based training for athletics).

Scientific studies claim it doesn’t help. If you creatine load before a long distance run, you will not perform better. In fact, it may cause you to perform worse because loading with standard creatine monohydrate tends to cause weight gain due to water retention, which as a result can slow you down. Therefore, it’s hard to see how using creatine at all can have any direct benefit to those who are looking to enhance their performance in endurance sports. So, is that the end of it? Is there no benefit at all for these athletes whatsoever?

The Debate

Based on what we have discussed thus far, the short answer would still be “No”. However, just because there isn’t a direct effect, that doesn’t mean that there is no effect at all. What about the indirect effect this supplement has? Let’s look past the lack of a direct effect this supplement has on endurance athletes for a moment. First of all, with the correct use of this supplement, it can speed up your recovery.

Recovery between intensive training sessions, as we all know, is extremely important over the course of any athletes training cycle in preparation for competition. In addition, it is possible that the use of this supplement, if not taken excessively, can improve the quality of high intensity running. As your recovery rate speeds up, you can increase the number of interval repetitions that you can perform. Speed, speed endurance and overall power are all physical components related to our motor skills that can be improved, and at the very least in this case, enhance your short term performance.

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To conclude, creatine supplementation has yet to be proven to have any positive direct effects on endurance or long distance runners upon initial consumption. However, as I’ve already mentioned, we need to look past the lack of direct effect. The higher quality training sessions you can have as a result of supplementing with creatine can indirectly improve your distance running performance in the short term. An increase in short term performance (short distance running) whilst competing in long distance running, I argue, may enhance your overall performance, and thus could be the difference between finishing in first or second place.

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