Team sport athletes such as football, rugby and hockey players are generally no strangers to sport nutrition supplements. In their quest to put on strength and mass, many athletes will turn to their peers for supplementation advice. Instead of first focusing on the basics, such as consistent training and a caloric surplus that are proven methods for effectively increasing lean body mass, they will generally pick up a new product or two at the local sports nutrition store. This can be a potentially concerning situation considering the lack of stringent guidelines on supplement companies. There are plenty of products that aren’t worth the plastic container they come in, but there are a few supplements that have some strong evidence behind them. Creatine for example, is one of the most well studied ergogenic aids available with minimal reports of negative side effects. The vast majority of the literature tends to show favorable effects of creatine supplementation on strength and lean body mass.
A new study published in the latest edition of the European Journal of Applied Physiology investigated the effects of creatine supplementation on strength measures in recreationally strength trained men (n=32). Baseline 1RM strength and strength endurance (4×80% 1RM to failure) values from the bench press and leg press were acquired pre and post training. Subjects were than divided into a creatine group, given 20g/day for 7 days followed by 5g/day each day thereafter throughout the study, and a placebo group, given dextrose. The subjects were than put through 4 workouts, consisting of a 5km treadmill run at a continuous (90% of anaerobic threshold) or intermittent (1:1 min at V02max) pace, followed by either a leg press or bench press test of maximum strength or strength endurance.
The researchers found that the creatine group was able to maintain leg press strength endurance after the intermittent aerobic exercise. In contrast, the placebo group actually demonstrated a significant decrease in strength endurance. Bench press strength endurance was improved following the treadmill runs in the creatine group while no effect was observed in the placebo group. 1RM values were increased (albeit, within the range of variability) in the creatine group while 1RM’s were only maintained in the placebo group.
The findings of this study have important implications for team sport athletes. Sports like rugby, football and hockey require both endurance and strength and power throughout competition and practices, lasting upwards of 80 minutes of play. Creatine supplementation may therefore be useful for these athletes to help attenuate the acute interference effect that extensive running has on strength performance. Of course all sport nutrition matters should be dealt with and monitored by a qualified professional. It also goes without saying that no supplement will outperform hard work, consistency and a balanced diet. Once these qualities and habits are set in place, adding a supplement like creatine may then be worthwhile.
de Salles Painelli, V., Alves, V. T., Ugrinowitsch, C., Benatti, F. B., Artioli, G. G., Lancha Jr, A. H., … & Roschel, H. (2014). Creatine supplementation prevents acute strength loss induced by concurrent exercise. European journal of applied physiology, 1-7.