The first thing that may come to mind when you hear the word “creatine” are gym bros grunting while doing bicep curls in the squat rack and bodybuilders screaming “LIGHT WEIGHT BABY!” while trying to max out on some absurd deadlift beyond their capabilities. You know you’ve seen the memes.
Or maybe in high school, the first and only impression you got of creatine were the kids in sports teams talking about it as if it was some sort of anabolic steroid – like they were going to blow up in size and strength once they started taking it. There have been all kinds of myths that have circulated over the last few decades. Many of these myths have been debunked.
This article was written by Clyde Erwin Barretto, with final edits done by Angela Chang. Editor notes may be inserted throughout this article.
So what is creatine exactly?
What most people don’t realize is that the healthy human body naturally produces creatine. If you have a diet that includes animal products such as beef, chicken, pork, lamb and along with fish, you’re also consuming foods that contain creatine.
Without getting into the nitty gritty, creatine is an organic compound that is found throughout the human body’s skeletal system and muscles (including the brain). The compound, made of amino acids (the building blocks of protein), is eventually converted into another substance called phosphocreatine. Phosphocreatine helps the body produce ATP, the body’s main energy source.
In supplement form, you’ll find different versions. But we’ll talk about that a little later.
Now what does this all have to do with Muay Thai?
Whether you’ve been training Muay Thai for a short time or a long time, you know how grueling a training session can be. Kicking, punching, clinching, footwork, kneeing and elbowing pads relentlessly can feel like an eternity. Although it’s hard to classify what type of “training” Muay Thai is, an hour to a two-hour long session could be anything from aerobic to a high intensity bout and everything in between. It’s a training session that needs the individual to be able to jump into different energy systems – aerobic when you’re going from a morning jog to anaerobic where you have to burst when kicking pads.
Creatine monohydrate supplementation has been studied for decades and is one of the most studied supplements. Proper supplementation has shown to enhance everything from increasing lean muscle, enhance bouts of high intensity exercise and even help with the recovery process.
Despite the fact that there isn’t a direct study in relation to Muay Thai training, a search for journal articles on creatine monohydrate supplementation for athletes and team sports can lead to hundreds of entries and articles.
Editor’s Note: Scroll to bottom to see references for statements cited throughout this article.
For example, a recent pilot study found that there were greater training adaptations in a group doing resistance training that incorporated the lower body. Imagine applying those types of adaptations to a lower body training regimen that would help a Muay Thai practitioner’s capacity for kicking and throwing knees. There have also been studies where a 5-15% increase in maximal power and strength was observed. While doing maximal sprints isn’t the goal in Muay Thai, being able to explode by throwing in close elbows or knees are. Hence, there could be a transfer from strength training adaptations to actual practice.
Is there a difference in supplementation between men and women?
Editor’s note: Author refers to female and male in terms of sex, not gender.
Although there aren’t as many studies strictly studying females and creatine monohydrate supplementation versus males, there have been a handful demonstrating that supplementation leads to many of the same benefits. This includes enhanced exercise capacity and lean muscle gain.
Additionally, researchers have also looked into supplementation for females during different phases of their lives. This has led to seeing positive results for those who have supplemented with creatine monohydrate during pregnancy and those who are post-menopausal as well.
But there are so many forms of creatine. Which is the best?
Looking through Amazon and or local supplement stores, you’ll see an array of Creatine supplements. You’ll find everything from creatine hydrochloride, creatine ethyl ester, buffered creatine to liquid creatine. While these other forms of creatine claim to have some “extra” property to them, many claims have not been proven. At the end of the day, creatine monohydrate is not only the most studied but the most cost effective.
How much should I take?
Generally, there are two ways to start taking creatine monohydrate for all people.
The first way is to do what’s called a loading phase. There are a few ways to do this as well. One could take 20 to 25 grams of creatine monohydrate daily for five days. Or a more tolerable way is to take 20 to 25 intakes every 30 minutes daily for five days. This would get creatine saturation to occur in your skeletal muscles much more quickly. This would then be followed by a maintenance phase where 3-5 grams is taken daily.
But a caveat to a loading phase is that some individuals may experience some forms of bloating or discomfort.
The other way is to take creatine monohydrate 3-5 grams daily from the start. The saturation may take a little longer, but its effectiveness would not be any less. Just like the loading phase, the individual would continue to take 3-5 grams daily until they decide to stop.
Cutting weight on creatine
What if you’re a fighter and need to cut weight for a competition? Should you still be taking creatine monohydrate?
As it stands, research has shown that it is completely safe to cut while supplementing with creatine monohydrate. Creatine supplementation brings water into the muscle intracellularly rather than extracellularly. Simply put, it’s going to help retain lean muscle mass during a cut. Additionally, it can also help increase performance and endurance during peak week of a camp right before the weight cutting phase.
Editor’s Note: According to James Nichol, “It takes around ~28 days after stopping creatine supplementation for muscle creatine levels to return to baseline, and to lose the associated water weight. So, to be safe, stop supplementing around 30 days before your competition if you want your weight to return to baseline in time.”
As previously stated, creatine monohydrate is one of the most studied supplements with over 300 and counting. More than half of these studies have produced significant positive results. What’s more is that researchers are beginning to not only discover the benefits when it comes to exercise and performance but now they are finding that there also may be cognitive benefits as well.