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Can creatine supplementation improve cycling performance?

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

It is well known that creatine supplementation has a really potent effect on strength and sprint capacity, but can creatine augment endurance performance?

Creatine suppelmentation elevates the body stores of phosphocreatine (PCr), which is main responsible for generating energy during short high intensity performances lasting for approximately 0-10 seconds.

Creatine supplementation enhances muscle power and strength, and further has been shown to improve sprint capacity.

But what about endurance performance - is there any chance that creatine supplementation can improve performance in endurance athletes?

Let's look at the possible benefits for endurance athletes when it comes to creatine supplementation. But first it is important to clarify one thing.......!

Creatine loading is associated with an increase in total body mass, as muscles loaded with creatine binds more water. In endurance sports an increase in body weight normally has a negative effect on overall performance. Thus, endurance athletes tends to be sceptical when it come to creatine supplementation.

Often weight gains are seen, when athletes do an initial loading protocol (typically 20–25 g daily for 5–7 days is recommended, followed by a maintenance dose of 3–5 g per day) to get creatine stores elevated in the beginning of the supplementation period. If you don't do a loading phase, but just start taking around 3-5 g of creatine daily, the gains in body mass due to water retention is negligible.

So, as an endurance athlete it is recommended you stick to taking 3-5 grams daily, and then your creatine stores will be saturated within 4 weeks.

If you experience noticeable weights gains even with 3-5 grams per day, you can stop the supplementation in the weeks leading into important competitions. Then the weight gain will diminish, but creatine stores remain elevated.

Creatine supplementation has a lot of potential benefits for endurance performance, and the ability to dig deep in race decisisve moments!

Propably the most important benefits are:

  • Elevated stores of PCr - improved capacity for performing high intensity efforts.

  • Improved buffering capacity - better control of lactate levels during exercise.

  • Increased glycogen stores - improved uptake and retention of glycogen.

  • Reduced oxidative stress and inflammation - improved recovery after training and competition.

So, are these potential benefits relevant to cycling and mountainbike performance? Indeed - and here's is why!

In a recent scientific review article called 'creatine supplementation and endurance performance: surges and sprint to win the race' the authors looked into the latest research on creatine supplementation and endurance performance. One of the overall conclusions was......

'Overall, creatine supplementation increases time to exhaustion during high-

intensity endurance activities, likely due to increasing anaerobic work capacity. In terms of time trial performances, results are mixed; however, creatine supplementation appears to be more effective at improving performances that require multiple surges in intensity and/or during end spurts, which are often key race-defining moments. Given creatines ability to enhance anaerobic work capacity and performance through repeated surges in inten-

sity, creatine supplementation may be beneficial for sports, such as cross-country skiing, mountain biking, cycling, triathlon,....'

This statement is based on the fact that sciencetific studies has shown that creatine supplementation......

  • Improves anaerobic work capacity in high-intensity endurance activities.

  • Is effective for improving performance in endurance activities, that requires the ability to dig deep anaerobically several times during a competition.

  • Enhances the final sprint or last race-decisive all-out effort.

So if you are a mountainbiker, road or gravel cyclist looking to improve 'high intensity power repeatability' or the 'competitive edge' in the race-decisive moments, then you should consider starting with creatine supplementation.

Note that there are individual differences in the response to creatine supplementation, Some athletes will experience gains and others won't. This is dependent on initial creatine levels, genetics and muscle fiber type distribution. A good time to try it out is in the off-season or the start of your base training period, to find out how your body responds. Remember that you need about 4 weeks to saturate your creatine stores, and expericene a possible effect on your performance.

Reference: Scott C.Forbes, Darren G.Candow, Joao Henrique FalkNeto, Michael D.Kennedy, Jennifer L.Forbes, MarcoMachado, ErikBustillo, JoseGomez-Lopez, AndresZapata & JoseAntonio (2023). Creatine supplementation and endurance performance: surges and sprints to win the race,Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition,20:1,DOI: 10.1080/15502783.2023.2204071.

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