IF you’re doing all you can to help your performance by eating well, recovering well, and making sure that you are on the best workout program available, are there supplements that you can take to help your training? I’m going to cover a number of different supplements that you can take over a number of articles. First I’ll start with one of the most potent ergogenic aids: Creatine
The answer is yes. There are supplements that have been proven to increase athletic performance. These are called “Ergogenic Aids”. I will discuss supplementing with creatine, why it can help, and my guidelines for using supplemental creatine.
Creatine Monohydrate (or hydrochloride)
Creatine is very helpful to hockey players in a number of ways:
- Increases muscle size. It does this during the supplementation period because Phosphocreatine (how creatine is stored in your body to be used as fuel for your muscles) is stored in your muscles by binding to water. This so called “water weight” increases the osmotic pressure on the inside of the muscle cell. Increased osmotic pressure within muscle cells is the signal for protein synthesis. Protein synthesis means muscle growth! Muscle growth means increases in muscular strength.
- Increased ability to tolerate lactic acid. Your body produces lactic acid when it exercises intensely. Lactic acid interferes with your body’s ability to continue to exercise at a high intensity. The better your body’s ability to tolerate lactic acid, the more intensely you can work. Supplementing with creatine allows your body to better tolerate lactic acid because creatine can act as a buffer to reduce acidity in the working muscle.
- Increased anaerobic power. Because creatine is your first available source of high-energy, storing more of it in your muscles (which is what you do when you supplement with creatine) allows you to have more high-energy fuel at your disposal. This means that in events lasting 15-30 seconds, you could do more work if you’re supplementing with creatine than if you were not.
- Increased recovery. Studies have shown that supplementing with creatine allows for increased testosterone (a muscle building hormone) and decreased cortisol (a stress hormone involved in tissue breakdown) after or in between workouts. Supplementing with creatine allows a better hormonal response to training, which in turn allows you to recover better, which in allows you to make greater gains in the gym.
- Is creatine safe to take? Yes. Given that you have properly functioning kidneys, creatine is safe to take. Excess creatine that your body cannot use is just excreted in your urine. Creatine is found in meats like fish, chicken, pork and beef, so it is a natural substance. Your body also produces its own creatine. So supplementing with creatine is just forcing your body to store more of it than it usually would for the sake of helping athletic performance.
- What age should you begin taking creatine? This, I do not know. There aren’t any longitudinal studies to prove or disprove that creatine is dangerous for athletes of certain ages to take. I’d be cautious in recommending creatine to anyone under 16 years old.
- How long should I take creatine for? I think that you can take creatine indefinitely, so long as you periodically cycle off of it to ensure that your body is still producing it endogenously (producing creatine itself). Every 2-3 months, be sure to take a 2-3 week break from supplementing with creatine. Creatine is a natural way to increase athletic performance throughout your entire athletic season…just ensure that you cycle off of it.
- I heard creatine monohydrate just adds water weight…I found other creatines that don’t add water weight. Those types of “creatines” are not doing their job if you’re not adding weight. They tend to be expensive because they are “pH buffered” or some sort of fancy mix…just buy and use either creatine monohydrate or creatine hydrochloride.. They work great! The other stuff is just marketed junk to get you to spend more money. If you’re getting the expensive, fancily branded stuff, you’re just creating some really expensive urine.
- Take 3-7g of creatine monohydrate or hydrochloride in the morning on an empty stomach with juice every morning. (If you weigh under 180, take 3g…if you are between 180 and 200 take 4-5g…over 200lb you may need up to 7g)
- If notice an increase in size/weight, strength, energy, then continue taking creatine until it is time to cycle off of it.
- If you do not notice an increase in size/weight, strength, energy, then you are known as a “non-responder” and supplementing with creatine will not help you. You do not need to spend money on supplemental creatine.
Creatine is an excellent, legal way to increase your training and performance gains. Following the above guidelines can ensure safe, effective, and economical use of supplemental creatine.