Creatine and Sprints
The research on creatine and cardio was at best, mixed. While cardio is long and low or moderate intensity, sprints are typically shorter and done at a much higher intensity. What we know about creatine means that it should be a perfect match for this short but high intensity type of exercise.
Does creatine help with sprints?
Study: Effect of creatine supplementation on sprint exercise performance and muscle metabolism1. Theoretically, creatine should improve sprint performance because it speeds up ATP synthesis. Subjects were given 30 grams of creatine monohydrate daily split into 6 even doses (5g). Sprints were completed on a cycle ergometer. Each sprint lasted 20 seconds.
Body weight after supplementation increased about 2 pounds. Supplementation did not improve performance. Researchers explained this result: the increase in muscle creatine levels after supplementation was not large enough to cause any difference in performance. This study only looked at single sprint performance and did not repeatedly test the subjects on multiple bouts.
Study: Creatine supplementation and multiple sprint running performance2. Subjects took 20 grams of creatine monohydrate in 4 separate (5g) doses per day for 5 days. The sprint test consisted of fifteen 30 meter sprints. Sprints started every 35 seconds.
The results showed creatine increased body weight by 1.5 pounds without significantly affecting sprint performance. Authors speculated that the reason there was no increase in performance was because creatine or phosphate content in the muscle was likely not the limiting factor in repeated 30m sprint performance.
Study: Creatine supplementation improves sprint performance in male sprinters3. Subjects took 20 grams of creatine monohydrate daily split into 4 doses for 5 days. On the day of the sprint test, subjects took 3 grams of creatine. The sprint test consisted of 1-100 meter sprint, and 6-60 meter sprints. Results showed the supplement increased body weight by 1.3 pounds and significantly increased performance on both the 100m and 60m sprints.
The Bottom Line – Creatine and Sprinting
The research on creatine and sprinting is somewhat negative. Creatine increases body weight and many researchers think that the reason performance increases are limited is because any benefit is offset by the increase in body weight. Also, the short nature of a single sprint means the body many not benefit much from extra creatine given the amount already present in muscle tissue.
The first and second studies did not see any increase in performance, however, they only looked at performance in relatively short sprints without multiple repetitions. The last study did see significant performance increases in longer and repeated sprints. One possible reason for the discrepancy between the first two and last study may be the length of exercise. Lengthier high intensity exercise may be more limited by ATP synthesis which is where creatine helps.
Use the following guidelines when consuming creatine for sprints:
- Creatine is probably not effective in improving performance in single or very short (less than 60 meters) sprints.
- Use creatine monohydrate. This version is the cheapest and probably the most effective form of creatine.
- Start off with 20 grams of creatine monohydrate (evenly divided into 4 servings throughout the day) per day for 5 days. Lower your dose to 5 grams per day thereafter.
- You will gain 1-2 pounds after only a few days of creatine use. If you’re sensitive about body weight increases, creatine monohydrate may not be for you. You can also try lower doses without a loading phase.
- Snow, R. J., & McKenna, M. J. (1998). Effect of creatine supplementation on sprint exercise performance and muscle metabolism. Journal of Applied Physiology, 84(5), 1667-1673. doi:10.1152/jappl.19184.108.40.2067
- Glaister, M., & Lockey, R. A. (2006). Creatine supplementation and multiple sprint running performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 20(2), 273-277. doi:10.1519/R-17184.1
- Skare, O. C., Skadberg, O., & Wisnes, A. R. (2002). Creatine supplementation improves sprint performance in male sprinters. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 11(2), 96-102. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0838.2001.011002096.x