Take creatine to increase power output and recover faster from intense training. Research shows supplementing with creatine will increase energy stores, boost anabolic response to training, and decrease oxidative stress allowing you to recover faster.
A new study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that simply taking 20 grams a day of creatine for seven days can increase your power output and anaerobic capacity. The study tested the effect of a week-long creatine supplement on mean and peak power in a Wingate sprint test, and on bench and leg press maximal strength. Compared to a placebo, the creatine supplement group increased mean power in the sprint test, but had no significant changes in strength. This is not surprising since the study did not include any strength training and supplementation only lasted a week.
The group that took the creatine increased mean power by 5 percent and peak power by 2.5 percent, both of which are similar to previous studies that have shown power gains from creatine without training. Obviously, if you train and take creatine before and after workouts, you will see even more impressive results and will likely gain strength as well.
Researchers suggest taking a large loading dose of creatine of 20 grams for as long as three weeks. Then, drop to a 3 to 5 gram dose before and after training. Taking it before training will help keep your muscles saturated with it, allowing them to restore energy quickly. Post-workout supplementation is most important because this has been shown to boost levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 to stimulate muscle growth.
Another tip is to pair creatine with the amino acid beta-alanine because this has been shown to increase strength and anaerobic work capacity. Beta-alanine combines with the amino acid histidine in the body to form carnosine, which when elevated, can help you burn body fat and gain muscle mass. For example, a group of college football players and wrestlers took either 4 grams a day of beta alanine or a placebo for 8 weeks in conjunction with high-intensity training. The wrestling beta alanine group lost fat (they needed to drop fat to make a weight class) and increased lean mass more than the placebo group. They also performed better on a flexed-arm hang and 300-yard shuttle test.
The football beta alanine group gained an average of one pound more lean mass than the placebo group and performed significantly better on the flexed-arm hang and 300-yard shuttle tests than at baseline.
The reason beta-alanine and creatine work so well together is that they act as an intra-muscular buffer to clear fatiguing hydrogen ions that are produced with high-intensity training. This neutralizes muscle pH, effectively slowing the decline in performance with intense exercise. Another benefit of creatine is that it will reduce oxidative stress produced by exercise or from exposure to toxins or heavy metals that have entered the body. Adequate creatine stores have an antioxidant effect, neutralizing oxidative stress markers, which is why creatine can help speed recovery from training and support cognition.
Coco, M., Perciavalle, V. Creatine Ingestion Effects on Oxidative Stress in a Steady-State Test at 75 Percent V02 Max. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. 2012. 52(2), 165-169.
Zuniga, J., Housh, T., et al. The Effects of Creatine Monohydrate Loading on Anaerobic Performance and 1RM Strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. 26(2), 1651-1655.
Cunha, M., Machado, D., et al. Antidepressant-Like Effect of Creatine in Mice Involves Dopaminergic Activation. Journal of Psychopharmacology. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.
Kern, B., Robinson, T. Effects of B-Alanine Supplementation on Performance and Body Composition in Collegiate Wrestlers and Football Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. July 2011. 25(7), 1804-1815.