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Can Endurance Athletes Use Creatine to Enhance Race-day Performance?

Creatine monohydrate is the most researched and effective form of creatine proven to enhance athletic performance, particularly for athletes who require short bursts of maximum effort like sprinters and weightlifters. It’s also what we use in our HMB+ Creatine.

However, its benefits for endurance activities, such as running or cycling over extended periods, remain a subject of debate among athletes and researchers. 

The research on creatine shows significant performance benefits for endurance athletes like cyclists, runners and triathletes. It increases strength and power output, which improves performance, but it can lead to weight gain due to lean muscle mass development and water retention in the muscles. 

So, let’s answer the question: How can endurance athletes tactically use creatine to enhance their race-day performance?


Benefits of Creatine for Endurance Athletes

Creatine works by increasing the amount of phosphocreatine in the muscles. Phosphocreatine is essential for rapid energy production and helps reduce muscle fatigue, which is particularly beneficial during high-intensity segments of endurance training and racing.

When combined with carbohydrates, creatine also aids in replenishing muscle glycogen, a crucial energy source during intense exercise. This replenishment helps athletes sustain higher levels of performance over longer periods. Additionally, creatine has been found to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which hinder performance.

The effects of creatine on the body translate into several key endurance benefits:

  • Increased Energy Production: Creatine increases the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the primary energy carrier in cells, allowing athletes to perform at high intensities for longer periods.
  • Greater Strength and Power Output: Creatine enhances muscle strength and power power output, which helps athletes achieve faster sprint finishes and more powerful climbs.
  • Accelerated Recovery: Creatine promotes faster recovery by reducing muscle inflammation and the effects of muscle damage caused by intense physical activity.
  • Improved Brain Function: Creatine supplementation has been linked to improved cognitive functions like reduced mental fatigue, better concentration and enhanced decision-making under stress, positively impacting race strategy and performance.

We dive deeper into the endurance benefits of creatine listed above and debunk common misconceptions in our article discussing why endurance athletes should take creatine.


Downsides of Creatine for Endurance Athletes

Despite creatine’s impressive endurance benefits, it has a downside—weight gain. 

Creatine fuels lean muscle mass development and causes water retention in the muscles. This additional weight, even when it’s primarily muscle and water, can increase the energy cost of running, cycling, or swimming over long distances. This added weight might counteract creatine’s strength and power benefits by making athletes less efficient during long events. 

The scientific community remains divided on whether the benefits of creatine outweigh its downsides for endurance athletes. Some studies suggest performance improvements, while others find no significant benefits or even potential detriments due to the added weight.


How to Use Creatine to Enhance Race-day Performance

Given the mixed evidence for and against creatine use among endurance athletes, a strategic approach to supplementation might offer a balanced solution.

Endurance athletes can benefit from using creatine during the off-season to build strength and power. This period allows athletes to focus on increasing their muscular capacity and energy reserves without worrying about the slight weight gain due to increased muscle mass water retention.

As race day approaches, athletes should consider cycling off creatine. Stopping creatine supplementation before an event allows the body to shed excess water weight. This approach helps maintain the strength and power gains achieved during the off-season while reducing the added weight that could hinder performance in long-distance events. 

By strategically cycling off creatine, athletes can ensure they are stronger and more powerful, but also lighter and more efficient on race day, ultimately enhancing their performance.


Key Takeaways

Creatine monohydrate is well-researched and enhances performance, particularly in short bursts of effort. For endurance athletes like cyclists, runners, and triathletes, creatine boosts strength, power and energy production while reducing muscle fatigue, inflammation and oxidative stress. 

Despite these benefits, creatine can cause weight gain from lean muscle mass and water retention, potentially hindering efficiency during long events. A strategic approach—using creatine in the off-season for strength building and cycling off before races—can help athletes maximize benefits and minimize downsides for optimal race-day performance.

If you plan to incorporate creatine into your sports nutrition plan, don’t forget to continue improving other aspects of your routine alongside it. Remember, as with any supplement, you’ll only get the maximum benefit if your body is primed and ready to take advantage of it.

If you learned something new from this article and are curious to know more, head to our growing list of weekly research summaries where we help you further improve your athletic performance by keeping you up to date on the latest findings from the world of sports nutrition.

— That’s all for now, train hard!


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