Creatine is the most widely used sports nutritional supplement used by Rugby Players. Why is it so popular? Well in simple terms it is popular because it works. You can see results quickly, and unlike some more “hyped” supplements it is relatively cheap to buy.
Creatine can help rugby players in various ways:
Increased Muscle Strength & Power – tackle harder, push harder etc.
Enhanced Endurance & Recovery – perform at higher levels on the pitch
Improved Anaerobic Capacity – run faster and consistently during a game
Enhanced Brain Function – focus and make better faster decisions on the pitch
In addition there is the more obvious benefit of increased muscle size which gives you a more commanding look on the pitch and helps to prevent impact injuries.
Creatine is a compound that’s involved in the production of energy in the body, in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Made in the liver, approximately 95% of the body’s creatine ends up being stored in skeletal muscles and the remaining 5% is found in the brain, heart and testes. Once it’s used, creatine is converted to a waste product called creatinine and excreted in urine.
Creatine is found in small amounts in red meat and fish. However, much of it is destroyed by cooking. It’s also made naturally in the body from L-arginine, L-glycine and L-methionine, amino acids that are principally found in animal protein. Insulin is needed for creatine to enter muscles, so consuming carbohydrates with creatine may increase the amount of creatine available to muscles. Creatine is not a steroid, and therefore does not have any of the side effects known to found with those drugs. Our body makes one gram each day from protein. We also eat about one gram of creatine each day from meats such as beef, chicken or fish. If you are a vegetarian then taking creatine supplements is even more important for greater muscle growth and strength development.
As a Rugby player when we take extra creatine you can store more energy. If you take creatine before a game or training session you will have more energy both at the beginning and throughout the game. When lifting weights creatine allows you train harder, enabling you to lift more weight and with greater endurance levels. This, in turn, allows you to make gains in strength and lean muscle size which as a Rugby player has obvious benefits for your “on pitch” performance levels.
With regular Creatine Monohydrate powder many people suggest “loading” 15-20 grams per day for a week. Then the dose can be reduced to a maintenance dose of 5 grams per day. The idea is to make sure that people got more than enough creatine to make sure it makes a difference in athletic performance. Personally I do not subscribe to this theory – and that is all it is a theory. These high doses do not translate into higher creatine levels in your muscle and may explain some of the side-effects of creatine monohydrate powder.
Despite so many positive results, some rugby players report stomach aches, diarrhoea, increased urination (which is obviously not desirable in the middle of a game) and muscle cramps. When high doses of powder enter the stomach they draw water from the body, causing the intestine to cramp. Personally I prefer to take creatine in the form of tablets or capsules. It is more convenient and seems to be a more effective and efficient way of taking it. Check the dosage levels of your tablets and remember that versions of Creatine such as Ethyl Ester and Kre-Alkalyn require lower dosage levels. I would recommend on training days taking half the dosage 45 minutes before you train and the other half 30 minutes after you train, with the same protocol applying to match days too. On non-training days take the whole dosage as a single intake with a meal.
The results seen by creatine supplements can vary. If a player does not eat much meat or fish protein they may have lower creatine levels and see a dramatic improvement with supplementation. In addition, stomach acid destroys creatine so the amount a person absorbs may be a lot or a little depending on a person’s stomach acid level. This last reason is one of the reasons why Ethyl Ester and Kre-Alkalyn are often preferred.
Creatine is safe for long term usage. Many natural bodybuilders have taken the product consistently for many year, many in extremely high doses, all without proven toxicity or long term injury. No controlled scientific studies have shown serious side effects or toxicity. In older times, man, as a species was a heavy meat eater eating high concentrations of creatine in meat over long periods of time, without any known ill effects. Creatine in your body gradually changes to a substance called creatinine a waste product that is excreted by your kidneys. High powder levels may raise creatinine, but this does not injure the kidneys. Creatinine is not known to be toxic. I always recommend that anyone taking Creatine increases their fluid intake, which again helps to prevent any problems associated with the kidneys.
To summarise, Creatine supplementation can improve the performance and physical strength levels of Rugby players both during training and during a game without having any negative side effects if taken correctly.