Creatine is a type of amino acid found naturally in most types of meat, but it is also available as a dietary supplement with an intended use of improving athletic performance or muscle recovery and growth. When taken regularly in conjunction with cardiovascular exercise, creatine is useful in reducing the negative physical effects of exercise, improving efficiency during performance and accelerating recovery.
Reduced Muscle Soreness
Creatine supplementation reduces muscle inflammation during and after exercise when taken regularly. According to a study published in September 2004 in “Life Sciences,” runners who took creatine supplements for five days prior to a 30-kilometer race demonstrated less cellular damage and less muscular inflammation than runners who were given a placebo. This suggests that regular creatine supplementation leads to reduced muscle soreness and faster recovery after cardiovascular exercise.
Increased Muscle Growth After Training
One of creatine’s most notable potential benefits is facilitating muscle growth, which is an important factor in improving athletic performance. According to a study published in 2007 from the Victoria University Research Repository, creatine by itself and creatine combined with whey protein facilitate greater strength gains and muscle growth during resistance training. Regular resistance training or high-intensity cardiovascular training with creatine supplementation leads to greater strength and increased performance.
Improved Cardiovascular Efficiency
Taking creatine daily leads to improved aerobic power and cardiovascular efficiency during exercise. According to a study published in August 2005 in the “Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport,” males who consumed daily creatine supplements demonstrated lower submaximal VO2, a measurement that indicates more-efficient oxygen use during aerobic exercise. After four weeks of supplementation, males who consumed creatine daily also showed a maximum heart rate decrease of 3.7 percent, indicating greater cardiovascular efficiency.
Greater Efficiency in Heat
Creatine supplementation may also be useful in improving the body’s cardiovascular and body temperature responses when performing long aerobic exercise in the heat. According to a study published in August 2004 in the “International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism,” males who had consumed 20 grams of creatine per day for a week performed better in the heat than those who took a placebo. Water distribution in the body, sweat rate, heart rate and body temperature were all improved with creatine supplementation, although time to exhaustion was not improved.