Making Weight and Creatine: What You Need to Know with Dr. Scott Forbes
“Beyond the impact of creatine supplementation on muscle health and performance, creatine supplementation enhances brain function and appears to be neuroprotective. The impact on brain function appears to be most effective during times of stress, such as reduced oxygen (hypoxia), following a traumatic brain injury, or when sleep deprived.”
Creatine (methylguanidine-acetic acid) is a naturally occurring nutrient formed from three amino acids, arginine, glycine, and methionine. Creatine is made within the liver and kidneys, or can be ingested from food sources such as fish (e.g., heron, cod), beef, or poultry, or as a supplement. Ninety-ﬁve percent of creatine is stored in skeletal muscle with the remainder mostly found in the brain.
It is well established that creatine is an extremely safe and effective ergogenic aid when combined with resistance training to promote greater gains in muscle, strength, and power.
How does it work:
Creatine is pleiotropic (has many different effects) and works through several mechanisms. Primarily creatine functions as a fuel to support high intensity exercise. Creatine also aids in the uptake of glycogen (another fuel important for intense exercise). Furthermore, creatine increases cell swelling (i.e. water retention) that signals the muscle to grow, as well as decreases inflammation and oxidative stress. In younger adults, creatine has been shown to enhance exercise performance and is among one of five supplements with strong scientific support as outlined in a consensus paper by the International Olympic Committee.
Beyond the impact of creatine supplementation on muscle health and performance, creatine supplementation enhances brain function and appears to be neuroprotective. The impact on brain function appears to be most effective during times of stress, such as reduced oxygen (hypoxia), following a traumatic brain injury, or when sleep deprived.
What is the best way to take creatine?
There are several scientifically proven strategies:
- You can take 20 grams per day for 5 days followed by 5 grams per day.
- Simply take 5 grams a day and skip the loading phase. Muscle creatine levels will get to the same point, it just takes a couple weeks longer when comparing strategy 2 to strategy 1.
- Take 0.1 g/kg/day, since a bigger person may need more creatine and this takes body mass into account.
It is recommended to mix creatine with water as well as carbs or a mixture of carbs and protein (both carbs and protein stimulate insulin and will help the uptake of creatine).
Considerations when weight cutting:
- Start at least 10-12 weeks out (when weight is relatively stable).
- Load with creatine for 5 days (20 grams/day). *Record weight before and after loading.
- Start maintenance dose (5 grams/day). *Record weight after one week.
- When the athlete records dosing and the associated weight gain; this can be accounted for in the weight cutting process.
- If necessary, the athlete can slowly titrate the dosing as they approach their weigh-in.
Collectively, creatine is one of the most well studied dietary supplements, it is extremely safe and well tolerated, and has a large amount of scientific support. There is also emerging benefits to creatine including enhance brain health and performance!
– Dr. Scott Forbes, Brandon University @scott_forbes_phd