Creatine and Strength
Creatine and strength training go together like (insert your favorite pair). Creatine works by providing additional phosphate groups, making it easier for the body to recycle ADP back into ATP. This should theoretically improve performance in exercises which have high, short-term energy demands. We are lucky in that there is plenty of research looking into creatine’s effect on strength. Let’s take a look at what this research says.
How Creatine Improves Strength
Creatine increases ATP levels in the muscle. This provides a bigger pool of energy resources which should help increase volume during strength training1. It also delays fatigue2,3 and increases water in muscle fibers which may increase protein synthesis1. All of these effects combined should lead to increased strength.
Creatine ans Strength Research
Study 1: Effects of creatine on isometric bench-press performance in resistance-trained humans2
This study looked at the effects of creatine on bench press performance. Subjects took 10 grams of creatine pre and post workout (20g per day). The participants took a bench press assessment, supplemented for five days, and took another assessment to gauge the supplement’s efficacy. Researchers found five days of creatine supplementation significantly increased bench press strength.
Study 2: The Effects of Creatine Monohydrate Loading on Anaerobic Performance and One-Repetition Maximum Strength3
This study examined the effects of creatine on one repetition max (RM) on both the leg extension and bench press. Subjects took 20 grams of creatine per day for seven days. They tested their 1-RM before and after the seven day period. Researchers found this creatine protocol had no effect on strength.
Study 3: Effect of creatine supplementation during resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscular strength in older adults: a meta-analysis1
This article was a meta analysis of twenty two other studies and included over 700 subjects. The authors were interested in whether creatine increased strength in older adults. Dosing in these studies varied. Some studies included a loading phase in which subjects took 20 grams of creatine for 5-7 days. The remaining studies used dosages ranging from 3-5 grams per day.
The groups that supplemented with creatine had significantly greater increases in both upper and lower body strength. These individuals also saw an average increase of 3 pounds in muscle mass.
Study 4: Creatine Supplementation and Lower Limb Strength Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses4
The last article was also a meta analysis. This review looked into 60 studies that included over 600 subjects. The authors examined the effects of creatine supplementation on lower body strength. The vast majority of studies in this analysis included a loading phase consisting of about 20 grams of creatine per day for 5-7 days. The remaining studies prescribed a maintenance dose ranging from 1.25 to 22 grams per day.
The results showed creatine supplementation was effective in increasing lower body strength. The maximum weight lifted on the squat increased an average of 8% while leg press increased 3%. The studies in this analysis varied in population, training regimens, and supplement doses/duration, however, the majority of the studies included saw increases in strength when creatine was used regardless of other variables.
The Bottom Line – Does creatine increase strength?
Current research shows a clear benefit in using creatine to increase strength. This is illustrated in the last two articles, both reviews of a combined 82 studies and over 1,300 participants. These reviews found a significant improvement in strength in subjects that used creatine.
How much creatine should I use to increase strength?
The effective dosage of creatine in most of these studies ranged from 3-5 grams per day with some studies going as high as 20 grams per day. A loading phase is a period of time (usually one week) in which you would take extra creatine to saturate the muscle. The research is mixed on whether or not a loading phase is necessary. Some studies used a loading phase and gave subjects 20 grams of creatine for 5-7 days. Subjects then moved into a maintenance phase consisting of 3-5 grams per day.
If you decide to use a loading phase, divide your daily creatine intake of 20 grams per day into at least 2 separate doses. After a week, decrease your intake to 3-5 grams per day which can be taken in one serving. More creatine does not necessarily lead to better results and may increase the risk of adverse digestive issues.
- Chilibeck, P., Kaviani, M., Candow, D., & Zello, G. A. (2017). Effect of creatine supplementation during resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscular strength in older adults: A meta-analysis. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 8, 213-226. doi:10.2147/oajsm.s123529
- Kilduff, L. P., Vidakovic, P., Cooney, G., & Twycross-Lewis, R. (2002). Effects of creatine on isometric bench-press performance in resistance-trained humans. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 34(7), 1176-1183. doi:10.1097/00005768-200207000-00019
- Zuniga, J. M., Housh, T. J., Camic, C. L., & Hendrix, C. R. (2012). The Effects of Creatine Monohydrate Loading on Anaerobic Performance and One-Repetition Maximum Strength. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(6), 1651-1656. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e318234eba1
- Lanhers, C., Pereira, B., Naughton, G., & Trousselard, M. (2015). Creatine Supplementation and Lower Limb Strength Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analyses. Sports Medicine,45(9), 1285-1294. doi:10.1007/s40279-015-0337-4