Creatine May Attenuate Muscle Damage

We have examined creatine before but from the point of view of performance enhancement and optimal supplementation methods, Rosene and colleagues look at another aspect: the attenuation of muscle damage by creatine after exercise. More work is needed in this area but it looks as if there maybe yet another benefit to this nutritional supplement.

Short and Longer-term effects of creatine supplementation on exercise induced muscle damage

Author: Johan Rosene and colleagues (2009)

Australian Sports Conditioning has examined creatine previously from the point of view of optimal supplementation however we have been receiving queries as to if it is actually effective. This recent study looks at one more advantage to creatine supplementation in sports performance.

Training hard is crucial to sporting success, however training fatigued will produce poor practices, lower than optimal force output and skill performance. Practice is only effective if it is perfect, therefore it should be performed in a fully recovered state. Looking for ways to recover from hard training quickly so that more sessions can be fitted into a training period is crucial.

This study investigated if creatine decreased the amount of exercise induced muscle damage and facilitated recovery from exercise induced muscle damage. In this study two groups were used, one taking creatine and one taking a placebo. Each group participated in an eccentric (muscles are under high force while lengthening) exercise protocol designed to enhance muscle damage. Prior to the supplementation protocol each group was assessed for maximal strength (dynamic and isometric), knee range of motion, muscle soreness and serum levels of creatine kinase (CK). Both groups consumed 20g/day of creatine (or placebo) for seven days followed by 6g/day for 23 days. At day 8 and 31 subjects completed the exercise protocol and data were collected on indirect measures of muscle damge. These were:

  • Maximal Isometric Force – attempting to lift a load that is too heavy
  • Knee range of motion
  • Muscle soreness – as perceived by the subject
  • Serum levels of CK – Creatine kinase is a bi-product of exercise and is a good indicator of muscle damage
  • Serum levels of LDH – Lactate dehydrodgenase, more commonly known as lactic acid

Previous studies have shown that creatine supplementation has a number of positive effects on protein synthesis. Such positive effects include; increased muscle fiber cross sectional area and changes in the way that the DNA of the muscle fibres is created. These findings suggest that creatine will have an effect on muscle damage.

Other studies have shown that supplementation did not have an effect on indicators of muscle damage (Rawson et al. 2001). However in comparison to the study being reviewed here supplementation was only continued for 5 days. It was suggested that the extent of the exercise caused a degree of damage that was too great to be attenuated by the creatine as the damage went beyond a cellular level. Rawson and colleagues (2001) suggested that a five-day supplementation protocol was not enough to have an effect.

This study found similar results where in the short term creatine supplementation had little effect on indicators of muscle damage. However over the long term the effects of creatine supplementation were positive at the 31 day test. That is, when the subjects were tested at day 7 there was little difference in markers of muscle damage between the two conditions. When the subjects were retested at day 31 the creatine group recovered significantly faster and the degree of damage as measured by the markers was significantly less.

The exercise protocol in this study and that performed by Rawson and co-workers (2001) was designed to create extreme levels of muscle damage, greater than that expected to occur in most athletic activities. The study recommends protocols that more closely replicate loads that represent those experienced by athletes would be of interest to study.

Many studies have looked at performance enhancements due to creatine and the advantages of taking creatine as an ergogenic aid are broadly accepted. The concept of creatine aiding recovery from the point of view of attenuating muscle damage is relatively novel. From this study it is hard to conclude if creatine attenuated muscle damage or if creatine simply reduced recovery time. What seems evident from this study is that the creatine assisted recovery one way or the other.

1. Rawson, E.S., Gunn, B., & Clarkson, P.M. (2001). The effects of creatine supplementation on exercise induced muscle damage. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 15, 178-184.

2. Rosens, J., Mathews, T., Ryan, C., Belmore, K., Bergsten, A., Blaisdell, J., Gaylord, J., Love, R., Marrone, M., Ward, K., & Wilson, E. (2009). Short and longer-term effects of creatine supplementation on exercise induced muscle damage. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 8, 89-96.

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