More then a thousand studies have been performed on creatine monohydrate making it the most studied sports supplement to have been identified. It has also found to be one of- if not the most effective on the market.
It is hugely popular amongst men, however it is interesting to note that very little women supplement with creatine monohydrate. Many women believe that it is a ‘men’s supplement’ and taking it will result in them becoming ‘bulky’ or gaining unwanted weight. So is creatine a supplement that more women should be using and is it safe to do so?
First up, creatine is a natural amino acid like compound. It is created in the body from glycine, arginine and ornithine with 95% found in muscle and 5% in the brain and reproductive organs. When creatine is absorbed into the muscle 2/3 of it is stored as phosphocreatine (PCr). This is important as creatine is then used in the reaction of phosphorylating ADP to ATP. ATP is used in the cells as a coenzyme often called the currency of intracellular energy transfer, simply meaning it stores the energy we need to do just about everything that we do.
Phosphocreatine donates an organic phosphate molecule to ADP so it can become ATP. This ATP molecule is then used for the shortest bouts of high intensity exercise. Thereby creatine can be important for sprinting just that little bit faster or lifting just that little bit heavier and therefore can be beneficial for women just as much men.
Studies done on creatine have found a 5-15% improvement in maximal power/strength, 1-5% improvement in single effort sprint performance and a 1-2kg body mass increase in 1 week (1). Despite these great benefits the body mass increase in such a short amount of time is what puts many women off from taking creatine monohydrate in the first place.
Is it suitable for women?
A study done on collegiate women lacrosse player saw them consume either creatine or a placebo for five weeks. This found that a regime of dietary creatine supplementation significantly improved upper body strength and decreased the percentage body fat compared to the placebo (2). Other studies have also confirmed these findings, reporting that women who supplement with creatine find a marked increase in strength and weight lifting performance (3, 4). Thereby for women wanting to increase strength and performance, increase fat free mass whilst potentially decreasing percentage body fat, creatine supplementation in conjunction with a good diet and training regime has been found to be effective. Just like men, women utilize creatine in a similar manner and thereby can expect to see positive results. Creatine has been reported to result in an increase in body mass, however a lot of this is due to water retention- mostly in the muscle which can contribute to one looking more defined (3).
Creatine monohydrate supplementation seems to produce positive effects on strength, power, fat free mass and daily living performance (1). Supplements, however should be just that- a 'supplement' to an already healthy lifestyle. It completely depends on the individual and their goals as to whether creatine should be used, however the research suggests that when used appropriately, it is safe and that women can benefit from taking it, just as men do.
1. Cooper R, Naclerio F, Allgrove J, Jimenez A. Creatine supplementation with specific view to exercise/sports performance: an update. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012;9:33-.
2. BRENNER M, RANKIN JW, SEBOLT D. The Effect of Creatine Supplementation During Resistance Training in Women. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2000;14(2):207-13.
3. Gotshalk L, Kraemer W, Mendonca MG, Vingren J, Kenny A, Spiering B, et al. Creatine supplementation improves muscular performance in older women. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008;102(2):223-31.
4. ECKERSON JM, STOUT JR, MOORE GA, STONE NJ, IWAN KA, GEBAUER AN, et al. EFFECT OF CREATINE PHOSPHATE SUPPLEMENTATION ON ANAEROBIC WORKING CAPACITY AND BODY WEIGHT AFTER TWO AND SIX DAYS OF LOADING IN MEN AND WOMEN. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. 2005;19(4):756-63.