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Phosphocreatine (the phosphorylated form of Creatine) provides the means of regenerating small quantities of ATP rapidly, so boosting short-duration activities. Muscles are much less prone to fatigue, and the capacity to undertake strenuous exercise is increased. Activities such as repetition weight training, short sprints, repeated bounding and jumping are all enhanced and therefore, the quality of training increases which feeds into higher competitive performances. Studies made with middle-distance athletes also seem to indicate improvement.


Creatine is made by the body (from amino acids arginine, glycine and methionine) and gained from the diet. It occurs naturally in meats and fish. An athlete who is a big meat eater may have in his muscle five grams of creatine per kilogram of muscle, near the upper limit. This same athlete must take in approximately 2.5g of creatine per day to replace the natural degradation of creatine that takes place each day.

If you were to survey athletes, you would find that there would be a wide variation in creatine content with some athletes having as little as three grams per kilogram of muscle, especially vegetarians and those people who are less active in the sport. Those with low creatine content may be at a disadvantage since Creatine has been described as the muscle engine's oil that makes the muscle work more efficiently. Since very few athletes are at the top end of the scale (4.5-5g/kg), supplementation will increase the creatine content in the muscles.

How much?

Much of the early work was based on supplementing creatine in five-gram doses, four times a day for five days, then using two to three grams per day to maintain the enhanced levels. Studies based upon this level of supplementation observed rises in muscle creatine, resulting in an increased power output of about 5 - 7%, presumably due to enhanced phosphocreatine levels. Manufacturers will claim significant increases in performances, but in my experience, the improvements are varied, from no effect at all to very substantial gains.

Those at the bottom end of natural creatine muscle content will benefit the most. In contrast, those at the upper end of the scale will have no benefit since it appears impossible to increase very high levels of creatine in the muscle. Perhaps those athletes who eat very low amounts (or none) of fish and meat will be the ones who benefit the most. Vegetarians who supplement with creatine may experience significant improvements. Athletes in the explosive events (sprints, jumps, throws) are likely to experience the most improvement but in the middle-distance events in which phosphocreatine plays a small but important role the benefit of creatine supplementation has yet to be finally established. Latest research points to the body being unable to absorb large amounts of creatine into the muscle and it appears that five-gram intakes will find their way into the urine rather than into the muscle.

It is now recommended that two to three-gram intakes four times a day for ten days will lead to less being eliminated in the urine, or a regime of three gram twice a day for 20 days may be equally beneficial. After such 'loading' intakes, a maintenance dose of perhaps only two-gram per day is needed. For best effects, creatine should not be taken all year round and periods of no supplementation should be included in the annual cycle. To bring about a rapid elevation in the muscle creatine content, supplementation is best taken either before or after training itself. At other times of the day, creatine should be co-ingested with a source of carbohydrate that is effective in elevating blood insulin levels, e.g. a Mars bar. There appears to be no long-term effect in taking creatine supplements although it must be pointed out that the longest study, thus far is for only one-and-a-half' years.

Creatine boosts muscle power

Investigations at the University of Nottingham show that five days of creatine supplementation can boost muscle power and performance during intense strength training (Unknown 1993)[3]. In the Nottingham study, 12 athletes carried out five bouts of 30 maximal contractions of the quadriceps muscles before and after five days of placebo or creatine ingestion. The creatine was consumed in five-gram doses, four times per day (20 grams total per day). After the five days, the placebo-group athletes achieved no gains in muscle power, but creatine ingesters boosted muscle strength considerably during all five bouts of exercise.

Loading Strategies

Roger Harris, Professor of Sports Science at the University College of Chichester indicates that the traditional dosage of 20 gram per day, in 5-gram doses, may not be the most cost-effective method. This amount of creatine (5 grams) cannot be picked up all at once by the muscles and as much as two-thirds can end up in the kidneys to be expelled in your urine. Meat products are natural dietary sources of creatine, and a pound of raw beef contains about 1.8 grams. When we eat meat, the creatine is absorbed gradually into the muscles with very little being lost in the urine. Perhaps the approach is to take small amounts of creatine and to mix it with other food. Research has shown that taking 3 grams of creatine a day over 30 days produces about as much creatine storage as a 20 gram/day strategy. It is also considered that the 3 gram/day strategy will reduce the amount of water retention and weight gain. To reduce cost, minimise side effects and yet obtain the benefits from creatine then perhaps a possible strategy to enhance creatine levels is to:

  • purchase an inexpensive creatine powder
  • take a daily dose of 3 grams or so a day over 30 days
  • take half a gram to a gram at one time sprinkled on your food

A maintenance dose of creatine would probably be about 3 to 4 grams per day and a dose of 9 grams per day could be appropriate for the seven days leading up to a major competition.

Side Effects

Since this page has been available on my website, I have received feedback from several athletes who have experienced negative side effects while taking creatine. They have experienced:

  • a significant increase in muscle swelling due to the storage of more water around the muscles - this has the potential to increase the chances of injury, especially between muscle and tendon connections
  • leg tendons (calf) have tightened up considerably and with reduced circulation, restricted by the swelling in the calf muscle, has led to numb feet
  • Nausea
  • Cramp possibly due to water retention
  • Dizziness if excessive quantities are taken
  • Diarrhoea
  • Creatine increases compartment pressure in the lower calf muscles, resulting in numb feet (a mild symptom) to intense pain. Severe cases may lead to surgical intervention.

If you experience these side effects, then possible solutions may be:

  • to use a small quantity (3 grams) maybe every other day
  • not to use creatine

Since creatine is a natural component of the human diet athletes would, therefore, encounter creatine in the normal diet daily, and there should be no harmful side effects. There appear to be some problems experienced by a minority of sprinters when loading with creatine in the form of muscle cramps, which may be related to the amount of the creatine supplemented. Athletes must experiment with the amount of creatine they need - more is not necessarily better and 'less may be best' in certain individuals.

Different Types Explained

Reggie Johal provides the following information on some of the different types of Creatine. He is a former international American Football player for Great Britain, with a lifelong passion for strength and speed training. You can purchase Creatine supplements from Predator Nutrition.

  • Creatine Monohydrate - By far the most widely researched type of Creatine studied, Creatine Monohydrate is usually the first type of Creatine suggested to users. It is both cheap and effective. Some creatine carbohydrate report users do not feel much effect though, or they report side effects such as gastric distress. It is suggested creatine monohydrate be taken with some simple sugars such as dextrose to maximise its effectiveness.
  • Creatine Ethyl Ester - This form of Creatine was touted as a version that required fewer grams of Creatine to be effective and did not require additional carbohydrates. However, recent research showed creatine ethyl ester to be less effective than creatine monohydrate when tested head to head. As a result, this form of Creatine is less popular nowadays.
  • Tricreatine Orotate - Tricreatine Orotate is a combination of Creatine bonded to Orotic Acid. Research on Orotic Acid suggests it works in synergy with creatine making Tricreatine Orotate a popular compound.
  • Kre-Alkalyn - Kre-Alkalyn is a type of buffered creatine which was introduced to the market to counteract one of the problems with creatine monohydrate, namely that when it encounters liquid it can break down into a waste product called creatinine. By combining the creatine with alkaline salt, this conversion to creatinine is avoided, which allows for greater absorption and uptake by muscles.
  • Liquid Creatine - At one point, this type of creatine was popular. The issue mentioned above of conversion to creatine when encountering liquid means that liquid creatine is largely discredited to increase muscle phosphocreatine stores.


Creatine, introduced and established in the nineties, will be with us into the next century, but further studies are needed to prove just how beneficial it is to athletes and events. The current advertising by commercial producers of creatine almost certainly exaggerates the benefits of creatine, but it appears that some, if not all, adult athletes will benefit from creatine supplementation.


  1. ANDERSON, O. (1996) Carbs, Creatine and phosphate: if the king had used these uppers, he'd still be around today. Peak Performance, 69, p. 1-4
  2. ANDERSON, O. (1997) Are we to believe the latest stories about creatine. Peak Performance, 98, p. 6-7
  3. UNKNOWN (1993) Creatine Ingestion and Exercise Performance. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 14, p. 297

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (1998) Creatine [WWW] Available from: [Accessed