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Bodybuilding FAQ - Is Creatine Effective for Endurance Sports?

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Question: Bodybuilding FAQ - Is Creatine Effective for Endurance Sports?
While we all know that creatine is highly effective for anaerobic activities, such as weight training, does it offer any benefit to those involved in endurance activities? Read this FAQ for the answer to this question.
Answer: Research indicates that for endurance sports and aerobic activities, such as long distance running, creatine offers little benefit when it comes to improvements in ones time during a long distance race, for instance. However, creatine does exert certain effects that even the endurance runner may find of benefit.

Effects of Creatine in Ammonia and Lactate Levels
In a study(1) that was looking at the effects of creatine in the muscle metabolism and endurance of people with congestive heart failure, researchers found that lactate and ammonia levels were lower on the group supplemented with 20 grams of creatine. These two metabolites increase during exercise, both aerobic and anaerobic, and high levels impair performance and recovery. Therefore, one can conclude that creatine can offer the endurance runner faster recovery from the long runs since supplementing with creatine will enhance the body's metabolism in such a way that allows for better handling of lactate and ammonia levels.

Effects of Creatine in Growth Hormone Levels
Another way in which I feel creatine may help the endurance runner is in maintaining the athletes existing level of muscle mass. As any endurance athlete will tell you, keeping muscle mass is a chore due to the high demand of calories from the body. If the athlete does not take in an amount of calories that is at least equal to the amount burned each day, muscle mass may be lost as the body uses it for fuel. However, an interesting study(2) I found seems to indicate that creatine may help protect muscle through a significant increase in Growth Hormone levels. Growth Hormone (GH) is a protein hormone secreted by the cells in the anterior pituitary and it is involved in many complex growth and metabolic processes, but the ones of importance to us are the increased use of fat for energy, the increased protein synthesis which results in muscle growth, the increased ability to heal wounds and also to keep bone mass. The study showed that after ingestion of a single 20 gram dose of creatine monohydrate at rest, GH levels rose significantly achieving a maximum concentration between 2-6 hours after ingestion. Therefore, once can conclude that this property may help the endurance runner utilize more fat for fuel during the exercise and thus spare muscle and carbohydrates. If nothing else, I think it is worth a try.

References
(1)Andrews R., et al. The effect of dietary creatine supplementation on skeletal muscle metabolism on congestive heart failure. Eur Heart J 1998 Apr; 19(4): 617-22.

(2)Schedel JM, et al. Acute creatine loading enhances human growth hormone secretion. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2000 Dec;40(4):336-42.

November 26, 2005

About The Author
Hugo Rivera, About.com's Bodybuilding Guide since 2005, and ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, is a nationally-known best-selling author of over 8 books on bodybuilding, weight loss and fitness, including "The Body Sculpting Bible for Men", "The Body Sculpting Bible for Women", "The Hardgainer's Bodybuilding Handbook", and his successful, self published e-book, "Body Re-Engineering". Hugo is also a national level NPC natural bodybuilding champion. Click here for more information on Hugo Rivera.

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