Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the source of energy powering the movement of muscle contraction and therefore the ability to replace it is crucial for performance. ATP production can occur through many processes, including cellular respiration, beta-oxidation, ketosis, lipid and protein catabolism. Many ingredients on the market today, as well as up-and-coming players, show promise in supporting energy production toward potentially enhancing athletic performance.
Creatine has been one of the most popular nutritional aids for athletes to enhance physical performance, stamina and recovery. It is a naturally occurring substance found in muscle cells and shares many similarities with amino acids. Creatine can be produced by the body from the amino acids glycine and arginine. Up to 95% of the body’s creatine is stored in skeletal muscle, while small amounts are found in the brain and testes.1 About two-thirds of intramuscular creatine is stored in the form of phosphocreatine (PCr) with the remaining third in the form of free creatine.2
One of the ways the body’s ATP supply is regenerated is through the use of PCr. When ATP is broken down, the remaining ADP is in need of a phosphate molecule. PCr provides the transfer of a high-energy phosphate to ADP to create ATP. Hence, more PCr means more high-energy phosphates available for the creation of ATP and energy within the body. Creatine supplementation may increase the overall PCr available to create energy in the form of ATP.3 More ATP creation means more energy available for enhancing athletic performance. Studies have consistently demonstrated creatine supplementation aiding in the increase of intramuscular creatine stores.1 This increase may explain observed improvements in high-intensity exercise performance, which may result in greater training adaptations.
Increases in intramuscular creatine have also shown promise for improving exercise performance by enhancing recovery. One study indicated creatine loading prior to performing exercise and glycogen loading may promote greater glycogen restoration than carbohydrate loading alone.4 Because glycogen replenishment is important for promoting recovery, creatine supplementation may support athletes that deplete large amounts of glycogen during training.
Creatine supplementation may also reduce muscle damage and enhance recovery from intense exercise.5 One group of researchers evaluated the effects of creatine supplementation on force recovery and muscle damage following intense exercise whereby participants supplementing with creatine displayed greater isokinetic strength and isometric extension strength during recovery. Additionally, participants displayed 84% lower plasma creatine kinase (CK) levels following day two, three, four and seven of recovery.
Another study evaluated creatine loading effects in experienced marathon runners and found reduced inflammatory markers and muscle soreness.6 Creatine’s aid in enhancing recovery may allow athletes and active consumers to train at higher intensities at a quicker turnaround. Such an enhanced recovery in training may aid in promoting improved athletic performance.
Creatine monohydrate became popular for supplementation in the early 1990s. Since then, more than 1,000 studies have been conducted evaluating its effectiveness and safety. One of the most comprehensive studies looked at 52 various blood markers over 21 months and found no adverse effects.7 One of the most consistently reported side effects from creatine supplementation is weight gain due to the increased retention of water.8 However, this side effect does not seem to cause any direct harm to the consumer.
Creatine can be consumed through animal products such as salmon, pork, beef, herring, chicken, lamb and tuna. A normal diet containing around 1-2 g of creatine per day maintains muscle creatine stores at around 60-80% saturation.1 One group of researchers suggested the most effective means to increase creatine through supplementation is to ingest 5 g of creatine monohydrate (0.3/kg body weight) four times daily for five to seven days.9 Consuming creatine with a carbohydrate or carbohydrate and protein has been shown to promote greater creatine retention.10
The “Energy ingredients with market buzz” digital magazine contains the full version of this article, “Enhanced athletic performance driven by ingredients focused on energy.” It includes more information on the dynamics of energy in the human body, as well as a full roster of ingredients for energy-focused dietary supplement formulations.
Madison Dorn specializes in the creation and management of content, with particular passion for the health/nutrition and fitness industries. In her free time, she enjoys working out and is a CrossFit Level One certified coach.
1 Kreider R et al. “International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: safety and efficacy of creatine supplementation in exercise, sport, and medicine.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14(18).
2 Greenhaff P. “The nutritional biochemistry of creatine.” J Nutr Biochem. 1994;8(11):610-618.
3 Francaux M et al. “Effect of exogenous creatine supplementation on muscle PCr metabolism.” Int J Sports Med. 2000;21(2):139-145.
4 Nelson A et al. “Muscle glycogen supercompensation is enhanced by prior creatine supplementation.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001;33(7):1096-1100.
5 Cooke M et al. “Creatine supplementation enhances muscle force recovery after eccentrically-induced muscle damage in healthy individuals.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009;6:13.
6 Santos R et al. “The effect of creatine supplementation upon inflammatory and muscle soreness markers after a 30km race.” Life Sci. 2004;75(16):1917-1924.
7 Kreider R et al. “Long-term creatine supplementation does not significantly affect clinical markers of health in athletes.” Mol Cell Biochem. 2003;244(1-2):95-104.
8 Powers M et al. “Creatine Supplementation Increases Total Body Water Without Altering Fluid Distribution.” J Athl Train. 2003;38(1):44-50.
9 Harris R et al. “Elevation of creatine in resting and exercised muscle of normal subjects by creatine supplementation.” Clin Sci. 1994;83(3):367-374.
10 Greenwood M et al. “Differences in creatine retention among three nutritional formulas of oral creatine supplements.” J Exerc Physiol. 2003;6(2).