The foundation of CrossFit is a whole food diet that includes meat, vegetables, nuts and fruit. When I am asked about supplementation, I’m often asked about protein and creatine. My response is always, “What is your diet like?” We have to start with the food that goes into your body. After that, what levers can we pull to give us an advantage in the gym? When an athlete considers supplementing their diet, I would consider creatine and protein to be equally important. Some experts consider it to be the “Michael Jordan” of all supplements!
What is creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid that is typically stored in skeletal muscle. It works with ATP (the body’s readily usable source of energy) to supply energy to cells in the body.
Most of our creatine sources come from our food – meat, fish, or egg. Additionally, our body can create creatine in the liver and kidneys (with enough amino acids!). Once you’ve mastered a whole foods diet, supplementing with creatine has a whole host of benefits.
Why is creatine beneficial?
Creatine is especially important during high-intensity exercise like CrossFit because it helps your body create more energy. Sprinting and weightlifting in particular use creatine because they are fast movements that tap directly into the energy stores in our muscles.
Think you’re not “athlete” enough for creatine? Here are two additional reasons why the general population should be supplementing with creatine:
- Studies on creatine also demonstrate its importance in lean muscle maintenance. This is especially important for those who may be experiencing sarcopenia (the age-related progressive loss of muscle that typically occurs after the age of 30).
- Energy creation is what creatine is best known for, but there is new research that suggests it is vital for our mental performance as well. It can keep your cognitive functions at a high level. It’s not just a fuel source for our muscles, but for our neurons as well.
How do I find a good quality creatine supplement?
We recommend using a high quality creatine monohydrate supplement. CrossFit Hampton Roads partners with Thorne and is considered a reputable company by the CrossFit Community. However, there are many other quality brands. When looking for a supplement, consider a brand that is backed by research and is tested for purity and safety. Additionally, consider speaking with a healthcare provider, nutritionist or certified trainer for recommendations.
What does a good creatine regime look like?
As a CrossFit athlete, if you weigh at or less than 180, 3 – 5mg of creatine is recommended. If you weigh more than that, consider 5-10g. (Remember, your body also makes creatine, in addition to getting it from your diet.) Take your creatine supplement with at least 16 oz of water. It is recommended to consume 60-90 minutes before a workout, however, you will still see benefits from creatine despite the timing of consumption. There are studies that show your body may absorb creatine when taken with carbohydrates. Always ensure you are following the directions on the package and consider consulting a health professional.
Who should take creatine?
5 groups that could benefit from using creatine as a supplement to a whole foods diet:
- Athletes – no surprise here! Creatine supports energy production, and maintains lean muscle mass, endurance and power output.
- Those who follow a plant based diet – since we get most of our creatine from meat sources, those individuals not eating meat may have lower stores built up.
- Those in cognitive decline – research has shown an increase in cognitive response after using creatine.
- Seniors – Sarcopenia is a real concern for those above 50, and taking creatine can promote the retention of lean muscle mass.
- People with high blood sugar – Creatine increases the function of a glucose molecule that brings blood sugars to the muscles. This is important for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. For best results, pair creatine with protein and carbohydrates.
Creatine is on the short list for highly beneficial supplements backed with decades of science and used universally in the sporting and fitness world. This items above will help you to make an educated decision on how creatine could be useful to you in your training.
The following series around various supplements is meant to inform our CFHR athletes on products we recommend. We use and partner with Thorne. They are committed to meeting athlete’s need with data based solutions and premium, NSF Certified supplements.