Should runners use creatine?
By Henry Howard
In preparation for my fourth 100-miler, Burning River 100 next month, my training has definitely increased recently. As a masters athlete, I require additional protein, recovery and rest than younger athletes, especially during an uptick in training volume and intensity.
Additionally, as a plant-based athlete, there are nutritional components I use to supplement what my food doesn’t provide, especially during these intense training cycles. One that I use strategically is creatine, which is probably the most-studied supplement.
Research shows that muscle creatine stores are lower in vegetarians compared to non-vegetarians because most food sources of creatine are meat products. Reviews of creatine supplementation in vegetarian athletes have shown it can increase lean body mass, develop muscular strength, and build endurance, power output and even brain function.
In May, I kicked off this four-part monthly series with an overview of BCAAs. The series continues in June with this look at creatine, and will continue in July and August. Each installment will detail how a nutritional product plays a key role in my health and performance.
Thanks to Gnarly Nutrition for sponsoring this series. I’ve been a huge supporter of Gnarly since discovering them during a trip to Utah just before the pandemic. Their approach to clean, athlete-created nutritional products meets my needs. I choose supplements that are NSF certified, made with natural ingredients and allow me to perform my best. Gnarly does all that and more.
A deep dive into creatine
Here are five questions and answers about creatine:
What is creatine? Should runners use creatine?
Creatine is a peptide, a short string of amino acids, that people naturally produce. This molecule is part of our body’s energy systems and combines with a molecule of phosphate to form creatine phosphate, which can be broken back apart to regenerate ATP – the “energy currency” of the body. Once thought to be just useful for body builders, its benefits can help a wide range of athletes, including those participating in endurance events.
How does creatine help athletes?
Creatine delivers a continuous supply of energy to working muscles. Those muscles convert creatine into creatine phosphate, which then transitions to adenosine triphosphate. Essentially adenosine triphosphate is an organic compound that provides energy to drive and support many processes in living cells, including muscle contraction, nerve impulse propagation, condensate dissolution and chemical synthesis.
Or, more simply put, creatine helps you get stronger by increasing the body’s ability to produce energy rapidly. That’s what leads to stronger muscles, improved endurance, lower risk of injury, quicker recovery, enhanced focus and — for some — increase weight gain, due to water retention.
What’s the recommended way to use creatine?
Gnarly Creatine, which is NSF for Sport certified, is intended to be used daily, before or after a workout. It’s tasteless and I often add it to other Gnarly products like its Fuel20 or, Pre or Vegan Protein. Gnarly recommends mixing the creatine with 8 ounces of water or other Gnarly product 30 minutes before exercise or immediately afterward with a recovery protein drink.
Since I am an ultra runner, I don’t need the typical muscle gains often associated with creatine. However, I have found that the creatine mix does help speed my recovery after workouts. And especially during this period of heavy volume training, the extra recovery boost is well worth it.
What are the downsides of using creatine? Is it safe?
This is not intended to be medical advice. As with any supplement, it is recommended to consult a doctor, registered dietician or other health-care professional for your specific needs. (Those with previous kidney issues should absolutely consult their doctor before using creatine, as they often need to limit protein intake in the first place.)
Gnarly Creatine has received the NSF for Sport badge.
Products with a NSF or NSF for Sport badge have been approved by independent testing. It is a sign of NSF certification, a quality product and safe for most consumers.
Typically the badge is found on the front label giving consumers confidence that the product has passed third-party testing for both label claims and contaminants such as microbes, heavy metals and pesticides.
The NSF dietary supplement certification program protects consumers by testing for harmful levels of contaminants and certifying that supplements contain just the ingredients printed on the label. NSF also checks to make sure no unlisted ingredients or potentially harmful levels of impurities are present in products that carry NSF certification.
It’s worth noting that if you are taking creatine but not gaining weight in the short-term, you may not be drinking enough water. Be sure to hydrate well when taking creatine supplements, especially during these hot summer months.
What are the nutritional components of Gnarly’s creatine?
It is gluten- and soy-free so athletes can avoid stomach issues. There are no artificial flavors or sweeteners. One scoop (a teaspoon) is 90 calories and has 5 grams of creatine monohydrate.
Gnarly uses Creapure as the sole ingredient in its creatine. Creapure, the most widely studied form of creatine, is vegan, IFS FOOD certified, and both Kosher- and Halal-certified.
For the full details, visit the Gnarly Creatine page.