Creatine Supplementation & Dehydration
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the effects of creatine. The truth of the matter is – creatine does do exactly what it claims to do: FOR SOME ATHLETES. However, before we discuss if creatine supplementation is beneficial as a rider, it is imperative to evaluate its role in your everyday health.
First, the human body produces creatine daily to sustain the demands associated with exercise. Creatine is regenerated through your body’s normal bodily functions (assuming you are eating a sufficient diet and complementing this with 7-8 hours of sleep daily). However, if your body senses the presence of creatine on a regular basis, it will stop producing it within your body. This internal evaluation system cannot be “tricked”.
Second, creatine has been shown in endless amounts of research to cause dehydration among athletes of all sports backgrounds. Muscle cramping and spasming along with feelings of nausea are not uncommon with an athlete that reacts negatively to the supplementation of creatine. Keep in mind that even the slightest level of dehydration causes the contractile strength within the muscles spindle cells to diminish – not an ideal scenario for riders and racers. To make the situation worse, riders that are covered from head to toe in riding gear are already at a disadvantage in regards to dissipating the negative effects of internal heat (created by working muscles and internal body systems like digestion and respiration.) The scientific term for this is the Endothermic Process: your body’s ability to rid itself of heat. The only way that your body can rid itself of heat is through sweat at the skin level. When you wear gear, this creates an extra layer that the sweat has to permeate to evaporate (and ultimately cool you down). If you happen to be riding or racing in a highly humid environment, your ability to cool down is hampered again because water can not evaporate against another molecule of water. This causes you to overheat internally which ultimately slows down your internal bodily functions which manifests itself in the form of slower lap times.
I have been asked by many riders, will creatine cause arm pump: NO. Bad body position on the bike is the main reason for arm pump; however, dehydration (whether it comes from creatine supplementation or a poor hydration program) will result in cramping and muscle spasms. If it culminates in your forearms, you will call it arm pump. From a human performance stand point, it is called muscles spasms and they will adversely affect your ability to ride or race effectively.
Side note, in clinical studies, creatine has been documented to increase the contractile strength of a muscle; however, the additional lactic acid (a by-product of burning carbohydrates) that is produced due to the higher levels of output has resulted in larger than normal levels of blood lactate. This surplus of lactic acid can not be effectively cleared from the circulatory system through the blood vessels and, in turn, becomes counter productive.
Bottom line: should riders and racers supplement with creatine: NO. Instead, they need to spend more time developing a comprehensive training and nutritional program that will provide the human body the elements it needs to perform at an optimal level.