Athletes have been supplementing creatine monohydrate to improve exercise and strength performance for over twenty years. Creatine has been dubbed by many as a staple supplement since it is safe, natural, and effective. Creatine is a naturally occurring nitrogenous organic acid that occurs in the skeletal muscle of vertebrae. About 95% of the creatine found in the human body is found in skeletal muscle. Creatine helps provide energy to all cells in body, mainly muscle cells. It is stored in the muscles and used as a form of energy known as phosphocreatine, which is associated with power output in prolonged muscle use. When this is depleted, muscle fatigue is triggered. Consequently, increasing creatine within the body has been proven to help increase phosphocreatine output during anaerobic activity, which is also known as the ATP-CP energy system.
There have been many studies on creatine and its efficacy. Most recently a study was approved by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with the purpose of determining the effects of a creatine loading phase on anaerobic performance and one-repetition maximum strength.2
The study that was performed involved twenty-two healthy men who were new to resistance training and did not use any nutritional supplements. Each individual participated in less than four hours of recreational activity per week. The subjects were divided into either a placebo group or a supplement group. Those who were in the supplement group ingested 20 grams of creatine monohydrate powder daily for seven consecutive days, whereas the placebo group ingested the same amount of maltodextrin powder during that time period. Testing was done before and after the study (seven days) for bodyweight, mean power, peak power from two 30-second Wingate Anaerobic tests (an anaerobic test typically performed on a cycle ergometer to measure peak power and anaerobic capacity3), and a one rep max strength test on bench press and leg extension.4
The result of the study indicated there was a large increase between before and after testing in mean power for the group that supplemented creatine monohydrate, but not the placebo group. The one rep max on leg extension and bench press strength did not change between either group, nor was there a change in peak power or bodyweight. This study indicated that loading 20 grams per day of creatine monohydrate for seven consecutive days increased mean power by 5.4% from the Wingate Anaerobic test, but had no effect one-rep max strength or bodyweight.5
As with many previous studies, creatine monohydrate proves to have beneficial effects. There has been debate whether or not a loading of creatine monohydrate is necessary or even worthwhile, and this study showed that a loading phase of creatine monohydrate can be to one’s benefit, and that it can significantly increase average power in just as little as seven days.