For professional athletes and bodybuilders, creatine promises more strength, greater muscular endurance and dramatic weight loss. Consumers spend roughly $14 million per year on creatine supplements in the United States alone, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Despite its popularity, the effectiveness of creatine for people performing body weight exercises is debatable.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is an amino acid found naturally in the human body. Supplements are derived from animal protein sources like beef, chicken or fish. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that creatine is stored in the body as creatine phosphate and used specifically for high-intensity, low-duration exercises. These exercises include weight training, sprinting and power lifting.
Body Weight Workouts
Body weight exercises do not involve weights. Rather, they leverage the weight of the body to build strength and muscular endurance. Chinups, pushups and situps are common body weight exercises. Creatine is only used during short, high-intensity workouts. However, high-impact bursts of body weight training can be more intense and shorter when the body-weight aficionado begins his training. Subsequently, he may benefit from creatine supplementation to some extent. Former Navy SEAL and CrossFit certified trainer Brad McLeod says, “Every body is different, and everyone trains for different purposes and at different intensities. Start with a relatively small amount; monitor the timing of your supplementation and the effects during training. Revise intake accordingly.”
A Dissenting Voice
According to Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL and certified strength and conditioning specialist, creatine is not helpful when it comes to performing body weight exercises. "Creatine can help the body grow muscle mass that is only able to do short bursts of six to 10 seconds of full-exertion movements. Once you step into the aerobic or cardio zone with longer, slower runs, creatine offers little assistance," he says. The University of Maryland Medical Center states, “Not all human studies have shown that creatine improves athletic performance . . . . People who tend to have naturally high stores of creatine in their muscles don't get an energy-boosting effect from extra creatine.”
The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends ingesting 5 grams of creatine for professional exercise performance. This dosage should be ingested 20 minutes before exercise and can be repeated up to four times daily for seven days straight. Following the load-up week, the maintenance dose can range between 2 and 5 grams per day. Creatine is best absorbed when taken with fruits, juices or simple starches like rice or bread.