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Fuel The Fighter: Lean and Mean with Creatine?

Lean and Mean with Creatine?

Learn the Benefits and Risks

The rising popularity of MMA has increased the demand for elite and talented competitors. Both amateur and professional fighters are always on the lookout for an edge to intensify their skills. Athletes often search for nutritional supplements like creatine to enhance performance. Before you decide to see if creatine supplements boost your training, you should know how creatine works, how it will help, and what risks it carries.

What is creatine and what does it do?

Creatine phosphate (a.k.a. phosphocreatine) is naturally found in muscles. As the name suggests, it's made up of two compounds, creatine and phosphate. Phosphates are an essential part of the molecule ATP, which is a major energy source during exercise. . Think of creatine as something that stores and delivers phosphates in order to make ATP. By this logic, less muscle creatine means that it's easier to get tired, whereas more creatine will delay fatigue by providing plenty of phosphates to make ATP. The liver and pancreas have the ability to make creatine for the muscles, and it's also found in meat and fish. As a supplement, it is marketed as creatine monohydrate [1].

What doses are effective?

While a common dose of 20 grams/day for 5-7 days has been shown to improve performance, taking a low dose of 3 grams/day is just as effective at reaching maximum creatine storage levels. However, it will take a few more days on the low dose to reach the maximum storage limit. One week of creatine supplements on the high dose has been proven to increase creatine phosphate stores by 10-40% [2], [3].

How exactly will taking creatine improve athletic performance?

Those taking creatine as part of an intense training routine have demonstrated gains in strength, fat free mass, and increased performance for high intensity exercise. Keep in mind that while most people respond to creatine, not everyone will experience improvements. Those who have low creatine stores to begin with like vegetarians and vegans will see the most progress from supplements [1],[2],[3].

What are the risks from taking creatine?

Short term (1 week) usage offers minimal risk to a healthy athlete. While there have been some reports of gastrointestinal distress and muscle cramping, these complaints are not common in the majority of creatine research on healthy individuals. Creatine has also been shown to help elderly Parkinson Disease patients throughout a two year period without causing any significant health problems.

Here are the major concerns to take note of [2], [4], [5], [6], [7].

* Weight gain

When starting the supplement, users will experience weight gain from water retention. It's therefore essential to keep hydrated while taking any dose.

* Potential cancer causing agents

Some natural bacteria in the gut can break down creatine into molecules that may cause cancer. Fortunately, these bacteria are not present in large numbers in healthy people. These critters can be kept in check by a balanced diet high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Additionally, consuming helpful bacteria or "probiotics" found in certain yogurt brands will help to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract and inhibit the formation of cancerous products that result from processing and breaking down creatine.

* Dehydration and impaired ability to maintain body temperature

There is mixed evidence regarding creatine's influence on the body's ability to maintain a reasonable temperature while working out in high temperatures. MMA competitors using creatine may need to be concerned about weight cutting practices that involve exercise in heat. If you choose to take creatine, do your best to keep your body relatively close to your fighting weight class to minimize the risk of dehydration and heat stress. (Cutting less weight will also give you more energy during the fight!)

Most medical studies agree that daily creatine use is safe for up to two years. Unfortunately, it's not known whether long term use for the duration of a fighting career is risk free. In order to gain the safest edge, using creatine for short term intervals before fights will give a fighter a shot at sharpening his performance without too much risk of unknown long term consequences.



1. Manore, M., Thomspon, J., (2000). Sport Nutrition for Health and Performance

United States: Human Kinetics

2. Terjung, R. L., Clarkson, P., Eichner, E. R., Greenhaff, P. L., Hespel, P. J., Israel, R. G., et al. (2000). The physiological and health effects of oral creatine supplementation. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 32(3), 706-717.
3. Kreider, R. B. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 244(1), 89-94.
4. Brudnak, M. A. (2004). Creatine: are the benefits worth the risk? Toxicology Letters, 150(1), 123-130.
5. Bender, A., Samtleben, W., Elstner, M., & Klopstock, T. (2008). Long-term creatine supplementation is safe in aged patients with Parkinson disease. Nutrition Research, 28(3), 172-178.
6. Mendel, R. W., Blegen, M., Cheatham, C., Antonio, J., & Ziegenfuss, T. (2005). Effects of creatine on thermoregulatory responses while exercising in the heat. Nutrition, 21(3), 301-307.
7. Gropper, S.S., Smith, J.L., Groff, J.L., ( 2005). Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (4th ed.) -------------------------------------------------------

See Also: Fuel The Fighter: Fewer Drinks, Better Fights