Creatine is a somewhat rare supplement in that there is plenty of evidence that backs its use. It improves strength, enhances recovery, and increases muscle mass. It does not however, work on every activity. The evidence on creatine use to improve aerobic activity, high intensity exercise, sprints, and decrease body fat is at best, mixed.
Cycling creatine on and off is unnecessary. There is no good research indicating that long term creatine use has any negative effects. The ISSN’s stance states that use of up to 30 grams per day for periods as long as 5 years is safe. Most research indicates as little as 3-5 grams per day is enough to see benefits.
There is research demonstrating that consuming 20-30 grams of creatine per day for up to a week increases muscle creatine stores, enhances recovery, and improves performance. Research also shows that small doses of creatine, as low as 2-3 grams per day, can maintain or even increase levels of muscle creatine.
In the previous article, we learned the evidence paints a mixed, but positive picture on whether creatine decreases muscle damage. The next question is, if creatine has a moderate ability to decrease muscle damage, can it also speed up the post exercise recovery period?
There are quite a few supplements which claim to reduce muscle damage; creatine is one of them. The implications of this claim is quicker recovery, reduced soreness, and increased performance gains. There has been plenty of research conducted on whether or not creatine supplementation reduces muscle damage.
In this series, we've learned creatine definitely increases strength and muscle mass. It accomplishes both by increasing the availability of ATP in muscle tissue, allowing you to workout at a higher intensity. This leads to both strength and size gains. If creatine increases workout intensity and promotes increases in muscle mass, it should also work to decrease body fat.
It's fairly clear that creatine monohydrate causes weight gain. For many, this is a benefit. Unfortunately, some of this quick weight gain comes from water and reverses once supplementation stops. Does creatine actually increase muscle mass or is it all just temporary body weight?
High intensity exercise is characterized by, "brief, intermittent bouts of vigorous exercise interspersed by periods of rest or low intensity activity." If the limiting factor of this activity is slow ATP synthesis, supplementing may show some improvement.
The research on creatine and cardio was at best, mixed. While cardio is long and low or moderate intensity, sprints are typically shorter and done at a much higher intensity. What we know about creatine means that it should be a perfect match for this short but high intensity type of exercise.
For longer exercise bouts, the body uses an aerobic energy pathway; this requires oxygen. This pathway creates a lot more ATP, but requires more time. This pathway is ideal for long endurance activities such as running, swimming, rowing, biking, or less intensive sports. The question is whether creatine plays a significant role in this energy pathway.